Hand-over Moreh to Army
Switzerland is a land of prosperity despite the fact that three major communities inimical to one another live in perfect harmony with complete hostility. The German-speaking Swiss, French-speaking Swiss, and Italian-speaking Swiss live acrimoniously in peace without violence. They don’t fight because their top priority is collective survival for common prosperity. So, here in Moreh our priority should be peace and prosperity rather than killing one another. We need to learn from Switzerland – how to live together in peaceful discord.
Moreh town has been the money-minting machine for all the communities, particularly for those who are associated with it. This is a well-known fact that many people are doing brisk business linking this trading town. This is a unique town inhabited by many people belonging to different communities or ethnicities. Beauty lies in the cosmopolitan character of this tiny town.
Moreh also provides livelihood to thousands of poor people living in and around the town. They are directly or indirectly involved in the commercial activities of various capacities. The main business of the town is to sell the goods and commodities coming from Myanmar. Bharat-made commodities are also exported from here towards Tamu, (Myanmar). Many goods and items that are part of the trade are beyond the listed items of the Indo-Myanmar Border Trade.
Actually, the Indo-Myanmar border trade formally started in 1994-95 with a listed item of just 23, mainly agricultural. However, the trading goes on much beyond the regulated items. Innumerable commodities are exchanged or purchased according to the conveniences of the local traders and businessmen. One very interesting thing about this border- trade is the involvement of women traders on both sides.
Moreh has a population of about twenty-five thousand. Now due to the present ethnic feud, the population has been drastically reduced. According to a not-so-intelligent report, only a few thousand are staying there as of now, that too under constant fear of violence and bloodshed.
For more than 50 years this town has been a center for cross-border trading. It has been associated with brisk commercial activities. We are told that during the Second World War Moreh was just a village having a population of a few hundred people. After Independence, the population swelled.
Many Tamils, Punjabis, and Biharis who were working in British Burma in the pre-independent years had joined before the 'Japan lan'. They were working in the government establishments and private enterprises in Mandalay and Rangoon before 1935( when Burma was part of the British-India Empire).
The normal trade between India and Myanmar across the land border has done away with the age-old barter system. Dismantling the restrictive regime and permitting trade in many commodities was a welcome move. The irony is that normal trade is negligible here and main trading has been through informal channels.
The primary factors that have been responsible for low trade volumes through the normal and formal channels are poor connectivity, absence of quality infrastructure at border crossings, limited financing and foreign exchange, and time-consuming documentation or red taps. Above all, lack of adequate security.
Without quality infrastructure and smooth government procedures, speedy movement of goods across the border can’t be achieved. It needs to be addressed on priority. The role of the external affairs ministry is very important here. Dealing with the Military Junta is not easy but we have to do it if we have to further our ACT East Policy.
Automated customs systems, electronic money exchange, quick frisking management; fast-trek border procedures, single windows clearances, and friendly trade facilitation counters would certainly help in the expansion and smoothening of this border trade. We need to do much more.
Due to the present ethnic crisis, Moreh town has been converted into a useless ghost town. The trade and business has almost gone from there in the last six months or so. The lively noisy markets have vanished in thin air. Agreement or no agreement business activities were there. Even during Covid things were moving or flying to and fro across the border.
All trading activities may not be legal or formal but the interaction and business have been there for quite long. Informal trade was partially legalized in 1994-5. The regularization process was further expanded a few years back. We hope it will be further expanded and strengthened in the years to come till we achieve a free trade regime with ASEAN.
Keeping in view the present erratic situation at Moreh it is suggested that the Moreh town may be converted into a Cantonment town. The administration and security of the town may be handed over to the Army. Let the Bharat Army run this trading border town. Under the protection of the neutral soldiers all ethnic communities will feel safe and secure. The Free Movement Regime (FMR)with Myanmar may not be scrapped but restrained for the time being.
Killing Moreh is just like murdering our own golden goose. Let us redeem peace and normalcy at Moreh and make it functional. Let Moreh lead the normalization process. The army may be allowed to take over and run the affairs. The commercial activities must continue as agreed upon bilaterally ( formally or informally).
We look forward to a Moreh Cantonment-Commercial-town.