Homeland Security

The Dirty Face of Defending Borders
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 15 Jun , 2017

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.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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6 thoughts on “The Dirty Face of Defending Borders

  1. As per the news report published in TOI , (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jihadis-entering-india-warns-bangladesh/articleshow/57741565.cms), jihadis from Bangladesh are infiltrating across the border with WB, Assam and Tripura.
    ” According to the report, 2016 witnessed an over-three-fold increase over 2015 in infiltration by Harkat-ul-Jihadi al-Islami (HuJI) and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) extremists into the border states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The development assumes significance as the NIA has found overseas terror links and the direct role of JMB in the October 2014 Burdwan blast at Khagragarh in which two suspected terrorists were killed. ”

    Necessary steps should be taken to stop such infiltration.
    .

  2. You may be riding a nationalist hype created by pseudo deshbhakts whose might gets tested in shouting out innocent little girls. The quiet millions, who keep this nation going, are not fools to get swayed by your fake rhetoric. And get your facts right.

    The dirtiest border of India is the LOC. Open source information tells that 200 to 300 trained terrorists infiltrate into India through the LOC every year. Tell me one other source of arms and ammunition and the fake currency that the Kashmiri separatists get. And this has been happening for decades. For all its might, one of the largest standing army of the world is not able to defend 700 odd kms of LOC.

    The defence budget of China, with which you conveniently, though erroneously, compare India, is less than their internal security budget. In India the internal security budget is not even one third of the defence budget. You spend over ten thousand Cr of our hard earned money just on Siachen, a location only good for photo ops and media hype.

    The Kargil GOM report does not mention that BSF and ITBP should be placed under Army. Para 5.97 clearly mentions that, “It is desirable to facilitate the integration of the Border Guarding Forces with the Army whenever the situation so demands.” On the other hand, a clear recommendation of the GOM to transfer Assam Rifles to MHA, para 5.85 has been scuttled by the Army Generals.

    Easy to blame media for the outcry from the lowest rung of your setup, but why do you still have Sec 80 of Army Act only for your jawans, and not for the officers. Is this not a continuance of the feudal practices which Angraez officers created to enslave the largely Indian cadre of jawans.

    Severing officers should open their eyes and build an army of professional warriors to serve the nation, not an army of sayahaks to serve the Generals. And to the retired oldies, my prescription is that when you feel the itch ask another of your oldies to scratch your back, instead of turning in your graves.

  3. The army is not meant to be a border guarding agency, nor should it be deployed purely for anti-smuggling operations. Moreover, to equate the security organisation of India with China is comparing cheese and chalk. The paradigms under which the PLA is organised and functions under a unitary and authoritarian Chinese state is entirely different in context and scope of possibilities from the Indian perspective.

    One is disappointed that a person with such an illustruous record of service in uniform is unable to distinguish between ‘securing’ and ‘defending’ borders, and the need to separate the two. The former is essentially a policing job in peacetime, while the latter is a military deployment against an external threat. Given a choice and an option, no professional army ought to get itself embroiled in peace time policing and securing operations, and concentrate instead on sharpening its combat skills and edge.

    What was also expected was perhaps a critique of the multiplicity of border guarding agencies for what is essentially the same nature and type of tasks. While the varied terrain and operational conditions in various sectors of our frontiers may necessitate specialisation at unit and functional levels, the need for so many different separate organisations functioning in compartmentalised silos under different ministries is totally unwarranted, and has been the root cause for the lack of a specialist, coordinated and cogent border security arrangement.

  4. The article has amply and elaborately articulated the imperative need for the MOD and MHA to get their act together first .The Army and Para Military Forces including BSF and ITBP can consequently have better coordination and cohesiveness .A holistic review of the security needs of our long land borders need to be reviewed in pure military terms with national security dimensions .National interests must get top priority and precedence over everything else .Maintaining of status quo will be turning a blind eye to a glaring weaknesses and shortcoming in the delegation of responsibilities between MOD and MHA .The political leaders (RM &HM) and bureaucrats (Secy level) in MOD and MHA must
    not let petty interests and egos of Army or Para Military Forces jeopardise national security .The entire uniformed fraternity must rise above respective service interests/ethos and accord national paramount importance to the nation .

  5. Oh Come on! everyone knows about the slavery tradition in our Army or any other Army on the subcontinent, Jawans are treated like house keeps and have to do the dirty household chores of their officers. Just go speak to a couple of them and you’ll know. The guy didn’t commit suicide due to pressure from the media, it was the pressure from his seniors that must’ve killed him.

    We still follow the colonial British heirarchial system which was designed specifically with keeping lowly indian soldier in mind by colonial masters, we just copy pasted the same system blindly (White man’s syndrome) because it served the purpose of our officers, even a one bad senior can screw you whole career if you spoke against anything suspicious. Even the British has left this stupid heirarchial system and turned it into more egalitarian merit based system, but surprising our learned Generals are still defending this humiliating system.

    They prefer foreign maal instead of good desi one in the name of Soldier’s morale, but the same moral vapourizes when the jawan has to do their laundry and walk their dogs.

    We still haven’t learnt from the SS CHauhan case. It was just that the jawan in question didn’t have enough strength to wait as long as Chauhan did.

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