Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by SPN Editor
The media reports of External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. RK Ranjan claiming that Indo-Myanmar border pillars problems raised by civil society organisations cannot be resolved as there is no official complaint till date from the Manipur government side regarding the issue is misguiding the people.
First question that comes is who is responsible for the Indo Myanmar border pillars. Definitely the central government and not the state government is responsible for the border of Manipur and Myanmar as it is International border.
Secondly the state government has apprised the Centre of the issues related to Indo Myanmar border pillars falling in Manipur is quite evident from the visit of central teams for inspecting the disputed borders. Latest is the letter of the Special Secretary (Home) of the State government to the Union Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs sent on 22nd June 2022 requesting for partial suspension of border fencing works along Indo-border. Through the letter the state government requested Ministry to direct the BRO to suspend the border fencing work where the position of border pillar is disputed specially BP 81 and 82 until the dispute is resolved through dialogue.
It is noteworthy that India and Myanmar delimited the international boundary through a bilateral treaty signed at Rangoon on March 10, 1967. After the signing of India and Myanmar boundary agreement, the entire boundary between two countries was then formally delimited and demarcated. Both the governments again rectified the Agreement and the Instruments of Ratification were exchanged in New Delhi on 30th May 1967. After India-Burma boundary delimitation was done on maps, actual physical delimitation took place along the border on 5th April 1975. It should also be noted that Centre has from time to time stated very clearly that there is no border dispute between India and Myanmar. So the exercise is of confirming whether the present pillars conform to the border agreement of 30th May 1967.
Now, the question if the present border pillars conform to the agreement of 1967 can only be answered by Centre only and must be solved by the Centre. Responsibility of the State government is to inform the Centre about the suspicion as raised by the various civil society organisations and Individuals. It is worth noting here that central team has already visited Manipur for the inspection of the border pillars under the initiative of the present government.
There are two types of borders between Manipur and Myanmar. The first is the traditional boundary demarcated by a boundary commission under James Johnstone, the Political Agent of Manipur (1877 – 1886) during the reign of Maharaja Chandrakriti Singh. The second one is boundary fixed by the Agreement of 1967 between the governments of India and Myanmar (Burma at the time of signing the agreement).
It is the preset Union MoS Dr. RK Ranjan who as an activist had raised that the second boundary fixed in 1967 is not in agreement with the boundary fixed by the boundary commission during the time of Maharaja Chandrakriti Singh. As Government of India has repeatedly stayed that there is no border dispute, it is his responsibility as a Union Minister to convince the Central Government that there is border dispute and hence make efforts to solve the same.
As alleged by Dr. Ranjan, the activist, vast area of Manipur’s land has been lost between Border Pillars 64-68 in the Tuivai-Molcham area, of which he has claimed to have possession of the map. It is just an excuse from the Minister to say that his portfolio, the External Affairs is powerless. As he is convinced of the loss of territory because of a border agreement which has been implemented improperly, he can easily excess his counterpart in the Home Ministry to start the initiation for recovering the lost territory through a new agreement. And he being in External Affairs Ministry is the right person to start a new negotiation.
Dr. Ranjan, the activist, seemed to be fully convinced that the new demarcation line contradicts and altered the earlier traditional boundary lines of Manipur and Myanamar. He is also seemed to be fully convinced that there has been arbitrary transfer of Manipur’s ancestral land to Mynamar without the knowledge and consent of the people of Manipur. He even suggested the current boundary should be settled by consulting appropriate international institutions and if necessary, through the international court of justice. This is what Dr Ranjan, the activist wanted before he was elected in the Lok Sabha in 2018. Dr. Ranjan also advocated that the responsibility of boundary conflict in the Indo-Myanmar particularly in their Manipur sector should be the sole responsibility of the Surveyor General of India.
Now it is for Dr. RK Ranjan, the Union MoS for external affairs to act. Not to forget, Dr. RK Ranjan reached Delhi riding on the border issue. People have voted him to address and solve the longstanding issue which he and his associates have been advocated and worked since 1974. At one time he was the lone voice of the border issue in the State before becoming the Central Minister. Now being in power holding a Ministerial portfolio at Centre, , can we expect something from Dr. RK Ranjan now instead of deflecting the blame to the state government, who has done its part?