India – Myanmar Border

Insurgency in North Eastern States

  • Since inception of insurgency in Northeast in 1950s, Naga, Mizo, Meitei, and Assamese insurgents have been crossing over into Myanmar to set up bases, especially in Chin state, where they rest, recoup, train, plan and launch future offensives, and take shelter when pursued by the Indian security forces.
  • These groups have ethnic ties across the border which makes it easy for these groups to find support on the other side of the border.


  • This support has helped them in sustaining their rebellion even when faced with the superior might of the Indian security forces.
  • Besides cross border movement of insurgents, rampant gun running, and drug trafficking are other significant security challenges emanating across the India-Myanmar border. The Indian insurgent groups have been procuring arms from the black markets of Southeast Asia as well as from Myanmar-based rebel groups.
  • Weapons from Thailand & Cambodia are smuggled overland through India-Myanmar border with help of Chin and Arakanese insurgents.
  • Weapons produced in China are routed across Myanmar border at Ruili and then trucked via Lashio, Mandalay & Monywa to enter Indian border through Phek, Chandel, Churachandpur and Champai.

Drug Trade from Golden Triangle

  • Golden Triangle makes India-Myanmar border vulnerable to trafficking of heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) produced in Myanmar. These narcotics are trafficked into India through Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland.
  • Reverse trafficking of precursor chemicals such as ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine as well as codeine-based medicinal preparations from India to Myanmar takes place through the same route.
  • While the bigger insurgent groups are not directly involved in drug trafficking to generate funds, they do so indirectly by demanding protection money from drug mafia for allowing safe passage to the drug consignments through their area. 

Lack of clear demarcation of boundary

  • International boundary had been formally demarcated by boundary agreement in 1967. However, boundary has not crystallised on ground as lines separating two sovereign countries.
  • India-Myanmar boundary is superimposed on socio-cultural landscape of the borderland, dividing several tribes, and forcing them to reside as citizens of different countries.
  • These tribes refuse to accept artificial line and continue to maintain strong cross-border ethnic linkages.
  • Insurgents often exploit such linkages to find shelter across the border among their own kinsmen who are sympathetic towards their cause.

Free Movement Regime (FMR)

  • Indo-Myanmar border has this unique mechanism. FMR permits tribes residing along border to travel 16-km across boundary without visa restrictions.
  • While FMR has helped tribes continue maintain 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.
  • Another provision in the FMR, which allows tribal people to carry headload, has also been misused to smuggle in drugs, weapons, and other contraband. 

Terrain of the Border

  • High mountains, deep river channels together with lush forest characterise 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. 

Issues in Border Security Arrangement

  • Assam Rifles is the designated border guarding force for India-Myanmar border, deploy only 15 battalions out of 46 battalions for border guarding purposes and the rest are engaged in counter insurgency operations.
  • Efforts to build a 10 km fence to prevent cross-border movement of insurgents have also been stalled because of protests by residents. 

Coup in Myanmar

  • Refugees fleeing the military crackdown are entering Mizoram. This has led to disagreement between centre and Mizoram which supports refugees.
  • Centre’s instruction of sealing border with Myanmar has irked ethnically and culturally connected communities on both sides. Ex – Chin community.

Way Forward

  • Given that poor security along India-Myanmar border poses a challenge to India’s security, it is imperative that India strengthens security of the border and redoubles its efforts to meaningfully engage Myanmar to effectively manage this border.
  • Give Assam Rifles sole responsibility of guarding India-Myanmar border and strengthen it with adequate manpower and equipment.
  • Through sustained community interaction programs, border community should be sensitised to participate in the nation building project.
  • International borders are best managed when neighbours cooperate to secure their mutual borders.
  • For such cooperation to materialise, 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.
  • India should maintain this cooperation with Myanmar for better managing their shared border.
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