TODAY -

Indo (Manipur) - Myanmar border row

Lt Col Laishram Lokendra (Retd) *

United Committee Manipur (UCM) inspection  of India-Myanmar border area near Moreh :: August 8 - 10, 2013
United Committee Manipur (UCM) inspection of India-Myanmar border area near Moreh :: August 8 - 10, 2013



The commotion is basically about border fencing along Indo (Manipur) – Myanmar border where large tracts of land has been left on the other side of the fence, and impending dissection of Govajang and Holenphai villages. Govt.’s statement that it is security fencing and the IB will remain inviolable has been vehemently objected by people as the fencing will de-facto become the border. The problem got compounded when Myanmar Army made a move to establish a camp in Holenphai village in close proximity of BP 76. They were however prevailed upon by State authority to stop till the border issue is settled at the higher level.

MP Thokchom Meinya took up the issue at the Parliament. Although the focus is on intrusion of Myanmar Army into Manipur, GOI has nonetheless taken up the problem of Indo (Manipur) – Myanmar border row with its counterpart and has asked Myanmar for setting up of a Joint Border Working Group (JBWG) to address the issue of demarcation of border between the two countries.

Some border pillars are missing. Myanmar claims Holenphai village to be in their territory so do India. There is dispute over the border in Moreh town itself as a result construction of Integrated Check Post has been stopped midway. Myanmar is said to have claimed 400 meters of territory at places across the IB. The dispute is over 9 border pillars.

National territorial boundaries get demarcated as a result of specific historical events. It cannot be drawn /re-drawn just like that. For the uninitiated the boundary between Manipur and Myanmar was demarcated in 1834 AD. 1819 AD onwards up to 1826 AD the country of Manipur was under occupation of Ava (Burma/Myanmar), the period historically known as “Chahi Taret Khuntakpa” – 7 years devastation. Maharaja Gambhir Singh of Manipur who had taken refuge in Cachar (Assam), with the help of British attacked Ava and after a protracted war regained the lost sovereignty of Manipur the eastern territory of which included Kabaw Valley (now in Myanmar).

In 1834 AD, an agreement was signed between the two sovereign countries initiated by the British whose representatives were present in both the countries in the person of Political Agent. There was strong claim of both the countries on Kabaw Valley which was then under the occupation of Manipur. However, after protracted negotiation and much against the wishes of Maharaja Gambhir Singh Kabaw Valley was transferred to Ava and Manipur was compensated in the form of stipend of Rs 500 per month (Rs 6000 per annum) to be paid by the British Raj. The wisdom of the British was to prevent a future war between the two countries for the possession of this piece of land. Extract of agreement specifying the boundary as given at page 184-85 of the book “The North-East Frontier of India” written by A Mackenzie and published in 1884 AD is as follows:-

First – The British Commissioners, Major Grant and Captain Pemberton, under instructions from the Right Honourable the Governor General in Council, agreed to make over to the Woondouk Mahamengyan Raja and Tsaradaugee Ni Myookyawthoo, Commisioners appointed by the King of Ava, the towns of Tummoo, Khumbat, Sumjok and all other villages in the Kubo Valley, the Ungoching Hills and the strip of valley running between their eastern foot and the western bank of the Ningthee or Khyendwen River.

Second – The British Commissioners will withdraw the Muneepooree Thannas now stationed within the tract of country and make over immediate possession of it to the Burmese Commissioners on certain conditions.

Third – The conditions are that they will agree to the boundaries which may be pointed out to them by the British Commissioners, and will respect and refrain from any interference, direct or indirect, with the people residing on the Muneepooree side of those boundaries.

Fourth – The boundaries are as follow:-

1st. The eastern foot of the chain of mountains which rise immediately from the western side of the plain of the Kubo Valley. Within this line is included Moreh and all the country to the westward of it.

2nd. On the south, a line, extending from the eastern foot of the same hills at the point where the river, called by the Burmahs, Nansaweng, and by the Muneepoorees, Numsaeelung, enters the plain up to its sources, and across the hills due west down to the Kathe Khyoung (Muneepooree River).

3rd. On the north, the line of boundary will begin at the foot of the same hills at the northern extremity of the Kubo Valley and pass due north up to the first range of hills, east of that upon which stand the villages of Choeetar, Noongbree, Noonghur, of the tribe called by the Muneepoorees Loohooppa, and by the Burmahs Lagwensoung, now tributary to Muneepooree.

4th. The Burmese Commissioners hereby promise that they will give orders to the Burmese officers, who will remain in charge of the territory now made over to them, not in any way to interfere with the Khyens or other inhabitants living on the Muneepoor side of the lines of boundary above described, and the British Commissioners also promise that the Muneepoorees shall be ordered not in any way to interfere with the Khyens or other inhabitants of any descriptions living on the Burma side of the boundaries now fixed.

Sunmyachil Ghaut, Ningthee River, 9th January 1834.

The boundary is clearly stated to be along the eastern foothills of the mountain ranges (running North - South) where Kabaw Valley ends on the west. Further it also says Moreh and the country west of it is that of Manipur. However, the basic problem would be to come to terms with the extent of Moreh itself and places where foothill is vague. The answer would therefore be traditional boundary as accepted by the inhabitants of the area. Nevertheless fact remains there was no border dispute for more than a century till the two countries got independence from the British Raj in 1947/48.

After Manipur merged with India in 1949, India-Burma Boundary Agreement was signed on 10 March, 1967 as per which a Joint India – Burma Boundary Commission was constituted to work out the modalities, the actual work on the physical demarcation of the boundary commenced on 1st December, 1968 (Govt. of India, Ministry of External Affairs, Report 1968-69)

It goes without saying, therefore, that any claim or counter claim of either country must be substantiated by historical evidence based on the basic framework left by the British legacy for more than a century. Copy of the Ningthee Agreement of 1834 should be available in the National Archive in Delhi as also in London Archive.

Now that the Indo (Manipur) – Myanmar border row is being deliberated at the national level and setting up of a Joint Border Working Group is in the offing, hopefully GOI will take up the issue with the urgency it deserves since it has a direct bearing on the border fencing underway. And people want Govt. of Manipur to do more than just visit Moreh time and again for inspection.


* Lt Col Laishram Lokendra Singh (Retd) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 05, 2013.


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