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Vibin Lakshmanan asked: How illegal cross-border migrations in South Asia impact regional and bilateral relations?

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  • P.K. Upadhyay replies: Borders are meant to insulate inmates of a house, society, or nation in a secure environment. However, borders do not seek to create airtight compartments to segregate people. They allow for regulated movement of people so that the order and lives of a community’s members are not disturbed. Illegal migrations go against the very grain of this concept of security. Maintaining border controls against illegal migrations becomes very difficult when any one country in the region achieves greater economic growth rate, better life standards, greater job opportunities, better medical facilities and education and offers more security of life against lawlessness of either the state, or the non-state players. In South Asia, this manifests itself in the form of illegal migration of people to India from practically all its neighbours.

    There are Nepalese and Bhutanese migrants who basically come to India for better job opportunities, education and medical facilities that are available here. From Bangladesh, the migrations are again driven by these factors, plus at times, by the sense of insecurity among country's Hindu and Buddhist minorities. The migration from Sri Lanka is driven by the sense of insecurity and discrimination driven by ethnic policies of the majority community that plague the country's ethnic minorities. Illegal migrations from Pakistan are mostly driven by that country’s hostile intent against the Indian state, and also due to the persecution of its minorities. The turmoil in Afghanistan also forced a large number of Afghans to come to India for security and many of those people chose to stay on in India. Such migrations upset the social and economic equilibrium in a society and generate social, economic and ethnic tensions, apart from myriad of security problems.

    Migrations also add to the pressures on the availability of civil supplies, habitat, hygiene and medical facilities. At a political level when such illegal migrants settle down at a place for longer durations, they create tensions by finding their way into the electoral processes and polity. This becomes even more complex and volatile if the government or any other agency in the migrant’s country triggers migrations in a phased manner with an extra-territorial agenda. Such problems are basically of a human nature and, to an extent, are unavoidable in the context of human growth and evolution. They require a delicate approach and handling, unless a country is willing to be labeled as insensitive and inhuman.