Border management and ensuring security have been two important concerns of various governments across the worlds. Cross-border insurgency and terrorism has affected a lot of countries therefore stringent measures have been put in place to control and regulate human and material movement around terrestrial and maritime borders. Off recent, with the Airspace infiltration’s following the Balakot strikes have highlighted the requirement to improve the security and management of airspace borders as well.
India is surrounded by land in the north and ocean in the south. In the Northwest, Pakistan shares about 3,325 kilometres of border with India. Most of the Northern border is shared with China (3,439 Km). Landlocked nations of Nepal and Bhutan share about 1,690 kilometres and 640 kilometres respectively while the eastern borders are shared with Bangladesh (4,339 Km) and Myanmar (1,425 Km).
Additionally, India shares marine borders with the Island nations of Sri Lanka and Maldives. This brings the total tally of neighbours to eight countries. Historically, India has tried to keep friendly diplomatic ties with all its neighbours, but as of now, every neighbouring nation has had some point of conflict with India.
While the most concerning border issues exist with Pakistan and China, the border management with other nations too has proven to be a challenging task. Understanding the security challenges in border areas is important to measure India’s geopolitical influence and estimate its own economic value in the South Asian region as well as the whole world.
Major Border Security Challenges Faced by India
India’s common borders with every country have their own special features and administration and management arrangements. But there are various common threats and challenges that we face in all the cases.
Firstly, the socially diverse population of India has proven to be difficult to govern. India is a mix of cultures, traditions, ethnicities and religion that have spread all over the country and have varying influence over the length and breadth of India. While a certain level of tolerance and liberal ideologies have made India an example of ‘unity in diversity’, there still exist factors and elements that remain exception to this.
These are the factors of disunity that prioritise communal identity over national identity which leads to disharmony. It vastly effects the border management as it gives rise to terrorist sympathisers and separatist mentality as observed in Kashmiri secessionists and Pro-Khalistan separatists.
Secondly, with over 15,000 kilometres of land border spread across all types of terrains- accessible and inaccessible- proves to be a huge challenge when it comes to monitoring and controlling. This is further aggravated by threats from the bordering nations which undertake activities like terrorism, unprovoked cross-border military engagements and men and illegal material trafficking. In case of China and Pakistan, both the nations have fought wars with India and therefore have an air of mistrust between them.
Thirdly, using modern technologies and providing personnel and civilian support in border areas have their own difficulties. These are mainly due to adverse climatic and terrain conditions. This leads to erratic power and ration supply. Adding to the woes are the high operational and maintenance cost of new technology, lack of expertise among the personnel to use these high tech equipment and lack of availability of spare parts.
India has deployed personnel from the Indian army, state armed paramilitary and central armed paramilitary forces on borders for effective management. But majority of these soldiers lack proper equipment to defend our nation and survive the harsh weather.
Border with Pakistan
Pakistan has been one constant headache that India has been suffering from ever since partition and independence. Right from 1947 to the present day proxy wars, the countries have been fighting over the territory of Kashmir and accusing each other of state sponsored terrorism. Diplomatic relations with Pakistan have always been an issue for the Indian Union governments.
The original border shared between India and Pakistan was decided by the British officials who designated the Radcliffe line in 1947 as the legal demarcation. But after the first Indo-Pakistan war in the same year, Pakistan had occupied a chunk of Kashmir which today is known as the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Azad Kashmir.
The territory that remained under Indian jurisdiction was Jammu, Ladakh and a part of Kashmir. Currently, there are three types of borders that are identified between India and Pakistan- the working border that demarcates the disputed territory, the Line of Control (LoC or LC) which was established after the Shimla Pact that demarcates PoK and Indian side of J&K and finally, the international boundary- the original Radcliffe line that is accepted internationally. Other than J&K, there are three more states that share the boundary with Pakistan namely- Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
India has deployed the Indian army and the Border Security Forces (BSF) to patrol the border and prevent illegal activities in these regions. Furthermore, Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) personnel are constantly deployed in the settlements, villages and cities of Indian side of J&K to look after the civil riots in the area along with the state police forces.
The Pakistan side consists of their national army and Special Services Group (SSG) forces like the Border Action Team (BAT). They are unofficially supported by the local terrorists, militia and ISI aided jihadists. Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most densely militarised zones of the world because of so much presence of military and paramilitary forces in the region.
India faces major threats in the form of the constant ceasefire violations, terrorist infiltration, Kashmiri separatist factions and militants of established terror outfits like JeM, HM, LeT, etc. Adding to the woes is the terrain and connectivity of the region. Siachin glacier- world’s highest battle zone is also one of the toughest terrains where our brave soldiers are defending our nation from potential infiltration.
Armed rebels in the form of Pro-Khalistan sentimentalists exist in Punjab who demand an independent state of Khalistan (Land of the Khalsa). Anti-national and Pro-Pakistan factions and syndicates dot the borders shared by Gujarat and Rajasthan. Furthermore, the terrorist organisations have illegal drug and weapon smuggling rackets that the BSF deals with throughout the border.
Currently, India has restricted passage in the form of militarised checkpoints between the two nations. The movement is stringently monitored in these check posts. Even border passages like the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrimage are under military censure.
The borders are wire fenced with provisions of smart fencing and electric fencing to assist BSF personnel. Furthermore, floodlights are used to keep the areas illuminated. The army is undertaking many civil welfare schemes for the population of the border areas and is on an anti-separatist drive, to prevent youth from being brainwashed by separatists and militants.
Border with China
India’s border with China is shared by five Indian states- J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. India has gone to war with China in 1962 and had faced defeat in the form of lost territory.
China has occupied a part of the Ladakh region which is now known as the Aksai Chin. China is the only Asian power which intimidates India as it is a bigger economic and stronger military power than us.
Originally, the border between India and Tibet was demarcated using the Macmahon Line in 1914 Simla Accord. But after China occupied and effectively took over Tibet as their own territory, they rejected this demarcation and claimed Aksai Chin and northern parts of Arunachal Pradesh for themselves.
Later in 1986, to resolve the border dispute and inculcate confidence building practices between the nations, both the countries arrived on Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the boundary line.
The major Indian military and paramilitary forces guarding and managing this border include the Indian Army, BSF, Shasastra Seema Bal (SSB), Assam Rifles, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and CRPF. On the Chinese side, the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force soldiers under the Western Theatre Command patrol the borders.
China still has its reservation regarding territorial limits of both the nations. Therefore India faces a challenge of Chinese aggression at any point of time and therefore keeps the combat readiness of the troops on point.
Furthermore left wing extremists in the northeast and the Naga insurgents enjoy support from the communist dominated nation of China. The border is largely restricted and cross-border movement is prohibited. Additionally, the mountainous and rough terrain along with the unfavourable climate makes the boundary largely impervious.
Borders with Nepal and Bhutan
India has shared a warm relation with both Nepal and Bhutan. Nepal and India are the world’s largest Hindi speaking countries and have a lot of cultural similarities, while Bhutan has the status of a protectorate state of India. Due to the friendly ties, there are no border disputes, but at the same time the borders are very porous and the official entry-points are demilitarised.
Nevertheless, the BSF and ITBP patrol the borders. Of recent, Nepal, being under the Communist regime, has shown anti-India signs and has provided the Maoists of India support through providing weapons and funds.
Additionally, foreign nationals, especially terrorists, criminals and anti-national individuals can get illegal entry into India through these landlocked nations thereby making them gateways of terror. With Bhutan, this problem is less likely to occur as India and Bhutan have adopted the two-sided model of border security and management which is useful in assessing threat perception and upkeep of security in the region.
Border with Bangladesh
The terrain of the Indo-Bangladesh border is very normal mostly consisting of jungles, riverine and plains. India has the BSF guarding this border. India had a strange dispute with Bangladesh over the enclaves and land possessions. This was a result of the 1971 war and subsequent formation of Bangladesh as a nation.
But as of 2018, this dispute has been solved by bilateral discussions. Other than this, the border, although guarded, is very porous. Due to this, the Rohingya refugees were able to crossover from Bangladesh to India. Not only refugees, but also traffickers can access these pores to carry out their illegal trade in the territories of India. But these problems are kept at bay through border coordination conferences between BSF and Bangladesh Rifles.
Border with Myanmar
Myanmar shares its borders with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The terrain consists of forests and hills with some plain areas. India has had close to lukewarm ties with Myanmar.
Furthermore, insurgency in the northeast is supported by non-state factors in Myanmar which has been a huge problem in India. Additionally, smuggling, infiltration, fake currency are few of the issues that BSF, SSB and Assam Rifles have to keep an eye on during patrols.
Maritime Borders with Sri Lanka and Maldives
Unlike the above mentioned countries, Sri Lanka and Maldives are maritime neighbours of India, therefore are not connected by land essentially. Both the Island nations are located in the Indian Ocean in close proximity of the Indian mainland as well as the Lakshadweep Islands.
Sri Lanka, the bigger nation is located much closer while Maldives is spread a bit below Sri Lanka. India has shared both good and stale relations with these nations depending on the government in power. The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard are the patrollers of the coastal boundaries as well as maritime borders of India.
Their main aim is to catch illegal immigrants, smuggling and illicit trade and terrorism. At the same time, they also help lost fishermen as well as save their lives when in dangers posed by the sea.
Improving Border Security and Management
India and its neighbours can improve border management in the following ways-
- Effective border management plans require proper research and knowledge of the dispute and the states involved. A sum total of about 15,000 kilometres of land border is shared between India and its terrestrial neighbours.
- Employing smart border management by using technology like CCTVs, electric fencing, microwave communication, infiltration alarms, etc. the porosity of the borders can be reduced.
- Implementation of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System which includes round the clock surveillance via the Border Electronically Dominated Quick response team Interception Technique (BOLD-QIT).
- Use of modern gadgets and equipment for real-time monitoring of cross-border crimes.
- Use of space technology- satellite surveillance and monitoring for wider coverage and effective border management.
- Border Area Development Programme (BADP) under the Ministry of Home Affairs of Government of India enables civil cooperation living in border areas as well as empowers them by improving the connectivity to mainland as well as building infrastructure in those regions.
With the diverse terrains and situations under which India is carrying out border security and management activities, it is quite a daunting task to be able to provide holistic security and development of these areas.
Nevertheless, due to the presence of specialised military and paramilitary forces who are adept in guarding specific types of border terrains and are trained to counter criminal activities in the areas, most of the anti-national ploys against India are majorly foiled.
To further improve the current conditions, it is important for India to modernise its military and paramilitary forces and utilise newer technologies that improves surveillance efficiency. Furthermore, are diplomatic levels, Indian administration and government should try and maintain good ties with its neighbouring nations to improve border cooperation and decrease cross-border tensions.
While so far, the management of maritime borders and borders with Nepal and Bhutan have been kept under check. Border security in J&K and the northeast is of major concern to India and till this date has remained a big issue. Resolving these issues will not only be an economic relief to the governments, but also help in improving the lives of the people living in those regions.