Experts and practitioners have stressed on the need for making localised policies for smart and effective management of India’s borders.
Participating in a seminar on “Revisiting India’s Border Security”, organised in Delhi by Observer Research Foundation and Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS), Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice (SPUP), Rajasthan on November 13, the experts said there is need for thinking about all borders differently as well as comprehensively.
It has been observed that an identical approach drives India`s border policy, treating different borders akin despite variations in geography and demography.
The seminar noted that in India, while a great deal of significance is accorded to defend our international borders during times of war, little importance is ascribed to border security during peace time.
During the half-day seminar, three significant panels focused on the present and future of border security across the lines of control in the India. The first session was chaired by M.L. Kumawat, former Director General, Border Security Force and former Special Secretary (Internal Security), Govt. of India. The speakers were Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, Senior Fellow, ORF and Prof. R.K. Arora, the Program Coordinator of the CPCS. The discussion explored the nitty-gritties of opportunities and challenges emerging at the borders. Possibilities of a cooperative border security, similar to the one practiced between the European Union states and between US-Canada were deliberated in context to the neighborhood India thrives in. In terms of challenges, illegal migration, drug smuggling and cross-border terrorism were listed as the focal points of concern for guarding forces in India.
It is pointed out that now the government is practicing a more cooperation based approach with neighbours, as compared to the heavily armed approach of the past. Dokhlam stands as a successful example of the change in our policies, wherein, negotiation and communication were prioritised over an armed faceoff. Therefore, smart border security demands smart governance.
In the following panel, representatives from the Indo Tibet Border Police Force (ITBP), the Shastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Border Security Force and the Coast Guard provided a brief on their organisations, relations with neighboring countries, and their role in border security, allowing the audience to put the concurrent discussion into a valid context.
The ITBP is deployed to guard and act as an intelligence team along the Chinese border. Apart from Sikkim, the entire border stands un-demarcated leading to severe and long lasting border issues with China. Either sides of the border hold contrasting perceptions, often resulting in face-offs, but zilch incidents of firing show discipline shown by the forces. Infrastructure development on the Indian side is far off from what the Chinese has achieved, hindering development of a sustainable security system.
The SSB is deployed to man two open and porous borders — Nepal and Bhutan. It has stationed 29 battalions at the Nepal border and 16 at the Bhutan border. No Man’s Land stretching up to ten yards, 27 missing pillars and boundary disputes form the charter of challenges at the frontier. The Nepal corridor is extensively used by unwanted elements to infiltrate India which SSB tries to undo through cross-border coordination talks with its counterpart on a monthly basis.
BSF is the largest guarding force in the world. In the west, it guards the border with Pakistan, wherein, infiltration of militants and drugs, fake currency notes and digging of tunnels are the major adversities. India’s resources at the border are manpower intensive and there is need for improving technology. In the east, illegal immigrants, fake currency notes and cattle smuggling are the central concerns. The Creek area and the Sundarbans are prone to infiltration. Here BSF performs most duties at the sea.
The Coastal Security acquired a new framework after the 26/11. It now aims at pooling resources of all agencies at the coast and the Navy is designated as in-charge. The new policy evolving at the ministerial level augmented the capacity of coast guard in terms of surveillance and monitoring, manpower and accessible resources. The force is ambitious about integrating numerous national maritime activities into the robust coastal security framework.
A team of two speakers from the CPCS discussed the Global Best Practices for Border Security and established tenets for a future road map for India’s border security in the last session. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, ORF.
Comparisons were drawn to find solutions for India’s border issues. The case studies identified the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea as a possible solution to the Indo-Pak border tensions, the US-Mexico border as an ideal for India-Bangladesh border and the Intra EU model for the South Asian neighborhood.
A roadmap to strengthen India’s border security was laid out. The policy recommendations included (a) creating a comprehensive border security policy integrating capabilities of different borders. (b) Establishing a separate ministry to accord special attention to border guarding forces. (c) Acquiring land between the fence and the international border to meet the power needs of the forces by placing solar power plants. (d) Border operations to be carried out in sync with Border Operations and Intelligence Centres . (e) The guarding forces to recruit young volunteers for information gathering and human resources leading to positive communication between locals and the force. (f) A unified training centre for better coordination of the forces at higher level.
This report was prepared by Jhoomar Mehta, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi