A group of Jaish-e-Mohammad fidayeens attacked an Indian infantry installation at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir at the wee hours on 18th Sept 2016 in which 17 Army jawans were killed and 19 others left critically injured. The four attackers were, however, also neutralized by the armed forces in the counter operation. The initial reports of Uri attacks suggests that these terrorists had infiltrated to India from PoK .
Every time there is a terrorist attack, we hear loud clamors for retributive action against the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in India. But amidst all these hullabaloo, the first and foremost issue of devising new preventive measures somehow loses of its sight.
The terrorist attacks are not new to India and it occurs with a monotonous regularity. In the current geo-political circumstances, there is not much hope of its reduction in any time near. However, our collective response to terrorist attacks is cliché ridden, repetitive and pathetic sometimes. The usual condemnations, evidences of Pakistan’s hand, intelligence failure, martyrdom, and xenophobic outbursts would fill the space of social media and newspapers on subsequent days and then it will be business as usual.
Every time there is a terrorist attack, we hear loud clamors for retributive action against the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in India. But amidst all these hullabaloo, the first and foremost issue of devising new preventive measures somehow loses of its sight. Where are the tactical rethinking and course correction to counter this?
It is a settled position that we have failed to guard our borders as effectively as it should have been. We have rather allowed dark spots and passages in our observation system used by enemy forces to infiltrate in the country. The infiltration of terrorists into the Indian soil is our own structural failure and there is no point of blaming Pakistan for it. These terrorists should have been shot down the moment they had stepped into the Indian territory. We, not the Pakistan, allowed them to sneak in, reach upto the Army camp and launch the attack.
The Indian borders can be said to be one of the most vulnerable in the world so far as the infiltration and smuggling are concerned. Even the barbed wire fencings are breached with remarkable ease and impunity. A video was recently viral on social media as to how the cattle are lifted over the wire fence with the help of lever, pulley and bamboos and smuggled to Bangladesh.
The LOC does not have any watch towers or standard border outposts as is the case with international borders. Here both the Army and the BSF stay inside the bunkers and try to observe any suspicious movement on the LOC by using day night binoculors.
India has two types of boundaries with Pakistan. One is ‘international border’ that runs from Jammu sector to Punjab up to Rajasthan. The international border with Pakistan is guarded by Border Security Force (BSF) for which they have certain norms and scales of locating the border outposts, watch towers, observation posts and patrolling etc.. Another is the ‘Line of Control’ LOC) between PoK and J&K which has a mixed deployment of Army and BSF under the operational command of Army. This type of dual responsibility of controlling infiltration has its own operational constraints. The BSF is only about 20% of the total deployment along the LOC and the rest is Army. The BSF takes orders from Army at LOC, something the officers of the BSF are quite peeved about.
The LOC does not have any watch towers or standard border outposts as is the case with international borders. Here both the Army and the BSF stay inside the bunkers and try to observe any suspicious movement on the LOC by using day night binoculors. Obviously, a bunker will not have that much of the ‘arc of vision’ as one can get while being atop a watch tower/ observation post. There is no fencing at LOC except some improvised arrangements at some sectors. The LOC runs through the hills, rivers and forests and has many gaps and dark areas that infiltrators can safely take advantage of
Israel is supposed to have the best border protection system in the world and it relies more on technology than the manpower. Israeli border protection system has a state of the art long-range day cameras with night observation systems, third generation thermal imagers, long-range detection radars, electronic touch and motion sensors on the fence as well as underground sensors to detect any attempt of digging tunnels. They also have a wonderful system of electronic pulse that runs through the fence, setting off an alarm on contact that will allow security guards to spot the exact point of attempted infiltration.
Israeli system also uses sandy surface near the border find the footprints of the infiltrators. Besides in order to cover the dark areas, Israeli system uses ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV), an aircraft with no pilot on board, remote controlled by a pilot at a ground control station which can also fly autonomously based on pre-programmed flight plans.
There are ways and means to tackle the issue of infiltration if there is a political and administrative will to do so.
The United State of America has long been fighting the menace of cross border trafficking and drug smuggling from Mexico. Sometimes back in Texas, the Governor had set up multiple web cameras along the border. The entire length of border could be seen online by the ordinary citizens who could alert the border guarding agency of any suspicious movement. It was a pilot project of citizens participation in guarding the border and was a huge success.
The USA also has towers with surveillance turrets strung across Arizona border which communicate coordinates and images of moving figures to remote centers and to the laptops of border patrol vehicles. Further under “Project 28,” the Department of Homeland Security tested the viability of a “virtual fence” as an alternative to the fencing across the southwestern border. The radar towers had turrets to identify any movements and could help fill in the gaps in the physical wall.
There are ways and means to tackle the issue of infiltration if there is a political and administrative will to do so. We can study the best practices of the world and find a customized solution for our borders. This is the top most priority and action starts now. But many of the new measures would involve import of technology and hardware from abroad.
The approach to border management in India is far too bureaucratic rudimentary and unimaginative. It requires a cohesive and well synchronized plan…
The post Bofors era has witnessed serious obstacles in Government procurement and any officer taking a new initiative involving procurement is looked upon with suspicion. The procedure is so lengthy and cumbersome involving endless queries of different babus, approval of norms/ scale, specifications, field trials, CVC guidelines, financial rules and so on that even the most spirited team of officers would get frustrated. Then there is whirlpool of malpractices and corruptions associated and rampant particularly in the realm of foreign procurement.
The approach to border management in India is far too bureaucratic rudimentary and unimaginative. It requires a cohesive and well synchronized plan involving all stakeholders for technological modernization of the border management. This country cannot live with the guilt on its conscience of letting down our armed forces. The bureaucracy and political class must get over their perennial anxiety of the next promotion and the next election. The task of the nation building ranks much above the individual ambitions.
This is the hour of truth for the nation and it remains to be seen whether we are able to guard the country for the next generation the same way our previous generation had won the independence for us. This will be only true homage to our brave soldiers who laid down their lives for our motherland.