India has one of the longest and most varied of international borders. Historical and political reasons have left India with an artificial unnatural border. Border Management is an integral approach towards borders in which along with security enhancement, infrastructure & human development is undertaken. The challenge of coping with long-standing territorial and boundary disputes with China and Pakistan, combined with porous borders along some of the most difficult terrain in the world, has made effective and efficient border management a national priority.
Issues and threats posed by each neighboring country to India:
- Indo-Pakistan Border (3,323 Km) runs along the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
- Direct accessibility of the borders and some technological developments enabling quick passage of information and transfer of funds has changed the focus and tenor of border security.
- Cross-Border Terrorism from Pakistan has exacerbated due to non-recognition of boundaries by its terrorist groups and their success in acquiring legitimacy due to religious or ethnic identity.
- Inadequate Cooperation from Pakistan has made the management of border further difficult for India.
- The Indo-Bangladesh Border (4,096 Km) passes through West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
- The entire stretch consists of plains, riverine belts, hills & jungles which make illegal migration very easy.
- Illegal Migration across this border poses serious security threats and acts as a fertile ground for organisations like the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan to penetrate and expand their activities.
- Also, poor law and order situation at the border, has led to smuggling of arms and drugs. Supply of arms help in sustaining any conflict.
- India shares a long land border with China (3,488 Km) in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh and UT of Ladakh.
- Although this border remains relatively aloof from illegal migrations, this border remains a cause of constant vigil for Indian forces. India has a longstanding border dispute with China running back to British era in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.
- India-Nepal Border (1,751 Km) is an open border in the sense that people of both the countries can cross it from any point, despite the existence of border check posts at several locations.
- Anti-India organizations use this border to plant their people in the territory of India.
- Also, smuggling of gold, small arms, drugs and fake currency helps terrorists in executing an attack.
- This border (699 km) passes through states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim.
- Illicit establishment of camps by militant outfits in the dense jungles of south-east Bhutan helps insurgents from India in executing anti-India activities.
- The northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share the border with Myanmar (1,643).
- Some of the insurgent groups like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and ULFA operate from Myanmar, which threatens the security of India as well as Myanmar.
India has had to deal with numerous challenges with respect to border management such as:
- The present one has a high rate of degradation due to snow and has to be repaired after every season which costs about Rs. 50-60 crore every year.
- Over time infiltrators have devised ways to cross it.
- India’s internal security challenges are inextricably linked with border management. This is so because Indian insurgent groups have for long been provided shelter across the nation’s borders by inimical neighbours.
No real-time coordination:
- Due to the lack of understanding of military issues among the decision-making elite, India’s borders continue to be manned by a large number of military, paramilitary and police forces.
- Each of which has its own ethos and each of which reports to a different central ministry at New Delhi, with almost no real coordination in managing the borders.
- Border management is designed for a ‘firefighting’ approach rather than a ‘fire prevention’ or pro-active approach.
- It is based on a strategy of ‘reaction and retaliation’ rather than on a holistic response to the prevailing environment, resulting in stress and decision-making problems at the functional level.
- Perennial and Seasonal Rivers via which terrorists can infiltrate.
- Un-demarcated boundaries with overlapping claims cause constant friction along borders.
- Mountainous and Hilly terrain especially in North Indian borders which are snow clad and inhabitable during winter season.
- Unilateral actions by some nations to change the status quo in their favour.
- Little or no support from counterparts of neighbouring nations and in some cases active support by cross border elements to illegal activities.
- Cultural, ethnic and linguistic affinity across borders and clan loyalties
- Multiple agencies are involved in border management, lack of Inter agency cooperation and coordination.
- Support of state and non-state actors to aid infiltration, smuggling, trafficking etc.
Solutions for addressing cross border terrorism:
- Infrastructure along with border has to be improved – rail connectivity along with road connectivity has to be provided for quick mobilization.
- Building of additional checkpoints and Border posts along major and minor trade routes connected with borders.
- Building of floating bridges, walls & electrical fences where there is high probability of infiltration.
- Taking up of joint Border management with Countries like Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal.
- Improving healthcare, physical infrastructure and digital connectivity in villages around borders thus making them stakeholder in Border Management.
- Madhav Godbole task force recommendations on border management need to be implemented.
- It had recommended that the CRPF should be designated as the primary national level counterinsurgency force. This would enable the other central paramilitary forces like the BSF and Indo- Tibetan Border Police to return to their primary role of better border management.
- It had also recommended that all paramilitary forces managing unsettled borders should operate directly under the control of the army and that there should be lateral induction from the army to the paramilitary forces so as to enhance their operational effectiveness.
- The principle of ‘single point control’ must be followed if the borders are to be effectively
- The advances in surveillance technology, particularly satellite and aerial imagery, can help to maintain a constant vigil along the LAC and make it possible to reduce physical deployment.
Keeping a strong vigil on its border is very important for any nation to check any kind of illegal activities or intrusion through them. For India, the task becomes difficult where terrain and climate is very complex across some of its border areas. Focusing on improved technology will help in making the task easier for the security forces and make its borders more secure.