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Distressed is a very mild word: Jaishankar on Manipur situation

He said that the eruption of tensions despite putting in so much effort is "disturbing"

Distressed is a very mild word: Jaishankar on Manipur situation

EAM Jaishankar (ANI)

SEOUL: Terming the situation in Manipur amid the ethnic violence, as "distressing", External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre had worked extensively to help the north-east region realise its potential and is working for the return of normalcy in the state. The EAM was interacting with the Indian community in Seoul. During this, he was asked about the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur and the situation due to the infux of migrants from Myanmar.

Replying to the question, Jaishankar said that the potential of the north-east region was not explored fully earlier and it has changed in the last 10 years.

He said that the eruption of tensions despite putting in so much effort is "disturbing".

"The potential of North-East has now begun to unfold, we used to talk about Look East policy, Act East policy. We were not looking east and acting east in our own country. If you see how difficult it was to travel, the level of business, the attention given, the resources given, it was actually very disturbing. That has been one of the changes of the last 10 years," the EAM said.

"Putting this much effort, having seen how much the states of North-East India have changed in the last decade, everyone is...distressed is a very mild word at what is happening in Manipur," he added.

He spoke about the Semiconductor project in Assam approved by the Union Cabinet, stating that it presents a big statement regarding how much priority India attaches with the north-east region.

Notably, Manipur has been witnessing ethnic strife between the Meitei and the Kuki tribal communities since May 2023.

Jaishankar also drew a comparison of how India has benefitted in terms of the border situation, due to having a deep relationship with Bangladesh and Bhutan.

On the other hand, India had to suspend the Free Movement Regime with Myanmar due to tensions.

"Today, our relations with Bangladesh have changed tremendously. You see railways, trains, waterways, goods are going to Bangladesh port, electricity is being supplied. It has given a whole area, kind of a boost. We are also seeing in a similar way, if we can benefit from Bhutan, connecting Bhutan more closely," the EAM said.

He added, "One of our issues has also been that we have had open border with Myanmar. In fact, we have a very unique system, you can travel 16 km either way...without travel documents. After all this tragic event, we have decided to suspend the operation and try to harden the border situation."

Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced for "immediate suspension of Free Movement Regime (FMR)" between India and Myanmar to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India's North Eastern states bordering Myanmar.

In this regard, Union Home Minister Amit Shah also announced that the government has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometre-long Indo-Myanmar border to facilitate better surveillance and ensure a patrol track along the border.

Speaking further, the External Affairs Minister said that the situation in Manipur is "unfortunate" and the whole country is wishing for the return of normalcy in the crisis-stricken state.

"It is unfortunate. There is nobody, who would not regret what is happening there, it is really tragic because the close intermingling of the communities led to this degree of violence, which makes it difficult really to head-off. I think the wishes of the entire country are really with Manipur. People would like to see normalcy return, they would like to see law and order get back. This is not the India, and certainly not the North-East, which anybody is hoping for," Jaishankar added.

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