Chinks in the Security

The government needs to address the border management challenges without delay

R.C. SharmaR.C. Sharma

India shares international land borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, which are extensive, hostile and challenging to guard. Local, cross border and historical factors influence border-guarding pattern. The current state of bilateral relations with Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bangladesh make border guarding more arduous, taxing and difficult. The Government recognises border-guarding challenges. It needs to find solutions through administrative and operational innovations to make border guarding more effective.

Effective and firm border guarding plays a vital role in strengthening internal and external security. Border guarding must be treated professionally, and decision-making must strengthen border management. Cosmetic attempts to push decisions on border security by re-designating Central police organisations (CPOs) as Central Armed Police Organisations (CAPFs) have neither made border-guarding professional nor improved the lot of border guards. The creation of department of border management was a positive step but leaving human resources out of its ambit has made border-guarding environment confusing.

The existence of two departments in the same ministry with little coordination impacts border management adversely. Men on the ground feel the impact. Department of border management and home ministry branches dealing with HR management need to have professionals from border guarding forces to give professional inputs for strengthening border guarding on the ground and at policy level. After extending the jurisdiction of BSF to 50km in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, it is more imperative that professionals from border guarding forces are incorporated in the ministry of home affairs to render professional advice on border guarding and border management.


Historical Factors

The current challenging border security environment has its origin in historical factors, disputes over territory and feeling of nationalism/ sub nationalism. There is need to be analyse these factors:

Partition: Partition created unmitigated scars on the psyche of population of both India and Pakistan. These scars are exploited by hardliners on both sides making security environment difficult. Pakistan has made partition a plank to bleed India through state and non-state sponsored terrorism. Coupled with this are unresolvable claims and counter claims over territories, leading to an environment of distrust and hostility. This distrust and hostility are writ large in today’s security environment on the international borders, line of control and line of actual control. They also affect internal security environment.

Radcliffe Award: Radcliffe partitioned Punjab into East and West Punjab and Bengal into East and West Bengal. Radcliffe award created more problems instead of resolving border issues. West Punjab and East Bengal went to Pakistan. Radcliffe formula was to draw a line keeping the religious affinities in mind. Award uprooted about fifteen million people from their homes based upon religious affinities. The legacy of partition is still visible in Punjab and Bengal. Creation of East Pakistan, a non-contiguous land mass to mainland Pakistan, was a historical blunder, which has continuously vitiated security environment and border guarding. The brunt of the faulty award is still borne by India and its border guarding and internal and external security.

Kashmir Dispute: Accession of Jammu and Kashmir through instrument of accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh and government of India made the state an inseparable legal part of India. Pakistan has not accepted accession, is still in occupation of Indian territories. India was thrust with two wars and localised conflicts over Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan sponsored proxy war. This war has affected security environment along line of control, international border of Jammu called as working boundary by Pakistan. The Kashmir dispute has affected security all along the border with Pakistan and kept western borders hot and volatile making border security challenging.

China Factor: India shared common boundary with Tibet and not China. Annexation of Tibet turned Indo-Tibet boundary into Indo-China boundary. Annexation of Aksai Chin, building infrastructure and road communication through it and Chinese claims over Indian territories led to friction. China attacked India in 1962, which further vitiated security environment along the line of actual control. China has laid claims on Indian territories on the Line of Actual Control and parts of Ladakh and eastern sector. China Pakistan economic corridor has undermined Indian sovereign claims over Gilgit Baltistan region. Enhanced interoperability between Chinese and Pakistan forces has made Indian borders permanently volatile imposing heavy economic and military cost upon India. The continuous Chinese attempts to occupy Indian territories in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh has made border security complex and difficult.

There is a need to professionally support border guarding forces by building and enhancing their operational capabilities through technical innovations, better man-management and effective uninterrupted ground specific training. Despite deficiencies, border-guards have ensured effective security of borders. More needs to be done to make border security impregnable.

Administration of border guarding forces is management of logistics, personnel and internal management of units to make them operationally fighting fit for border guarding and war. Administratively self-sufficient units can only be operationally effective. There are administrative and operational challenges to border guarding. Administratively soothing environment is necessary for troops to be operationally effective. Let us analyse administrative and operational challenges to border guarding in current border security environment.


Administrative Challenges

Accommodation: Forces on Indo-Pakistan and Indo-Bangladesh border are on duty for about 14-18 hours in a 24-hour duty cycle. It is true for all border-guarding forces. Only administratively stable and comfortable border management can be operationally effective. Accommodation at border outposts needs revolutionary improvement by providing adequate and comfortable accommodation at border out-posts. Knee jerk system of upgrading BOPs without upgrading infrastructure must be avoided. BOPs are upgraded on operational considerations without catering to administrative essentials. Tackling both simultaneously will make border guarding operationally more effective and impregnable. Administrative ad-hocism must stop as it leads to operational ad-hocism. As per 214th and 215th report of Parliamentary standing committee of ministry of home affairs, the housing satisfaction should be minimum 25 percent. Lot more needs to be done to improve satisfaction index of troops in terms of housing needs.

Hygiene and Sanitation: Upgradation of BOPs without corresponding upgradation of infrastructure leads to insurmountable problems for troops. Local commanders do make efforts to bring improvement, which only provide temporary respite. Need is to accord high priority to the issues of hygiene and sanitation while planning development of infrastructure in terms of buildings. Along with it adequate water supply and clean drinking water must be ensured. Only administratively contented border guard can be operationally effective.

Medical Facilities: Working environment in border guarding forces is tough and hostile. Border guards perform duty in freezing temperature at night in Punjab/ J&K and in extremely hot and humid weather in Rajasthan and Gujarat, taking a toll on the health of troop. Medical infrastructure in CAPFs in terms of doctors, specialists and support staff is inadequate. Majority of patients are referred to civil hospitals despite forces having 25, 50 and 100-bedded hospitals. This needs to be looked into on priority. Unsatisfactory medical attention leads to dissatisfaction and low morale and poor health, depleting troop strength at borders. In overall analysis, poor medical facilities effect operational profile of forces and impacts discipline. Similarly, medical facilities for families’ need improvement.

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