India, Myanmar at odds on Tamu immigration office

Confusion surrounds the status of an apparent agreement between the governments of Myanmar and India over the establishment of a visa-on-arrival system on their common border. While the Indian government appears ready to proceed, the Myanmar side is experiencing delay.

India’s consul in Mandalay, N Nandakumar, told The Myanmar Times last week that working-level talks had been conducted about setting up a visa-on-arrival office at the Tamu border checkpoint in Sagaing Region.

Mr Nandakumar said his government had been preparing to open the office opposite Tamu at Moreh, 110 kilometres (about 75 miles) from Imphal, the capital of Manipur state. He called on Myanmar to set up similar facilities to facilitate a cross-border bus service envisaged to link Imphal with Mandalay.

India hopes to launch the service before the end of this year, he said. Having visa processing facilities on the border is considered essential for the bus service, as passengers would otherwise have to apply for a visa at the embassy in New Delhi.

“We’re setting up the office on the Indian side, and we’re asking the Myanmar authorities to set up the same facilities on their side,” he said.

However, U Myint Oo, deputy director general of the Immigration Department, said there might be some delay in implementing this arrangement.

While Myanmar has introduced electronic visa-on-arrival at Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw airports, he said that rolling the system out to remote border areas will be much more of a challenge.

“It is impossible to provide a visa-on-arrival service where the checkpoint is now. Myanmar is not ready to approve this,” he said.

U Sein Oo, director general of the visa section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said no formal proposal had been received from India to establish a visa-on-arrival office even though discussions were proceeding on the cross-border bus service.

“Our department has not yet received such a request, which has implications for immigration. We will consider any such request on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

“It will not be possible to approve a visa-on-arrival service because so many steps remain to be implemented. But there could be a border pass system or a scheme for the bus service.”

But Mr Nandakumar said that approving the visa-on-arrival scheme was essential for the cross-border bus service.

Both governments have reportedly agreed to issue a 28-day single entry visa for cross-border bus passengers bearing a valid travel document. The precise route of the 880-kilometre (550-mile) bus route also has yet to be settled.


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