Guarding the Borders is a national Resolve of any sovereign State. It is part of overall mechanism - the "Border Management", which implies, "the coordinated and concentrated action by Political Leadership by co-opting; administrative, diplomatic, security, intelligence, legal, ecological and the regulatory agencies to secure her Borders".
Of these, maintaining the sanctity of borders is the prime mover and the main component of the overall National security. Accordingly, every country has worked out detailed procedures in guarding their Borders during peace time. But of late, the surge in global terrorism have made the peacetime Borders more vulnerable and, in few cases- perennially active.
We are no exception; in fact, we are worst affected. Keeping the current scenario in view, we need to carryout holistic review to embolden our border security.
"Let us utilise this opportunity and prune the bulky CAPF into more cohesive, lean and efficient Police Force. While the ITBP and the SSB should be fully merged into the new Outfit."
Before proceeding further and to take this argument to logical conclusion, let us see the arrangements being followed by other Nations. Most countries have created specialised and dedicated Armed Bodies for security of Borders. For Example; Iran has Border Guard Command, Italy has Border Police Service, Russia has created Border Guard Service, whereas in US, it is under the Homeland Security.
Closer home; in China, it is the People's Armed Police guarding their Borders, while Pakistan has Frontier Corps for the Western Border and the Rangers looking after Indo-Pak Border. In Bangladesh, the Border Guards Bangladesh are responsible for the security of their borders. Likewise, Canada, Vietnam, Australia, Indonesia and others, also have similar outfits for border security.
In addition, countries like Egypt, Iran, Italy, Pakistan (Western Border only), Vietnam and Indonesia; keeping in view the threat perception, have placed their Border Guarding Agencies under the command of Armed Forces (AFs). Here, two major deductions emerge, one; we need a single Agency for guarding our Borders, two; the threat perception should be the guiding Principle for deciding the overall Command and Control.
Now look at our arrangements, we share land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar stretching approx 15,106 Km; while, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Indonesia are the Maritime neighbours. We have 7,683 Km of coastline and approx 2 Million Sq Km of " Exclusive Economic Zone" (EEZ).
In addition, we have approx 3,323 Km 'ALL WEATHER HOT'- Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan, and further extends to rechristened stretch of 110 Km of the 'Actual Ground Position Line' (AGPL) dividing Siachen Glacier Region. Further East, we have 3,488 Km of recently flared up 'Line of Actual Control' (LAC) with China.
"There is lack of coherent Policy, Planning and Conduct of guarding duties among various outfits. Similarly, the overall coordination gets drastically affected."
The cumulative manifestations of these factors make our task a unique and more complexed than other countries. It gets further accentuated as we have multiple Agencies from the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) and the Para Military Force (PMF) sharing the responsibility.
We have the Border Security Force (BSF) looking after the International Border (IB) with Pakistan and Bangladesh, while the Army is deployed along the (LOC) and the AGPL. Guarding of LAC has been assigned to Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Assam Rifles (AR).
The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is responsible for guarding Borders with Nepal and Bhutan. And finally, the AR is looking after our Border with Myanmar. In a nutshell, in addition to Army we have four Agencies guarding borders with six neighours. Conversely, the maritime borders are guarded by a single Agency-The Coast Guard (CG). It goes without saying that such a composite arrangement has inherent and damaging incongruences.
Foremost, there is lack of coherent Policy, Planning and Conduct of guarding duties among various outfits. Similarly, the overall coordination gets drastically affected.
Also Read: Forfeiting National Security for Turf
In addition, we are confronted with serious problems of cross border terrorism from Pakistan, terrorists' hideouts across the border, drug peddling, infiltration and influx of refugees. Of late, changing or altering the status of LAC by China has further threatened our National Security.
Not to be left behind, 'a bolt from the blue'! Nepal too has jumped in staking claims on our territory, thereby creating avoidable uneasiness along the otherwise age-old peaceful Border. Going by the frequent instances along the Western Border where our adversary often escalates violations by resorting to use of military resources have forced us to retaliate accordingly.
Similarly, the Chinese provocations along the LAC, including the Doklam and the ongoing standoff are deliberate military specific operations. All these lead to the conclusion that the peace time scenario is by and large militarised. Therefore, in order to ensure the security of our borders and to buttress the existing arrangements including the command and control must be reviewed.
Going back to aforesaid Deductions and keeping in view the regional security scenario, we need to draw algorithmic sequence. While the LOC and the AGPL should continue with the Army, we need to create a fully reorganised Armed Wing of PMF with the Charter of guarding the IB and the LAC, staffed by pooling and merging the manpower from the CAPF and the AR.
Further, in order to augment the battle efficiency, those Infantry Veterans meeting the age and medical profiles should also be enrolled. The proposed Outfit; let us Name it- National Border Guard (NBG), must be adequately equipped to decisively retaliate the cross border armed transgressions and be able to stabilise the situation till the operations are taken over by Armed Forces.
In order to match fire power of our adversaries, it is strongly recommended to correspondingly arm the NBG.
"While the LOC and the AGPL should continue with the Army, we need to create a fully reorganised Armed Wing of PMF with the Charter of guarding the IB and the LAC, staffed by pooling and merging the manpower from the CAPF and the AR."
Further, to ensure suitable armed response and effective coordination; like the Coast Guard, it should be placed under the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and operate under the overall command and control of the Army.
While the detailed modalities can be worked out subsequently, but depending upon the topographical considerations and impending threat, it should be divided into various Sectors. Taking cue from Assam Rifles, the officer Cadre should be drawn on deputation from Army.
Finally, a collateral spin-off! let us utilise this opportunity and prune the bulky CAPF into more cohesive, lean and efficient Police Force. While the ITBP and the SSB should be fully merged into the new Outfit, the BSF still has an important Role in the internal security duties, therefore, after shedding its share, the balance should be retained with original entity as before.
Similarly, the reorganised AR too should retain its remainder Role of Counter Insurgency operations and act as Reserve to the Army for conventional operations.
(Col Ramesh Davesar, a Veteran infantryman, (Mahar Regiment) commissioned in Jan ‘69, has vast experience of 71 War, Counter Insurgency operations in North East, IPKF operations and commanded a Unit in the Valley during 91-92. He also served as the Col GS of an Infantry Division, Army Standing Establishment Committee at Army HQ, Col GS at CIJW School and Col Q of Sub Area. He can be reached on Email: [email protected])
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