[Solved] Cross-Border movement of insurgents is only one of the several security challenges facing the policing of the border in North-East India. Examine the various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border. Also, discuss the steps to counter the challenges. (UPSC GS-3 Mains 2019)

The various challenges currently emanating from across the India-Myanmar border are the following:

• Disputed areas: The Tri-junction where India-Myanmar and China

 • Difficult terrain, resulting in lack of infrastructure: As a result, the border area remains sparsely populated with depressed economic development. It also affects policing as they hamper the easy and rapid movement of the border guarding forces along the border.

 • Trafficking of Drugs, humans, smuggling of gold, weapons, ammunitions, smuggling.

 • Golden Triangle– Thailand, Myanmar, Laos–drugs are smuggled overland through the IndiaMyanmar border with the help of China and Arakanese insurgents.

 • Nexus between terrorism and organised crime

 • Refugee influx through unsecure borders

 E.g.: Rohingya migrants’ influx from Myanmar

 • Separatist movements and Terrorism

 National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K) and Meitei insurgent groups enter Myanmar from Indian north-east, then they rest, recoup, train, plan and launch future offensives, and take shelter when pursued by the Indian security forces

 • The free movement regime

 FMR has 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.

 Steps to counter the Challenges:

 • Techniques of Effective border management as suggested by Madhav Godbole Task Force 2001.

 • Joint military exercises between the two countries.

 • Confidence building measures needed to be taken.

 • Border fencing and erecting floodlights

 • Creating effective border outposts

 • Developing Infrastructure in the region

 • Step-up infrastructure development, like roads through bilateral, multi-lateral mechanism e.g.

 India – Myanmar – Thailand (IMT) highway, Kaladan multi modal transport.

 • Cooperation at Regional level through organisations like BIMSTEC

 • Effective patrolling

 • Building of integrated check posts

 • Equipping the security forces with night vision goggles.

 • Installation of CCTV and thermal imaging equipment.

 • Increased people to people contact

 Various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border:

  • The location of the Indo-Myanmar boundary throws up many challenges for the effective management of the boundary.
  • The normality of crossing the border: That the Indian insurgents can cross the international border and hide in the neighboring country is not new.
  • Since the inception of insurgency in the Northeast in the 1950s, the Naga, Mizo, Meitei, and Assamese insurgents have been crossing over into Myanmar to set up bases.
  • Tacit approval of the Myanmar government and fraternal ties with other insurgent groups have facilitated the establishment of these safe havens.
  • In fact, the shelter and support that the Indian insurgent groups receive from across the border have been one of the most important factors which have helped them in sustaining their rebellion even when faced with the superior might of the Indian security forces.
  • Gunrunning and drug trafficking across the India-Myanmar border: Besides cross border movement of insurgents, rampant gun-running and drug trafficking are other significant security challenges emanating across the India-Myanmar border.
  • While the bulk of the weapons from Thailand and Cambodia are smuggled through the sea route, some of them are also smuggled overland through the India-Myanmar border. Narcotics and the ‘Golden Triangle’: Proximity to Myanmar in the ‘Golden Triangle’ makes the India-Myanmar border vulnerable to the trafficking of heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) produced in Myanmar.
  • While the bigger insurgent groups are not directly involved in drug trafficking to generate funds, they do so indirectly by demanding protection money from the drug mafia for allowing safe passage to the drug consignments through their area.
  • The 1967 boundary agreement and fluid nature of tribes: Even though the international boundary between the two countries had been formally delimited and demarcated following the boundary agreement in 1967, the boundary has not crystallized on the ground as lines separating two sovereign countries.
  • This is because like most of the boundaries that India shares with its neighbors, the India-Myanmar boundary is also superimposed on the socio-cultural landscape of the borderland, dividing several tribes and forcing them to reside as citizens of different countries.
  • These tribes, however, refuse to accept the artificial line and continue to maintain strong cross-border ethnic linkages.
  • Such linkages are often exploited by the insurgents to find shelter across the border among their own kinsmen who are sympathetic towards their ‘cause’.
  • The Free Movement Regime: The India-Myanmar border has a unique arrangement in a place called the Free Movement Regime (FMR). The FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
  • While the FMR has helped the tribes continue maintaining 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.
  • The terrain of the India-Myanmar border: The terrain of the India-Myanmar border also adds to its vulnerability.
  • High mountains, deep river channels together with lush forest characterize 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.
  • The focus of government: The Attention accorded to the India-Myanmar border by the central government has been woefully inadequate.
  • The Assam Rifles are also not deployed at the border or spread along the entire border but clustered as company-operated bases (COBs) stationed deep inside, thereby preventing the force from dominating the border domination and restricting their ability to prevent illegal cross-border movements.
  • Efforts to build a 10 km fence to prevent cross-border movement of insurgents have also been stalled because of protests by local residents.
  • More importantly, the Indian government’s efforts to garner Myanmar’s help in addressing the insurgency issue by jointly managing the India-Myanmar border have not produced desired results in the past.
  • Various challenges due to India-Myanmar porous border
  • Drugs and arms
  • The India-Myanmar border is part of golden drugs triangle, which enables movement of narcotics into the country, especially cocaine, heroine and opium which are used to finance terrorism and other illegal activities. Illegal ammunition are also brought into the country from market such as China for selling it to extremists within India.
  • Illegal refugees
  • The border has turned into a easy getaway into India for all those refugees who want to leave their country of origin. This has further created natives and outsiders rifts leading to unrest. The refugees also include sleeper terrorists, who plan to infiltrate into social structure for carrying out their mission.
  • Ex: Rohingya refugees arriving into India illegally from Myanmar.
  • Counterfeit currency
  • One of the greatest challenge to economy is circulation of counterfeit currency. These currencies have ability to destroy domestic economy by artificially creating inflationary trends. These currencies are also responsible for funding terrorism and related activities.
  • Smuggling of goods
  • Legal trade from other countries is a large contributor to revenue through levy of duties. If goods are smuggled illegally, then country loses large amount of revenue.

Steps to counter the challenges:

  • Dedicated force
  • A dedicated force which is capable of protecting not only fenced areas but also challenging terrains. Strict checking can automatically flag large number of illegal consignments.
  • Smart fencing
  • Use of laser technology as well as devices like infrared cameras, drones, motion sensors etc along with satellite monitoring can create additional surveillance.
  • Intelligence upgradation
  • Intelligence structure needs modification in order to get advance tip about illegal events that are about to happen. This requires greater number of informants to infiltrate into smuggling gangs.
  • Given that poor security along the India-Myanmar border poses a challenge to India’s security, it is imperative that India strengthens the security of the border and redoubles its efforts to meaningfully engage Myanmar to effectively manage this border.
  • To begin with, it should give the Assam Rifles the sole responsibility of guarding the India-Myanmar border and strengthen it with adequate manpower and equipment.
  • At the same time, through sustained community interaction programs, the border community should be sensitized to participate in the nation-building project.
  • International orders are best managed when neighbors cooperate to secure their mutual borders.
  • For such cooperation to materialize, 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. In fact, the latest crackdown on Indian insurgent groups by the Tatmadaw is a successful outcome of such engagements.
  • India should maintain this momentum of cooperation with Myanmar for better managing their shared border.
  • Given that poor security along the India–Myanmar border poses a challenge to India’s security, it is imperative that India strengthens the security of the border and redoubles its efforts to meaningfully engage Myanmar to effectively manage this border.

Conclusion:

 India and Myanmar should involve themselves in regular deliberation to increase mutual trust between them. Cooperation in other areas like economic, energy, science and technology, space, defence, education, cultural must be enhanced to establish a peaceful border

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