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India Halts Visa-free Entry from Myanmar

Fri 09 Feb 2024 | 12:23 PM
Israa Farhan

India announced on Thursday that it would be discontinuing its decades-old policy of visa-free travel for areas along its border with Myanmar, citing national security concerns and the need to maintain the demographic composition of its northeastern border regions.

The disclosure by the Home Minister comes just days after he announced plans to erect a fence along the 1,643-kilometer border.

Currently, residents within a 16-kilometer stretch on either side of the border are permitted to cross without a visa.

However, since the military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of soldiers have fled to Indian states, where border communities share ethnic and familial ties.

This influx has raised concerns in New Delhi about the potential spread of sectarian tensions into India.

A government official, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that while India would need to formally notify Myanmar of the visa policy change, the implementation could be immediate.

Last week, Myanmar's military rulers extended the state of emergency imposed since the coup, as they face a violent pro-democracy insurgency that poses a significant challenge to their governance.

Since October, over 700 Myanmar soldiers have crossed into India seeking refuge, and rebels took control of a town near the border, prompting thousands to flee to India to escape the violence.