As India expresses growing apprehension over the violence and instability gripping Myanmar, a dual narrative unfolds. While external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal underscores India’s concerns, emphasizing the direct implications on national security, Nagaland’s Longwa village chief angh, Tonyei Phawang, whose village straddles the India-Myanmar border, lends a unique perspective, proving the story on the ground is nuanced.
Phawang’s opposition to the proposed India-Myanmar border fence and call for action against the scrapping of the Free Movement Regime (FMR) underscore the intricate challenges faced by indigenous peoples in border regions, where geopolitical decisions collide with the cultural and social fabric of their communities.
This highlights the human cost of seemingly distant policy choices.
India expressed its apprehension at the violence and instability in Myanmar, coinciding with the third anniversary of the 2021 coup by the junta, and said developments there have direct implications for the security of the country. The external affairs ministry spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, made these remarks just hours after Myanmar’s military rulers extended the state of emergency on Thursday, in effect since the coup that removed the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi three years ago. The junta’s control over power has faced challenges with a series of military successes by pro-democracy resistance forces since last October.
“We are concerned with the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, which has direct implications for us. As a neighboring country and friend of Myanmar, India has been long advocating for a complete cessation of violence and Myanmar’s transition towards inclusive, federal democracy,” stated Jaiswal during a routine media briefing as reported by Hindustan Times.
He added, “We want an early resolution of the issue through constructive dialogue and the return of peace and stability in the country.” India’s concerns extend to all developments in Myanmar, including the security situation, instability, and violence.
On Wednesday, the United States imposed additional sanctions on Myanmar, targeting two entities and several individuals closely associated with the junta. The sanctions specifically aimed at the fuel used by the junta for air strikes as part of its offensive against resistance forces and the military’s ability to manufacture arms, it was reported.
The coup by the military on February 1, 2021 sparked nationwide chaos and ended a decade of democracy and economic reforms. It also sparked uprisings by armed ethnic groups in different parts of Myanmar.
Last October, the Brotherhood Alliance – the alliance between Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Arakan Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – jointly launched a campaign that has seen the resistance capture at least 35 towns, including key trade posts and crossings on the borders with India and China.
Hundreds of Myanmar military personnel have surrendered to the resistance forces in Shan and Rakhine states. More than 600 Myanmar troops also crossed the border with India to escape the fighting and were subsequently repatriated. Thousands of people from Myanmar have also sought refuge in the northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram.
Longwa angh’s position
Meanwhile, the chief angh of Longwa village, Tonyei Phawang, has voiced his opposition to the Centre’s decision to abolish the Free Movement Regime (FMR) and to fence the India-Myanmar border. Notably, the angh’s house is famously known for straddling the international border.
Phawang underscored that Longwa, a significant village in Mon district, is strategically positioned on the Indo-Myanmar border, accommodating approximately 6,000 people who effectively reside in both countries but under a single anghship, one church, and one administration.
According to a statement, the chief angh stated that recent records indicate 990 households in Longwa, scattered across Indian and Myanmar territories, with 170 households, including the chief angh’s residence, Government Primary School, church, Assam Rifles post, shops, and other public properties, located exactly on the boundary line.
Phawang emphasized that Longwa, with eight jhum farmlands and two forest reserves, witnessed four jhum farmlands and one forest reserve falling within Myanmar territory. The village, tracing its roots back to the 16th century, experienced a joint demarcation of the boundary line by India and Myanmar in the 20th century (1970-71), dividing it between the two countries.
Expressing disagreement with Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement regarding the erection of a fence along India’s border with Myanmar in the Northeast and the removal of the Free Movement Regime (FMR), Phawang asserted that such actions would socially and culturally divide the people.
Phawang stated that the proposed plan, if implemented, would adversely impact people living along the border, particularly in the case of Longwa village, as their separation by the border fence was never anticipated and would not be accepted under any circumstances.
On behalf of the people of Longwa, Phawang urged the state government, led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, to address the matter and voice opposition to the scrapping of FMR and the subsequent erection of a border fence on the Indo-Myanmar border.