- It is a straightforward question on security-related challenges w.r.t India-Myanmar border.
- Give the intro of India Myanmar border in the intro and how it has been an open gateway for many insurgent groups in NE.
- Then, in the 1st part of the answer, discuss the challenges that India faces on its border with Myanmar. There are many challenges like porous border, boundary agreements between India-Myanmar, Movement Regime between two countries, the fluid tribal relationship between both sides of the borders, lack of infrastructural support and development, difficult geographical terrain, lack of funds from government, golden triangle, drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal migrants, etc. and associated challenges in its management from the government.
- In the 2nd part of the answer, discuss the steps to counter those challenges. It should not be in a silo. You have to discuss the role and importance of Myanmar for effective border management which would help India.
- Conclude the answer by summarising the way forwards.
Being highly porous, poorly guarded and located along a remote, underdeveloped, insurgency-prone region and proximate to one of the world’s largest five opium-producing areas, India–Myanmar border is vulnerable to the activities of insurgents and drugs and arms traffickers as well as criminals. Frontiers of British India and Myanmar came together for the first time in 1826 after the British won the 1st Anglo Burmese war. After Independence, The boundary was demarcated in 1967 under an agreement signed by both countries. There were many border agreements between these two years in which borders were fluctuating and this has created confusion.
Various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border:
- The location of the Indo-Myanmar boundary throws up many challenges for the effective management of the boundary.
- The normality of crossing the border: That the Indian insurgents can cross the international border and hide in the neighboring country is not new.
- Since the inception of insurgency in the Northeast in the 1950s, the Naga, Mizo, Meitei, and Assamese insurgents have been crossing over into Myanmar to set up bases.
- Tacit approval of the Myanmar government and fraternal ties with other insurgent groups have facilitated the establishment of these safe havens.
- In fact, the shelter and support that the Indian insurgent groups receive from across the border have been one of the most important factors which have helped them in sustaining their rebellion even when faced with the superior might of the Indian security forces.
- Gunrunning and drug trafficking across the India-Myanmar border: Besides cross border movement of insurgents, rampant gun-running and drug trafficking are other significant security challenges emanating across the India-Myanmar border.
- While the bulk of the weapons from Thailand and Cambodia are smuggled through the sea route, some of them are also smuggled overland through the India-Myanmar border. Narcotics and the ‘Golden Triangle’: Proximity to Myanmar in the ‘Golden Triangle’ makes the India-Myanmar border vulnerable to the trafficking of heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) produced in Myanmar.
- While the bigger insurgent groups are not directly involved in drug trafficking to generate funds, they do so indirectly by demanding protection money from the drug mafia for allowing safe passage to the drug consignments through their area.
- The 1967 boundary agreement and fluid nature of tribes: Even though the international boundary between the two countries had been formally delimited and demarcated following the boundary agreement in 1967, the boundary has not crystallized on the ground as lines separating two sovereign countries.
- This is because like most of the boundaries that India shares with its neighbors, the India-Myanmar boundary is also superimposed on the socio-cultural landscape of the borderland, dividing several tribes and forcing them to reside as citizens of different countries.
- These tribes, however, refuse to accept the artificial line and continue to maintain strong cross-border ethnic linkages.
- Such linkages are often exploited by the insurgents to find shelter across the border among their own kinsmen who are sympathetic towards their ‘cause’.
- The Free Movement Regime: The India-Myanmar border has a unique arrangement in a place called the Free Movement Regime (FMR). The FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
- While the FMR has helped the tribes continue maintaining their age-old ties, it has also become a cause of concern for the security establishment as its provisions are exploited by the Indian insurgents to cross over to Myanmar unrestricted and establish safe havens.
- The terrain of the India-Myanmar border: The terrain of the India-Myanmar border also adds to its vulnerability.
- High mountains, deep river channels together with lush forest characterize the borderland.
- Absence of roads, communication links and other border guarding infrastructure also adversely affect policing as they hamper the easy and rapid movement of the border guarding forces along the border.
- The focus of government: The Attention accorded to the India-Myanmar border by the central government has been woefully inadequate.
- The Assam Rifles are also not deployed at the border or spread along the entire border but clustered as company-operated bases (COBs) stationed deep inside, thereby preventing the force from dominating the border domination and restricting their ability to prevent illegal cross-border movements.
- Efforts to build a 10 km fence to prevent cross-border movement of insurgents have also been stalled because of protests by local residents.
- More importantly, the Indian government’s efforts to garner Myanmar’s help in addressing the insurgency issue by jointly managing the India-Myanmar border have not produced desired results in the past.
Steps to counter the challenges:
- Given that poor security along the India-Myanmar border poses a challenge to India’s security, it is imperative that India strengthens the security of the border and redoubles its efforts to meaningfully engage Myanmar to effectively manage this border.
- To begin with, it should give the Assam Rifles the sole responsibility of guarding the India-Myanmar border and strengthen it with adequate manpower and equipment.
- At the same time, through sustained community interaction programs, the border community should be sensitized to participate in the nation-building project.
- International orders are best managed when neighbors cooperate to secure their mutual borders.
- For such cooperation to materialize, political and diplomatic initiatives require to be carefully crafted.
- India has been constructively engaging Myanmar so that it remains sensitive to India’s security concerns. In fact, the latest crackdown on Indian insurgent groups by the Tatmadaw is a successful outcome of such engagements.
- India should maintain this momentum of cooperation with Myanmar for better managing their shared border.
Given that poor security along the India–Myanmar border poses a challenge to India’s security, it is imperative that India strengthens the security of the border and redoubles its efforts to meaningfully engage Myanmar to effectively manage this border.