North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Myanmar Refugees Issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mizo-Mynmar ethnic ties

Mains level : Myanmar coup and its impact on India

India has sealed all entry points along the border with the southeast Asian neighbour and is closely monitoring to prevent any Myanmar nationals from entering the country.

Issue: Problem with refugees

  • At least 1,000 people from the adjoining Chin State of Myanmar are said to have crossed over to Mizoram, fearing a military crackdown.
  • The Mizoram government favours providing refuge to the Chins that are ethnically related to the majority Mizos in the State.
  • However, the Ministry of Home Affairs has made it clear that “India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol theron”.

When did the refugees start arriving?

  • Mizoram began feeling the heat a month after the military coup when three police personnel crossed over to Lungkawlh village in Serchhip district.
  • The influx of Myanmar nationals was reported from Hnahthial, Champhai, Saitual and Serchhip districts.
  • Most of the refugees waded across the Tiau River that runs along much of Mizoram’s 510-km border with Myanmar.

Try answering this:

The cross-border movement of insurgents is only one of the several security challenges facing the policing of the border in North-East India. Examine the various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border. Also, discuss the steps to counter the challenges. (15 Marks)

Is this the first time this has happened?

  • Extremism, counter-insurgency and sectarian violence have driven people out of Myanmar into India in the past as well.
  • More than 1,200 Buddhists and Christians from Myanmar’s Arakan State had taken refuge in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district in 2017.
  • They fled their homes after the Myanmar Army clashed with the extremist Arakan Army.
  • The refugees stayed back for more than a year. Thousands of Chins are said to be living in Mizoram for more than 40 years now.

How porous is the border?

Unlike India’s border with Pakistan and Bangladesh, much of the border with Myanmar is without any fence.

  • The Assam Rifles personnel guard the border but a tough terrain comes in the way of maintaining airtight vigil.
  • There have been calls to fence the border. Fencing the border would also help in checking the movement of extremist groups to and from Myanmar.
  • Some are against the idea, insisting that a fence would make the “free movement” of border residents into each other’s country difficult.
  • The two countries had in 2018 agreed to streamline the movement of people within 16 km of the border on either side.

Note: Myanmar has indefinitely stalled the agreement to streamline the free movement of people within 16 km along the border citing domestic issues.

Mizoram welcomes the refugees

  • As a humanitarian gesture, the Mizoram government has issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) to Deputy Commissioners of border districts to facilitate the entry of refugees and migrants.
  • The SOP stated that all Myanmar nationals entering Mizoram in connection with the political developments in the country shall be properly identified.
  • The government said those facing a threat to their lives should be treated as refugees, given medical care, relief and rehabilitation and security.

Where do the Centre and Mizoram stand now?

  • The SOP was revoked on March 6 after the Centre conveyed its displeasure to the State over the development.
  • The State governments have no powers to grant “refugee status to any foreigner”.

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