China’s Western Theatre Command is responsible for China’s border with Myanmar and thence running west to and including Afghanistan. The Border Guard Divisions are deployed to guard the entire length and they are directly under command the People’s liberation Army. At home we have the Indian Coast Guard looking after the entire 7,517 km coastline placed directly under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) right from its establishment in August 1978. But closer look at the arrangements to defend our 15,106.7 km land borders bring out the absurdity of the haphazard mechanisms in place.
The inside story is that ITBP officers refuse to serve under command the Army. The Chinese know this and intrude into these areas periodically.
To begin with the Depsang Plains and Chumar area in Eastern Ladakh have deployment of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) which are not under command the local Army formation. They report to their headquarters at New Delhi and consequently to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The inside story is that ITBP officers refuse to serve under command the Army. The Chinese know this and intrude into these areas periodically.
This false egoistic attitude of the ITBP perhaps was further boosted when few years back when the then DG ITBP visiting Pagong Tso with his wife wanted a tour of the lake on the fast-moving armed speed boats that were imported and meant only for operations and patrolling. When the DG was politely told that the indigenous slower boats could take them around the lake, as was the procedure for the all visiting military officers irrespective of rank, he walked in a huff. Later, he refused to meet the Leh-based Corps Commander telling the latter on phone that the “ITBP has its own agenda and have nothing to do with the Army”. Now the BSF deployed on the borders in J&K too has developed the same attitude.
Why this problem of ego when Army personnel in the National Security Guard (NSG) function under a Director General of police cadre. Besides, Army personnel in some of the sub-units as part of expansion of NSG are serving under police officers? No doubt, the anti-military constituency is bent upon doing down the military, 7th Central Pay Commission recommendations placing the Military below the CAPF being one example, but is this in national interest?
World Economic Forum, in its recent survey report covering 38 countries has labeled the Indian media as the second most untrusted institution in the world…
Of late, our enemies are focusing more and more to vilify our Army, break the officer-soldier cohesion, in addition to hitting at the unity of our nation by exploiting are unethical and highly saleable media. It is not without reason that the World Economic Forum, in its recent survey report covering 38 countries has labeled the Indian media as the second most untrusted institution in the world; the Indian media which is known for spreading fake stories and false propaganda have completely lost their credibility, turning out in recent years to be the most corrupt institution with absolutely no ethics or responsibility.
Not only are the youth of the country being led astray through vicious propaganda, these type of media attacks have started resulting in soldier casualties, recent case of a soldier’s suicide on account of media falsification being a case in point, while the female journalist in question may be slush with funds, sleeping with the enemy and perhaps honoured by Hafiz Saeed. Yet despite the suspect motives of the concerned journalists / sections of the media, there are no probes, no prosecution of these anti-nationals, perhaps for keeping the media on the right side always as part of vote-bank politics.
But then the rot that has set in (judiciary included) can be gleaned from the 60-page suicide note of Pema Khandu, former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. But this too will perhaps get buried like the 1993 Vohra Committee Report.
Getting back to defending borders, at a recent election rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointing to the Kanpur train derailment stated that Pakistani agents were coming across our borders to sabotage our trains. Three people have already been arrested even as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that has homed on to ISI’s Dubai-based operative. We have a 1,751 km with Nepal, 699 km with Bhutan, 1,643 km with Myanmar, and 4,096 km with Bangladesh where mainly an ‘open border’ is followed despite the fencing along the Indo-Bangla border.
As for illegal immigration from Myanmar to India, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have crossed over, estimates in 2012 being 3000 plus. Presently, some 4000 are reportedly colonized in Jammu region alone.
While ‘open borders’ under the Free Movement Regime (FMR) implies movement without visa, it must be incumbent upon both countries astride international borders to evolve a mechanism wherein the movement is channelized and free-flow of terrorist, insurgents, weapons, narcotics, fake currency etc is blocked.
In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had stated in the Rajya Sabha on November 17, 2016 that there are around 20 million (2 crore) illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in India. Over and above this figure of 20 million, how much illegal immigration has been ‘legalized’ is anyone’s guess since successive West Bengal Governments provided the Indian identity for beefing vote-banks; individual costs for such documents immediately after infiltration being around Rs 1500. What is the present state with regard to this is not known but cattle smuggling from India to Bangladesh continues.
On an average 3,000 cattle are smuggled into Bangladesh, with a cow fetching up to Rs 3,000 to Rs 45,000 takas; report titled ‘Up to 3,000 cows A DAY smuggled from India to Bangladesh as Border Guard claims that $5 billion industry has been cut by 99% prove false’ published in Daily Mail of UK on 27 September, 2016. As for illegal immigration from Myanmar to India, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have crossed over, estimates in 2012 being 3000 plus. Presently, some 4000 are reportedly colonized in Jammu region alone.
J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti admitted in the J&K State Assembly in June 2016 that about 13,400 Myanmarese and Bangladeshi migrants are living in camps in Jammu. Why this has been permitted despite Article 370 sends ominous signals, especially with Pakistan’s ISI and Asim Umar, Al Qaeda chief of South Asia calling to Rohingya Muslims to pick up arms because of persecution in Myanmar. More Rohingya Muslims are flooding India from Myanmar.
India consumes some 11 tons of heroin annually as per the World Drug Report
The amount of narcotics entering India from the ‘golden triangle’ via Myanmar perhaps equals narcotics from the ‘golden crescent’ entering India through Pakistan, however, it is kept under wraps. Interestingly, this is two-way trade along the Indo-Myanmar border. From India ‘cold pills’ are smuggled into Myanmar and refined in secret laboratories to meet Southeast Asia’s requirements of methamphetamine. Incidentally, India consumes some 11 tons of heroin annually as per the World Drug Report. It is for such reasons that while most of the Indo-Bangla border has better deployment and mostly fenced, there are no such plans for the Indo-Myanmar border. No move has been made to deploy the Assam Rifles closer to the border – they are made to sit way behind in their comfort zones by design. And, plans are afoot to raise 46 more BSF battalions to man the Indo-Myanmar border.
The requirement along our international borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh is a series of mutually supporting integrated check posts with effective joint patrolling to cover the gaps. If we are not moving or let us say only crawling in this direction, the reasons are as discussed above. Why should these international borders be under MHA, not MoD? The logic that this arrangement is in peacetime is absurd because the only war that we will fight along these borders will be the war against terror – to be fought jointly in concert with these sovereign nations as applicable. But as importantly we need to look at the mischievous half application of the concept of ‘One Border, One Force’.
Post the Kargil Conflict, the Kargil Review Committee had recommended that Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) can be deployed on the borders but these should be placed under command the Army. This latter part has been conveniently missed out despite adverse ramifications to border security. Whether the Home Minister and the MoS (Home) are aware of these provisions is not known but the Prime Minister needs to review it seriously.
The mismatch and lack of coordination between the MoD and MHA at ground level is evident from the poor state of border infrastructure.
One Border, One Force needs to be enforced with the CAPF deployed to defend international borders by placing them under command the Army, or at best under MoD, not MHA. In the case of the ITBP and BSF deployed on the borders of J&K, along the LoC and LAC, these must be placed under command the Army. Instead of raising 46 BSF battalions for the Indo-Myanmar border, it would be prudent to raise additional Assam Rifles battalions who are better organized, equipped and are ‘sons of the soil’. Commonsense also indicates that the Ladakh Scouts should replace the ITBP in Depsang and Chumar.
All forces manning land border need to be placed under the MoD, as has been done for Indian Coast Guard responsible for the entire seashore. This will result in better MoD-MHA coordination not only in addressing threats to national security but also focused development of the border infrastructure.
The mismatch and lack of coordination between the MoD and MHA at ground level is evident from the poor state of border infrastructure. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat stated on Army Day this year (15 January) that of the 72 strategic roads only 22 have been completed after so many years, and all of the 14 strategic rail-lines approved remain on paper only.