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Mizoram demands resumption of India-Myanmar border trade

Aizawl/Imphal: Official trade between India and Myanmar through Mizoram and Manipur has been closed for many years. However, illegal cross-border trade in drugs, arms and ammunition, endangered animals and other items worth crores is being carried out.

Traders on both sides of the border have been demanding the resumption of Indo-Myanmar trade through the Moreh and Jokhawthar trading centers to stop the rampant illegal trade.

Official trade through Moreh Integrated Check Post (ICP) has been closed since March 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, while business through Jokhawthar has been closed for several years due to other reasons.

Let us tell you that Moreh ICP is located along the proposed 1360 km long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.

Mizoram-based International Trade Initiative Forum (ITIF) recently urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mizoram Governor Hari Babu Kambampati to resume India-Myanmar trade.

Its chairman P.C. Lomkunga apprised the Governor of Mizoram that the closure of the India-Myanmar border trade is increasing smuggling activities in the region.

Lomkunga is a retired IAS officer. He has been the Chief Secretary of Manipur. Lomkunga said the Indo-Myanmar border trade at Jokhawthar in eastern Mizoram was first started as a traditional trade in 1995. Today it has become almost non-existent due to various reasons.

The Governor assured the ITIF delegation that the Union Government would consider promoting trade with neighboring countries and ease trade facilities for its citizens.

Talking to IANS, Lomkunga said, “The absence of formal and regular official border trade between India and Myanmar is not only leading to rampant smuggling and illegal trade, but it is also causing loss of crores of rupees to the government in revenue.”

He said that large quantities of areca nuts are being smuggled from Myanmar to Mizoram and Manipur without any restrictions.

The retired IAS officer said, the Assam Rifles and other security forces often nab a truck full of areca nuts. Indian farmers and traders are getting affected due to smuggling in large quantities.

He said that the Indian government, as part of its Act East policy, has been keen to boost trade and economy with neighboring and South East Asian countries, but how can this policy succeed without regular formal trade.

A defense spokesperson said that the Assam Rifles has been at the forefront in combating cross-border narco-terrorism and extremism emanating from Myanmar.

Apart from rampant smuggling from Myanmar, India’s northeastern states, especially Mizoram, are facing other troubles after a military coup in the neighboring country on February 1 last year. About 24,000 Myanmar refugees, including women and children, have taken refuge in Mizoram.

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