After border-related travails with China and Pakistan, India is now engaged in sorting out differences with Myanmar over a small undemarcated portion between the two nations.
Expressing confidence about coming to an understanding over the dispute, both the Foreign Office and Union Home Ministry officials refuted media reports suggesting there had been an intrusion by Myanmarese troops.
They admitted that Assam Rifles, the designated border force of that segment, had objected to Myanmarese troops camping in the area, but this was because both sides had reached an understanding over not undertaking construction work for some distance on either side of the border.
Explaining the situation, Foreign Office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said there has been “some activity” on the Myanmar side near border pillar 76, although both sides have resolved not to undertake any construction on either side. To complicate matters, a small portion near this pillar is undemarcated.
“That has been the issue there. So it is not an intrusion or incursion, it is on their side of the border,’’ he observed. “We have been informed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees that part of the border, that there has not been an intrusion and it’s not fair to say this.’’
On the diplomatic front, the Indian mission in Myanmar has taken up the issue and proposed a joint border working group. While the national media remained exercised throughout the day on an alleged intrusion, the issue is quite different in Manipur. The Hindu has carried reports quoting NGOs and some political parties as saying that several border pillars are missing and also that Myanmar is staking claim to over a dozen villages and a temple built decades back by the expatriate Tamil community.
The Communist Party of India, with substantial pockets of influence in Manipur, has even asked the government to immediately stop fencing along the international border and warned of protests if it went ahead without proper demarcation of the international boundary.
The CPI has said people were angry over the Centre starting border fencing work over a distance of 10 km near Moreh town in Manipur and pointed out that Myanmar had lodged a protest about the location of zero point. Subsequently, the government decided to construct border fencing 10 km inside the Indian territory.
The CPI says the border fencing will cut across a village right in the middle and about 15 villages could be left out of Indian territory. Even this fence is being put up about 100 metres inwards from the natural boundary which means territorial loss to Manipur.
Specifically addressing the issue of pillar 76, Mr. Akabruddin said, “we are confident, given the close relations which we have with Myanmar, that this issue will be taken up and sorted out amicably.”