Security challenges and their management in border areas

Security challenges and their management in border areas

This article deals with ‘Security challenges and their management in border areas.’ This is part of our series on ‘Internal Security’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Introduction

  • Borders are the visible symbols of a country’s sovereignty, unity and integrity.
  • There are three distinct sets of borders at the international level i.e.
    • Land borders
    • Maritime boundaries
    • Airspace
  • Border security in the present world order is a complex proposition. The transgressor is always on the lookout for soft gaps on land, along the coast and if need be, from the air. It is, therefore, necessary to adopt a holistic approach to border security.
  • In this chapter, we will read about Border Management which is a broader term than Border Security. While Border Security Approach deals only with defending the borders, the Border management is a broader term which involves not only defending the borders but also the protection of interests of the country in aligning borders.
  • India has a huge land border of 15,106.7 km and a coastline of 7,516.6 km including island territories. 
  • India has specialised forces to guard the borders apart from the Indian army. Assam Rifle, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Shashatra Seema Bal are India’s Border Guarding Forces.


Borders and Issues

issues at different borders of India

Some general issues faced in the management of Indian borders include

  1. No proper demarcation of maritime and land borders at many places leading to conflicts.
  2. Artificial boundaries which are not based on natural borders are difficult to guard. Eg: In Punjab, an artificial line was created dividing the united Punjab and there is no river or mountain dividing the two countries.
  3. The multiplicity of forces on the same borders leads to problems of coordination, command and control.  
  4. Cross-border terrorism targeted to destabilise India.
  5. Border Guarding Forces like Border Security Force lack infrastructure including the latest guns, night vision glasses etc.
  6. Hostile elements have access to the latest technology and advanced weapons.
  7. Illegal migration in the north-eastern region causing demographic changes and social backlashes between the migrants and indigenous people.
  8. Smuggling of arms and explosives, narcotics and counterfeit currency.
  9. The unprecedented use of money power by the enemy states.
  10. A wide choice is available for selecting theatre of action for surprise strikes.

Task Force on border management under the Chairmanship of Madhav Godbole has also concluded that the country’s borders could not be effectively managed because of certain inherent problems such as their disputed status, artificiality and porosity.

Techniques of effective Land Border Management

Following are the techniques of effective land border management

  1. Building fences and erecting floodlights.
  2. Creating effective Border Out Posts (BOPs).
  3. Set up border infrastructure like roads for effective mobilisation during the time of need.
  4. Effective patrolling and building of observation post towers.
  5. Building of nakas and checkposts.
  6. Equipping the security forces with night vision technologies.
  7. Installation of CCTV & thermal imaging equipment on the border.

General Recommendations regarding better Border Management

  1. Use of advanced technology for surveillance particularly satellite and aerial imagery.
  2. The BSF should be responsible for all settled borders while the responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders should be that of the Indian Army.
  3. For effective accountability, the principle of ‘single point control’ or ‘one-force-one-border’ must be followed.
  4. Infrastructure along the border should be developed at an accelerated pace, especially to wean the border population from illegal activities.
  5. Upgradation of intelligence network along the border.
  6. Raising the issues of infiltration across the border during various meetings with the counterparts.
  7. Establishment of more Integrated Check Posts (ICP) at the land borders which house, under one roof all regulatory activities such as immigration, security and customs. It has to be noted that a Statutory Authority called ‘Land Ports Authority of India’ (LPAI) has been set up to oversee and regulate the construction, management and maintenance of the ICPs.

Bangladesh

Issues at Indo-Bangladesh Border

General Information

Bordering states West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram
Guarding force Border Security Force (BSF)

Problems

  1. Illegal migration to West Bengal and Assam, changing the demographic profile of the region. 
  2. Inadequate border fencing due to issues such as the riverine nature of the border, pending land acquisition cases and protests by border population. Hence, there is a high degree of porosity.
  3. Smuggling of goods like jamdani sarees, rice salt and livestock (especially cattle) etc. According to the CBI investigation (2021), BSF officials take a bribe of ₹2000 per cattle to allow the smuggling of Indian cattle to Bangladesh. 
  4. North East Insurgents take refuge in Bangladesh due to the porous border.
  5. India and Bangladesh share 54 transboundary rivers. As a result, there are various water disputes such as sharing the waters of the Teesta river and construction of a dam on the Barak river by India.
  6. Radical groups like Harkat-al-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and Jamaat-e-Islami fuel Anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh. Their propaganda could spill across the border.
  7. The area is densely populated and people on both sides live in close proximity to the border.

Recent Initiatives

  1. The government has announced the establishment of Border Protection Grid (BPG) with BSF, State Police, Army etc.
  2. Installation of border surveillance devices such as closed-circuit cameras, searchlights, thermal imaging devices and drones to keep a tight vigil on the border.
  3. Parliament has passed the 100th Constitutional Amendment to solve the issue of Adverse Possessions and landlocked enclaves amidst other’s territory.
  4. Border Haats i.e. traditional markets of local produce that can be accessed by people from across the border have been established at the Indo-Bangladesh border. Trade can be carried here using Indian Rupee or Bangladeshi Taka.
  5. Project BOLD-QIT (Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique) has been started to install a different kind of sensors in the unfenced riverine area of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
  6. Road construction: 3,585.53 km of border patrol roads have been constructed on Indo-Bangladesh Border.
  7. Integrated Check Posts (ICP) have been established at places like Sutarkandi in Assam and Ghojadanga in West Bengal along the Bangladesh border.
  8. Border forces of two countries also undertake joint exercise such as ‘Sundarbans Moitry’ (Sundarbans Alliance).

China

Issues at Indo-China Border

General Information

Bordering states UT of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh
Length 3,488 km
Guarding Force Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) together with the Indian Army.

Issues

  1. Border dispute at Aksai Chin in J&K as well as in Arunachal Pradesh with sporadic aggression by the Chinese Army (PLA).
  2. Large scale smuggling of Chinese electronic and other consumer goods takes place on the border.
  3. Inadequate infrastructure due to high altitude and thick habitation. However, China has undertaken a large-scale up-gradation to air, road and rail infrastructure.
  4. Multiple forces along the Indian border  (ITBP, Assam Rifles and Special Frontier Force) as opposed to a single commander on the Chinese side.
  5. China’s CPEC passes through parts of Jammu & Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan. China can use CPEC to mobilize troops in case of conflict.
  6. China is building a series of dams on the Brahmaputra river which is the lifeline of North-Eastern states as well as Bangladesh. Given the Chinese track record on the Mekong river where China virtually stopped the flow of the Mekong river in South-East Asian countries, this development is worrisome.

Recent Initiatives

  1. Creating infrastructure: India is constructing critical bridges to cut downtime for troop movement such as the Dhola-Sadiya bridge inaugurated in the recent past.
  2. India has joined hands with Japan to aggressively develop infrastructure projects in the North-East to contain China.
  3. Army infrastructure projects within 100Km of LAC have been exempted from forest clearance.
  4. To expedite border road construction, the Ministry of Defence has decided to delegate administrative and financial powers to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Pakistan

Issues at Indo-Pakistan Border

General Information

Bordering states J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat (Boundary between India and Pakistan is known as Radcliffe Line)
Length 3323 km
Guarding Force Border Security Force (BSF)

Problems

  1. Border dispute at Sir Creek and Kashmir.
  2. Infiltration and Cross-border terrorism targeted to destabilise India.  
  3. Ceasefire violations and frequent shelling.
  4. Diverse terrain including desert, marshes, snow-capped mountain and plains makes border guarding difficult.
  5. Illegal activities like smuggling, drugs and arms trafficking due to porous border.

Recent Initiatives

  • After Pathankot terrorist attack, the Ministry of Home Affairs sanctioned and installed a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) to safeguard and control the incidents of border infiltration.
  • Fencing: By 2011, almost all of the border– along with J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat – was double-row fenced.
  • Outposts: About 700 border outposts and one Integrated Check-Post at Attari (Amritsar) has been functional.

Nepal

Issues at Indo-Nepal Border

General Information

Bordering states Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim
Length 1751 Km
Guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)

It has to be noted that the border with Nepal is an open border and was virtually unattended till very recently.

Problems

  1. The highly porous nature of the Indo-Nepal border leads to cross border crimes. Insurgents, terrorists, many hard-core criminals pursued by Indian and Nepalese security forces escape across the open border.
  2. Smuggling of essential items and fake Indian currency, gun-running, and drugs and human trafficking.
  3. Pakistan is using the open borders to carry out anti-India activities including pushing terrorists and fake Indian currency.
  4. Fear of spread of Maoist insurgency due to links of Nepali Maoists in India.

New Initiatives

  1. Establishment of a new intelligence section in SSB.
  2. A total of 25 battalions of Sashastra Seema Bal has been deployed on Indo-Nepal Border.
  3. Border District Coordination Committee at the level of the district of two countries have been established.
  4. The government of India has approved the construction of 1377 km of road along the Nepal border.
  5. India is giving development aid to Nepal.

Myanmar

Issues at Indo-Myanmar Border

General Information

Bordering States Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland
Length 1,643 km
Guarding Assam Rifles

Problems

  1. Presently, Assam Rifle is having the mandate to preserve peace in the North East as well as to guard Indo-Myanmar Border. As a result, they are not able to do both works professionally. Government should first strengthen the security of the border by either giving the Assam Rifles the single mandate of guarding the border or deploying another border guarding force such as the Border Security Force(BSF).  In 2017, Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs in its report has suggested the transfer of Indo-Myanmar Border Management to Border Guard Forces (BGF) instead of Assam riffles for better management.
  2. The highly porous border with Free Movement Regime up to 16 km.
  3. About 170 km border is not properly demarcated.
  4. Porous border due to no physical barrier. It is exploited by Indian insurgent groups which use it as safe havens (Naga insurgents especially NSCN-K use this).
  5. Drug trafficking due to proximity to the golden triangle. The bulk of heroin enters India through the border town of Moreh in Manipur.
  6. China’s interest in Myanmar is also a threat to India as it is building Kyaukpyu port in Myanmar as part of String of Pearls strategy to encircle India.
  7. During the 2021 coup d’etat by Myanmar Military, a large number of people crossed over to India in fear of political persecution. This created a large rift between the Union Government which wanted to stop the refugees from entering India and Mizos who share ethnic similarities with the Chins (living on the next side of the border in Chin state) who wanted to give them safe havens.

Free Movement Regime (FMR) Issue

Tribal Naga and Mizo communities claim that the boundary between India and Myanmar is inconsistent with the traditional limits of the region they inhabited and they still continue to have trans-border linkages with their kiths and kins.  FMR is thus an arrangement to alleviate the insecurity of tribals living along the India and Myanmar border. It permits tribes residing along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visa restrictions.

Issues with FMR

While the FMR has helped the tribes to continue to maintain their age-old ties, it has also become a cause of concern for the security establishment.

  • FMR  is being misused by militants and criminals for infiltration, smuggling of weapons, narcotics, trafficking of women and children etc.
  • Militants groups such as the NSCN-K, NSCN-IM, ULFA etc. exploit this to get safe havens in Myanmar.
  • The exodus of Rohingyas: Rohingyas also entered India using this route.

Note: In 2015, India carried out surgical strikes against NSCN-K in Myanmar by crossing the border in response to the killing of a troop contingent by the insurgents. But this raises the issue of Sovereignty versus National Security and the question that whether the national security of one country can be given precedence over the sovereignty of the other country.


Bhutan

General Information

Guarding forces Sashastra Seema Bal(SSB)
Bordering States Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal

Problems

  1. The border between Bhutan and China is not demarcated at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China. There is a border dispute over Doklam which is dangerously close to Chicken’s neck and can jeopardise the security of the whole of Northeast.
  2. Insurgent groups such as Bodos, ULFA etc. sneak into Bhutan for sanctuary.
  3. Smuggling of goods such as Bhutanese cannabis, liquor and forest products from Bhutan to India and livestock, grocery items and fruits from India to Bhutan.
  4. Free movement of people and vehicles.
  5. Migration trigger fear of change in demography. Migrants are also accused of deforestation, poaching, and wildlife smuggling.

New Initiatives

  1. Cooperation with Bhutanese army to prevent sanctuary to insurgents on their soil. Operation All Clear was undertaken by Bhutan and Indian forces in this regard.
  2. India-Bhutan Group on Border Management and Security has been established.
  3. The government of India has approved the construction of a 313 km road in Assam along the Indo-Bhutan border.
  4. The union environment ministry has given “general approval” for the diversion of forest land for major border infrastructure projects along the eastern border with Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal.
  5. Establishing new border posts in Sikkim along the Bhutan frontier near Doklam.
  6. Establishment of a new intelligence section in SSB.

Sri-Lanka

General Information

  • Sri Lanka shares a maritime border with India.
  • Tamil Nadu is situated just across the Palk Strait and is the most important determinant in Indo-Sri Lankan relations.

Problems

  1. Katchatheevu Island Issue: India ceded the uninhabited island to its southern neighbour in 1974 under a conditional accord. However, Tamil Nadu and the fisherman community still argue it to be their traditional fishing area.
  2. Trespassing by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters takes place regularly. Here, the issue is not of an unsettled maritime boundary but the refusal of Indian fishermen to recognise the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka, especially in Palk Bay.
  3. Although LTTE and Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka has been completely eliminated. But supporters of the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka are still active in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

New Initiatives

  1. All big trawlers (20 meters and above) are being installed with AIS transponders.
  2. Distress Alert Transmitters (DATs) are being provided to fishermen so that they can alert the ICG if they are in distress at sea.

Side Topic: Issues faced by Border Guarding Forces (BGF)

BSF, SSB, ITBP etc. are the  Border Guarding Forces. These forces face various issues as mentioned below

  1. Jawans are overworked and hence fatigued during patrolling duty.
  2. Deployment of BGF Battalions to duties other than guarding the borders.
  3. Deficiency of surveillance equipment, like hand-held Thermal Imagers, which are essential for surveillance during the night.
  4. Medical facilities for personnel posted on the border are severely inadequate. The personnel had to be transferred to Frontier Headquarters for even basic treatment.
  5. The disparity in wages and allowances in comparison with the army.

Government response/Steps taken by the government 

1. Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS)

Madhukar Gupta Committee was constituted in the backdrop of the Pathankot attack by terrorists after infiltrating Indo-Pakistan Border. It recommended the installation of CIBMS to avoid such misadventures of Pakistan based terrorists. Presently, the system is operational at important points.

Details of CIBMS

  • It is a five-layer elaborate plan to completely stop infiltration on the western border with Pakistan.
  • Five layers include
    1. CCTV cameras.
    2. Thermal image and night-vision devices.
    3. Battlefield surveillance radar.
    4. Underground monitoring sensors.
    5. Laser barriers.
  • The integrated set-up will ensure that if one device doesn’t work, another will alert the control room in case of a transgression. It will work as a ‘Smart Fence’.
  • Its cost is estimated to be Rs. 1 crore per km

Side Topic: Use of Technology in Border Management

  • Technology can be used for border surveillance using CCTV, thermal & radar imagery.
  • Drones are used by the border guarding forces for aerial surveillance.
  • Satellite Monitoring is also used for this. Eg: India is using GSAT-7A & Cartosat for this purpose.
  • IRNSS/NAVIC (Indian GPS) provides location services in difficult terrain in the Himalayan borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal and Myanmar.

2. Department of Border Management  Division

  • Department of Border Management works under Home Ministry.
  • It was set up in Jan 2004 on the recommendation of the Godbole Report (formed in the backdrop of the Kargil war to strengthen border management).
  • It specifically looks at border management and implementation of the Border Area Development Program (BADP).

3. Development of Integrated Check Posts (ICPs)

  • Integrated Check Posts have been set up at places along the border from where the movement of people and goods take place.
  • ICPs house all regulatory agencies like immigration, customs, border security etc.
  • They have facilities like warehouses, hotels parking, banking etc.

4. Border Area Development Programme(BADP)

  • It was started in the 7th five-year plan.
  • It is a 100% centrally funded program. Along with that, all the allocated funds are fully non-lapsable.
  • Department of Border Management under the Home Ministry is the nodal agency.
  • It covers 111 border districts in 17 States.
  • BADP covers all the villages which are located within 0-10 Km of the International Border.

Objectives

  • To create infrastructure
  • To provide economic opportunities to the border people
  • To instil a sense of security among them.

Main programs

  • Construction of roads.
  • Ensure water supply, education and sports facilities.
  • The organisation of early childhood care etc.

5. Border Out Posts (BOPs)

  • Border Out Posts (BOPs) are designated entry and exit points on the international border of the country through which cross border movement of persons, goods and traffic takes place.
  • BOPs are also meant to provide an appropriate show of force to deter trans-border criminals, infiltrators and hostile elements from indulging in the activities of encroachment and border violations.
  • Each BOP is provided with the necessary infrastructure for accommodation, logistic supports and combat functions. It also facilitates trade & commerce.

6. Land Port Authority of India

  • It is a Statutory Authority set up to oversee and regulate the construction, management and maintenance of the ICPs.
  • LPAI has been envisaged as a lean, oversight body aimed at providing better administration and cohesive management of the cross-border movement of people and goods.
  • It would be vested with powers on the lines of similar bodies like the Airports Authority of India.

Further Recommendation

1. Clear Chain of Command

  • Presently, different agencies are responsible for management of same border. Eg : on Punjab Border, BSF, Indian Army and Punjab Police are involved in this. But this results in lack of accountability . In case of accident, every agency starts to blame other. 
  • Hence, there should be one nodal agency and clear chain of command. 

2. Resolving Governance Problems

  • Ministry of Home Affairs should be the nodal ministry for all borders. Presently, the resolution of border disputes is the responsibility of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Low staffing levels and limited leverage of MEA with state governments, restricts its ability to effectively resolve border disputes. 

3. Restructuring of border forces

  • Assam Rifles : Presently , Assam Riffles perform two functions i.e. guarding Myanmar Border and maintaining security and peace in North East. There should be separate Border Guarding Force .
  • BSF: BSF guards the Bangladesh border and  border with Pakistan. It is recommended that the BSF be constituted into two wings, East and West, for better management due to different nuances of each border.
  • Involvement of army: Responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders, such as the LOC in J&K and the LAC on the Indo-Tibetan border, should be that of the Indian Army while the BSF should be responsible for all settled borders.
  • The battalions deployed on border guarding duties should have a significant proportion of local youth in its ranks to exploit their knowledge of terrain, language etc.

4. Involvement of the Stakeholders

Stakeholders in border areas are

  1. People living in border areas
  2. State administration
  3. Border guarding forces
  4. Central agencies involved in border development.

5. Modernisation

  • At present, border guarding work is excessively manpower intensive. There should be greater infusion of technology into border guarding functions.
  • Madhukar Committee Report has also recommended this and installation of CIBMS is step in that direction. Going further, drones and satellite data should also be used for guarding the borders.

6. Upgrading infrastructure

  • Areas especially along the Chinese region needs proper infrastructure especially in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.