Border management

Borders are markers of territorial sovereignty. They act as barriers to undesirable elements considered harmful for domestic territory and population. However, they serve as bridges to facilitate legitimate socio-economic & cultural exchanges.

  • Barrier role: Traditionally primary role of borders has been to prevent (a) Cross border terrorism (b) Illegal migration (c) Trafficking of narcotics and drugs (d) smuggling.
  • Bridging role: Globalisation & ICT revolution enabled an increase in cross border movement. Thus, barrier role was seen as a hindrance to free flow of trade, limiting market size and increasing transaction cost. Thus, border needed to be transformed into bridges for enhanced trade and connectivity.
  • South Asia comprises of 7 sovereign states, with over 1/6th of world’s population and numerous ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. It is theatre of ethnic & religious violence, transnational in nature. The ethnic, religious and linguistic overlap has not only affected internal political developments in each country but also inter-country relationships.
  • Boundaries between neighbours are not natural both geographically and ethnically; therefore, social tensions are bound to have a transborder impact. Traditional linkages of friendship and inter- action amongst people have become competing arrangements for aiding and abetting subversion, terrorism and insurgencies.
  • Two major narcotic centers globally, Golden Crescent in Northwest & Golden Triangle in the East have made South Asia vulnerable to drug trafficking Combination of large-scale availability of man portable weapons, illegal financial resources through narcotic trade and cross border nexus for smuggling and terrorist activities has made the environment violence and conflict prone.

Issues of Border Management

  • Undefined & unsettled borders: Some maritime boundaries are still undefined; much of land borders are not demarcated on the ground. The disputed and unsettled nature of our boundaries has made them a source of tension and made their policing difficult.
  • Lack of concern about border and border areas: The beliefs such as border management and development of border lying areas were not so important as country needed to focus on national development.
  • Artificial borders and not natural borders: Since many of our borders are man-made artificial boundaries and not based on natural features such as rivers, watersheds etc, they are extremely porous.
  • Multiplicity of forces on same borders has inevitably led to the lack of accountability as well as problems of command and control.
  • Lack of empowerment of Border Guarding Forces:  BGFs need to be appropriately strengthened both in terms of equipment and manpower.The repeated withdrawal, in large numbers, of para-military forces from border guarding duties for internal security and counter insurgency duties has led to a neglect of the borders. These forces have also been unable to perform optimally due to cannibalisation of battalions and even companies.
  • Lack of institutionalised arrangements for sharing and co-ordination of intelligence particularly at field level, is a primary weakness in proper management of borders. The present tendency on the part of each agency to guard its turf, even at the cost of compromising national security interests, needs to be deprecated and put down sternly.
  • Illegal migration across our borders has continued unabated. We have yet to fully wake up to the implications of the unchecked immigration for the national security. Today, we have about 15 million Bangladeshis, 2.2 million Nepalese, 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils and about one lakh Tibetan migrants living in India.
  • Demographic changes have been brought about in the border belts of West Bengal, several districts in Bihar, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya because of large-scale illegal migration.
  • Such large-scale migration has obvious social, economic, political and security implications. The massive illegal immigration poses a grave danger to our security, social harmony and economic well-being.
  • Smuggling of different consumer and intermediate goods, trafficking in drugs and narcotics etc. flourish through large parts of our border. For clandestine cross border transit, communities of professional couriers have come up in the villages and towns close to our land borders and maritime.
  • Pak ISI engages in encouraging these activities. Drug couriers are allowed passage on condition of collecting and reporting trans-border intelligence.
  • Trained saboteurs and terrorists are prevailed upon to carry drugs for sustenance and operational expenses from the sale proceeds. Passage to couriers of contraband is often conditional to carrying and delivering of arms and ammunition.
  • India’s long coastline and coastal areas have remained largely unprotected and unguarded. The presence of the Coast Guard is minimal. For a country of our size, the Coast Guard must be a strong and vibrant organisation. There is also need for a greater clarity in the role of the State Governments vis-à-vis the Coast Guard as far as shallow water surveillance of the coasts is concerned. 

Security apparatus for Border management

  • Indian border security is handled by Cabinet Committee on Security, which oversees entire internal security apparatus.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs handles most operational aspects of both border security and internal security.
  • Coordination takes place by Cabinet Secretariat, and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
  • Several administrative, intelligence and enforcement agencies are involved, as are similar organizations at state level in India’s federal government structure.
  • Under MHA, principal department responsible for border security is Department of Border Management, overseeing strengthening of border policing & surveillance, infrastructure creation through building of roads & fences and flood lighting of borders.
  • Intelligence responsibilities are shared among at least 12 organizations, which report to different ministries.
  • Intelligence Bureau, the primary agency responsible for internal intelligence, reports to the home minister.
  • Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), and Aviation Research Centre are under purview of National Security Adviser (NSA).

Border Security Apparatus and Associated issues

  • Land border security apparatus involves specialized paramilitary organizations to include Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Assam Rifles, Sahastra Seema Bal, Border Security Force, and Special Frontier Force.
  • All these report to Home Ministry except Special Frontier Force, which is under control of India’s external intelligence wing, RAW.
  • Battalions of Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been put under operational command of the Indian Army.
  • In addition, Indian Army, and Indian Police Service have responsibilities along the borders.
  • The enforcement arm of the border security apparatus also suffers from weak coordination. The most difficult problem is coordination between state and central agencies, and it operates both at the political level, between the national government and the elected chief ministers of the states, and especially in policing.
  • The internal security apparatus faces additional challenges with a poorly trained and understaffed police force, an outdated and overburdened legal system, and insufficient modern equipment. 

Suggestions for effective border management

  • Regulation of the Borders: Effective regulation of the movement of people and goods is the hallmark of good border management. For this government must facilitate legitimate travel and trade, while at the same time preventing illegal migration, smuggling and infiltration of insurgents and terrorists.
  • Border Guarding Forces (BGF): These forces need to be dedicated to their tasks of guarding borders and should not be employed on Counter insurgency duties or maintenance of law and order.
  • Allotting of powers of jurisdiction and detention under the customs act and Cr Pc to other CPOs, such as ITBP and AR could be done; at present such powers are restricted to the BSF only.
  • Further, these forces need to be strengthened in the following aspects: –
  • Maintain minimum strength at all times.
  • Equipment profile to cater for their specific roles.
  • Intelligence capability in terms of personnel and equipment.
  • Despite several wars and conflicts, 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, with almost no real coordination in managing the borders.
  • While the BSF should be responsible for all settled borders, the responsibility for unsettled borders, such as the line of control in J&K and Line of Actual Control on the Indo-Tibetan border should be that of the Army.” 
  • BGF peace time management restructuring –
  • The entire Indo-Tibetan border should be directly guarded by the army and there is no requirement of any ITBP deployment.
  • In J&K, the LOC and the AGPL should be guarded by the army. There is no requirement of BSF companies along LOC interspersed between army battalions.
  • The BSF should be bifurcated into two BGFs, one retaining the name BSF, for the Indo-Pakistan IB, and the other could be called Eastern Frontier Rifles.
  • BGF battalions should be authorized hand-held Image Intensifiers, Battlefield Surveillance Radars, ground sensors and much increased scale of modern communications equipment.
  • BGF troops should be organized as lightly armed scout forces, and the presently existing fire support units of mortars and artillery should be abolished.
  • Training of Border Guarding Forces: Government does not have a robust holistic training programme for the border guarding personnel, which is necessary for sensitising the security personnel towards the cultural nuances of every border area and help elicit better cooperation from the local population. Proper training and incentives are essential for keeping the morale of the border guarding personnel high
  • Police Stations in Border Zones: Upgradation of police stations in border zones would provide a sound second tier for border guarding forces.
  • Perception Management: Aggressive media posturing to counter subversive propaganda by hostile neighbours in the border areas.
  • Role of Locals in Border Management: To incorporate locals into border management certain actions are required to be taken as prerequisite such as improvement of living conditions of people in border areas and providing basic amenities and security to the people.
  • National Database: Establishment of a national network supported by a powerful data bank to check illegal immigration and unauthorised passage to the country is a necessity.
Online Counselling
Table of Contents
Today's Current Affairs
This is default text for notification bar