Originally Published 2016-10-03 08:41:01 Published on Oct 03, 2016
Need of the hour is a Smart Border

The terrorist attack on a military base camp in the border town of Uri in Jammu & Kashmir calls for re-visiting the existing border management practices. On September 18, armed terrorists attacked the military base at Uri causing the death of 17 army personnel. The militants belonging to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed infiltrated in Jammu & Kashmir through the heavily guarded international border to carry out terrorist activities in the State.

The Uri incident was not the first when militants infiltrated from across the border to mount an attack on the Indian Armed Forces. The strike followed within eight months of the Pathankot attack where militants intruded from Pakistan and attacked an Air Force base. Repeated acts of terror from across the border led to rigorous introspection in the Government for developing measures to avoid such tragedies.

Authorities are pondering over both diplomatic and military measures. There is a need to strengthen security at the border. Smart border or use of technological equipment for border guarding stand as a viable option.

India has a total of 15,106.7 kilometres of land border with countries including Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan. With Pakistan, India shares 3,323 kilometres running through States including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, with varied geographical features.

It was Pakistan-based terror which disturbed Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab and forced  India to focus on border management. Securing borders and thwarting any activity that is hostile to the country’s interest have been the objective of India’s border management approach. Accordingly, India deployed the Border Security Force to guard our borders with Pakistan. Since infiltration by terrorists has been a key challenge for the border guards, it took additional measures like erecting barbed wire fencing and installation of flood lights along the international border with Pakistan. Experiences suggest these measures are not sufficient.

The traditional response to the challenges faced in the border will be to deploy more personnel in the border. According to the annual report released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the authorities have already increased number of border outposts in the international border with Pakistan.  With terrorists becoming more assertive and tech savvy, its time for transforming our border management practices also.

Normally, smart border is understood as an arrangement among the neighbouring countries that would improve border security, information sharing and law enforcement cooperation between the two nations and ease movement of people and goods. Following this definition, questions might arise about the efficacy of smart border, as it requires cooperation between neighbours. It needs to be recalled that technology is key to smart borders. The focus here is more on the use of technology. In the context of Pakistan, the connotation for smart border will have to be altered. Smart border here means technology-driven solutions for border security. There is a need for using highest technological solutions to secure our borders. This process should not be seen as a bid to the demilitarisation of the border but complementary to the efforts taken by security forces.

In a limited manner, the Government has taken some initiatives in engaging technology in securing the border. A dozen of laser walls are installed in the India-Pakistan border in Punjab, particularly, in areas which are vulnerable to infiltration.

Smart borders will not only strengthen our security infrastructure but also can go a long way in reducing the loss of valuable lives of our soldiers. Besides, the idea has a potential to boost innovation in Indian companies and research institutes, which could develop cost-effective technologies. Once the smart border comes into operation fully, the Government can explore numerous opportunities in future. The smart border mechanism can be another feather in the cap of our Armed Forces.

This commentary originally appeared in The Pioneer.

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Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee (1975 2021) was Senior Fellow with ORF. She specialised in Indias neighbourhood policy the eastern arch: Bangladeshs domestic politics and foreign policy: border ...

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