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  • BACKGROUND: India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. India and Myanmar relations have stood the test of time. The geographical proximity of the two countries has helped develop and sustain cordial relations and facilitated people-to people contact. India and Myanmar share a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
  • FREE MOVEMENT REGIME (FMR): The formation of Myanmar as a separate State in 1937 and de-colonisation of the sub-continent in 1947 divided ethnic communities living along the Indo-Myanmar border. These communities, particularly Nagas, found the newly created boundary to be inconsistent with the traditional limits of the region they inhabited. And they felt a deep sense of insecurity because they became relegated to the status of ethnic minorities on both sides of the border To address their concerns and enable greater interaction among them, the Indian and Myanmarese governments established the Free Movement Regime (FMR), allowed Nagas to travel 16 kilometers across the border on either side without any visa requirements.

Free movement regime is being misused by militants and trans-border criminals who smuggle weapons, contraband goods and fake Indian currency notes. Taking advantage of the free-movement regime, occasionally they enter India, commit crimes and escape to their relatively safer hideouts.

In order to solve this issue India-Myanmar Land Border Crossing Agreement was signed and operationalized

  • The agreement will facilitate movement of people on basis of valid passports and visas which will enhance economic and social interaction between two countries. The two crossing points are at Moreh in Manipur, opposite Tamu in Myanmar’s Sagaing division, and Zokhawthar in Mizoram, opposite Rhikhawdar in Myanmar’s Chin state
  • It will facilitate regulation and harmonization of already existing free movement rights for people ordinarily residing in border areas of both countries.
  • It will also give boost to economy of North East and leverage geographical connections with Myanmar to boost trade and people to people ties.
  • It will also safeguard traditional rights of largely tribal communities residing along border which are accustomed to free movement across land border
  • There are over 250 villages within 10 km of border who frequently cross. There will be no restrictions on movement of people across borders. But, domiciles across the border will be allotted border passes and those going across for agriculture, work or to meet relatives need to carry pass all times.
  • Myanmar shares border with four North-Eastern states: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram. Many of the people who live in these provinces of India have brethren living across the border in Myanmar
  • Myanmar is crucial for New Delhi’s connectivity initiatives in the region, particularly in light of its non-participation in the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The India-funded Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which will allow for sea-access for the landlocked Northeastern states of India via kaladan river in myanmar, has been plagued by delays. The opening of the land routes will strengthen New Delhi’s case when it comes to the actual delivery of other projects and initiatives.
  • Opening of these land border crossings will help in the growth of tourism in Northeast India and Myanmar. The Northeastern states are strikingly beautiful and many people in Myanmar and other ASEAN nations in the future could visit the Northeast Indian states.
  • This will help in the growth of medical tourism in the Northeastern states of the country, which offer high quality medical services at reasonable rates, something which may interest people living in the border regions of Myanmar.


    • For long, the lack of physical connectivity with Southeast Asia has been an Achilles’ heel in India’s “Act-East Policy.” The trilateral highway will improve India’s connectivity with Myanmar and Thailand
    • The India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway is highway under construction under India’s Act East policy that will connect Moreh, India with Mae Sot, Thailand via Myanmar. The highway is expected to boost trade and commerce in ASEAN–India Free Trade Area, as well as with rest of Southeast Asia 
    • Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) Road, also known as Friendship Road, constructed and upgraded by the Border Roads Organisation and handed over to the government of Myanmar in 2009 — India is repairing 69 bridges. It is also constructing/upgrading the Kalewa-Yagyi section of the highway in Myanmar.
  • It is a multi-modal transport project having three different stretches involving shipping, Inland Water and road transport stretches.
  • Being administered by Ministry of External Affairs
  • Will connect Mizoramto Bay of Bengal
  • Project seeks to facilitate connectivity between the mainland India and the landlocked North Eastern States Myanmar
  • The link between landlocked north eastern states and Myanmar will lead to
    • Enhanced trade and commerce across the border
    • Enable cultural and social integration at the regional level

Historically, India has been a major player in Myanmar’s socio-economic landscape till the 1960s. The advent of military dictatorship and its economic policies reduced India’s interactions with Myanmar. As the political transition in Myanmar picks up momentum, it provides an excellent opportunity for India to explore new avenues of cooperation.

In India, we often say Myanmar is our “gateway to the East

With long land and maritime boundaries, surely, both countries need to take full advantage of geography.