23:24 GMT +323 October 2019
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    Motorcycles stand beside a sign on the border between Myanmar and India at Pangsau Pass, Saigang State, Northern Myanmar. (File)

    India Braces Itself for Influx of Refugees, Seals Its Borders With Myanmar

    © AFP 2019 / FINDLAY KEMBER
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    India fears that Rohingyas fleeing Rakhine province in Myanmar may enter its territory through the countries' mutual border, which lacks a protective fence. In response, a team led by the head of the Department of Internal Security of the Ministry of Home Affairs was sent to the region by Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian government is reviewing the impact of a bilateral agreement with Myanmar, which allows visa-free movement among citizens of the two countries within 16 km of the Indo-Myanmar border, in the wake of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

    Sources have told Sputnik that security officials and senior officials from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs visited the border areas of four north-eastern states.

    "India apprehends that Rohingya fleeing Rakhine may seek to infiltrate into our side through the unfenced border. That is why a team, led by special secretary (internal security), visited the border on the instruction of Union home minister Rajnath Singh last week," a senior Intelligence Bureau official told The Telegraph.

    India shares a 1,643 kilometers border with Myanmar and has a visa-free movement agreement which applies to anyone liiving within 16 kilometers of either side of the border. They can stay up to 72 hours with effective and valid permits issued by the designated authorities on either side.

    “This regime is misused by militants and criminals who smuggle weapons, narcotics, contraband goods and Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN),” the Home Minister said after reviewing the meeting on Indo-Myanmar.

    A Committee set up to review the open border agreement with Myanmar is expected to submit its report in the first half of October.

    Although India seems determined to seal the Indo-Myanmar border, the domestic considerations of the Naga population of its north-eastern states is proving to be a hurdle to its plan. Members of the Naga community live on both sides of the border. India fears that any step to stop their free movement could derail the complicated Naga peace process, which it hopes to resolve.

    Earlier this year, the local Naga population had protested and sought intervention from the Narendra Modi government to stop Myanmar from erecting a fence between the two nations. Locals fear that the fencing would cut off about 3,500 acres of arable land belonging to the Naga and also stop free movement along border areas.

    Armed Naga outfits that have been fighting for a sovereign homeland for the community living on either side of the India-Myanmar border have been in and out of peace negotiations with the Indian government since 1997.

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    Tags:
    Rohingya Muslims, visa-free, border, India, Myanmar
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