Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

Why India is fencing its border with Myanmar — and why that could be a problem


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India's Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project in Rakhine State

Mains level: complexities surrounding the Indian-Myanmar border situation

Free Movement Regime is aiding illegal immigration.

Central Idea:
The article discusses the complex situation at the Indian-Myanmar border, particularly in Mizoram, highlighting the influx of Myanmar soldiers seeking refuge and the growing influence of rebel groups. It also examines India’s response to these developments, focusing on the challenges posed by border security, economic interests, and diplomatic considerations.

Key Highlights:

  • Refugee Crisis: Myanmar soldiers fleeing conflict in Chin State seek refuge in Mizoram, exacerbating tensions at the border.
  • Rebel Advancements: Rebel groups, such as the Chin National Army and the Arakan Army, gain control over significant territories along the border, challenging the authority of the Myanmar government.
  • Indian Response: India grapples with the security implications of the border situation, considering measures like building fences and ending the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
  • Economic Interests: India’s economic interests in Myanmar, particularly in rebel-held areas like Rakhine State, necessitate a cautious approach amid escalating conflict.
  • Diplomatic Dynamics: India’s policies in the region are influenced by considerations of regional stability, cooperation with Myanmar’s government, and competing interests with China.

Key Challenges:

  • Security Concerns: India faces challenges in maintaining border security amidst escalating conflict and infiltration by armed groups.
  • Economic Implications: Balancing economic interests with security concerns poses a dilemma for Indian policymakers.
  • Diplomatic Complexity: India must navigate diplomatic relations with Myanmar while considering regional dynamics and competition with China.
  • Social Impact: Measures like ending the Free Movement Regime may strain familial and tribal ties across the border, potentially leading to social unrest.

Main Terms:

  • Rebel Groups
  • Free Movement Regime (FMR)
  • Border Security
  • Refugee Crisis
  • Economic Interests
  • Regional Stability

Important Phrases:

  • “Liberated zones”
  • “Border fencing”
  • “Neighbourhood First”
  • “Act East”
  • “Arakan Army surged”


  • “We were surprised by how quickly the army posts fell.”
  • “…the kinship and tribal ties are such that they will not be curbed by the measures.”
  • “Neither China nor India are likely to change their current policies till such a viable process is in place.”

Useful Statements:

  • “Calls for fencing the border have been strongest from the beleaguered Chief Minister of Manipur.”
  • “India has not retreated from its support to the army dispensation in Myanmar.”
  • “Rebel armed groups, some of which have been fighting the Myanmar army for over 70 years, are unlikely to be able to march on the capital of Naypyidaw.”

Examples and References:

  • Chin National Army’s control over Chin State.
  • Arakan Army’s campaign in Paletwa.
  • India’s Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project in Rakhine State.

Facts and Data:

  • Chin refugees sheltering in Mizoram after the 2021 coup in Myanmar.
  • India’s eastern border with Myanmar.
  • Proposal to end the Free Movement Regime allowing movement up to 16 km across borders.

Critical Analysis:

The article provides a nuanced understanding of the complexities surrounding the Indian-Myanmar border situation, emphasizing the interconnectedness of security, economic, and diplomatic factors. It highlights the challenges faced by India in maintaining stability in the region amidst escalating conflict and competing interests with China.

Way Forward:

  • India should adopt a balanced approach that prioritizes both security and economic interests.
  • Diplomatic engagement with Myanmar should focus on promoting stability and addressing the root causes of conflict.
  • Efforts to secure the border should be accompanied by measures to mitigate social and economic impacts on border communities.

Overall, a comprehensive strategy that considers the multifaceted nature of the border situation is essential for India to effectively navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by its eastern frontier with Myanmar.

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