Modernisation of CAPFs must factor in emerging technologies for border and homeland security
S.K. Sood (retd)
The five Central Armed Police Forces, namely Border Security Force (BSF), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have well defined mandated tasks, each of which is extremely important in the security matrix of the country.
The BSF, ITBP & SSB are mandated to secure vast land borders of India with Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh during peace, besides, assisting the defence forces in their war efforts. The CRPF is a designated Internal Security force while the CISF was raised for security of Vital Areas (VAs) and Vital Points (VPs) including industrial installations. Its task has now been expanded to include private industrial installations also. Besides the mandated tasks, each of the above forces are also required to assist Civil authorities in maintaining Law and order whenever called upon to do so.
All these forces were raised over fifty years ago except SSB which was converted into a uniformed border guarding force in 2001. Over the period of time, these forces have evolved systems and procedures including adopting modern technology for carrying out operations. Modernisation however is an unending process, the scope of which must encompass other aspects of their functioning in order to improve overall efficiency.
Border Guarding Forces
The security of borders of India is particularly important in view of repeated attempts by militants and trans-border criminals to exploit border porosity to fuel trouble. Border guarding has evolved from mere border policing by state Armed Police forces up till mid-sixties to guarding by specialised forces. Punjab militancy compelled India to install fences along India-Pakistan Border in Punjab. Their success in Punjab resulted in fencing being erected all along the India-Pak border in nineties and subsequently along India-Bangladesh border.
The fence proved useful till the trans-border criminals learnt to negotiate it and thus it was decided to strengthen its obstacle value and reduce stress on troops by installing flood light and early warning systems. However, border guarding practices remained manpower intensive, due to the necessity of keeping the fence obstacle under observation and fire. The introduction of technology in shape of ‘Night Vision Devices’ and ‘Thermal Imagers’ failed to reduce the burden on men because these are dumb devices and require men to use them. Reactions to the threats observed through these devices is also restricted due to lack of corresponding physical mobility.
The spate of terrorist attacks, especially since 2016 in Pathankot, Nagrota and Uri and other places. has once again flagged the importance of modernisation. Consequently, the Government of India has been pushing for technological solutions on both Eastern and Western borders through Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) project which aims at integrating technology with existing systems to minimise human error. The system is under trial for last five years initially in the western sector where it was in shape of a turnkey project by a foreign company. However, finding the project cost intensive, the leadership decided to undertake the second project in the Eastern theatre as mix and match effort by obtaining equipment from different sources and assembling them without help of a system integrator.
The CIBMS by definition cannot be a monolithic system. It has to be integration of different capabilities i.e., combination of sensors, to provide for different terrain and weather conditions. Thus, the system must have Cameras for line of sight visibility both during day and night and RADARS for long distance surveillance and 360 degrees unrestricted scanning which will not be effected by weather conditions like fog, rain and darkness. The system should also consist of UAVs for high perspective for areas which cannot be kept under observation through line of sight. Unattended ground sensors for undulating ground and low-lying areas with shrubs and sarkanda (Elephant Grass) would also need to be integrated. The heart and soul of the CIBMS is the Command and Control software to integrate various sensors. This software needs to be indigenous, secured and owned by the government and standard across the organisation.
The CIBMS thus aims to replace dumb technology with smart one having software algorithms to enhance and decipher threats. The loss of life that occurs because of exposing our men to enemy snipers and stand-off fire can be avoided with smart systems which enable observation deep inside the area of counterpart and discern the threat in advance to enable adjustment of deployment accordingly.
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