The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an agreement to facilitate border crossing between India and Myanmar. The agreement will facilitate regulation and harmonization of already existing free movement rights for people residing in the border areas of both the countries.
“It will also facilitate movement of people on the basis of valid passports and visas which will enhance economic and social interaction between the two countries,” said an official statement.
The pact is an enabling arrangement for movement of people across the India-Myanmar border. “It is expected to provide connectivity and enhance interaction of the people of north-eastern states with the people of Myanmar,” it said.
“The agreement would give a boost to the economy of NE and allow us to leverage our geographical connections with Myanmar to boost trade and people-to-people ties,” said the statement.
The agreement will also safeguard the traditional rights of the largely tribal communities residing along the border which are accustomed to free movement across the land border.
Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang had earlier urged the Centre, on January 18 last year, to ask Myanmar to stop border fencing in the Noklak area of Tuensang district as it would adversely affect free movement and the traditional land-holding system of the area.
On that occasion, Zeliang had taken up the issue with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and pointed out that the people of Noklak stood to lose some 3,500 acres of land which they had been cultivating for generations.
“Border fencing is also not in tune with the free movement regime shared by both India and Myanmar,” Zeliang had said while pointing out that unlike the India-Pakistan border region, people of the area have been living peacefully together for long and as such, there was no need for border fencing.
“The communities living on both sides of the border in these areas have very close cultural and social affinity and there are instances where they hold land on both sides of the border,” Zeliang pointed out.
“Moreover, the Act East policy of the Government of India intends to improve trade and communications across the Indo-Myanmar border and fencing of the boundaries would defeat the very purpose of the Act East Policy,” he added.
The Union Home Minister then assured Zeliang that the Ministry of Home Affairs had written to the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the issue with Myanmar and dissuade the neighbouring country not to proceed with border fencing on its side.