Tech-Savvy Borders

Use of technology like CIBMS alone does not ensure fool-proof border security and management

Mihir Paul

Instances of intrusion and attacks at bases like Pathankot and Uri in the past made the border guarding forces and government realise the harsh truth – the borders of India weren’t as secure as previously thought. This realisation brought with it a dire need for technologically upgrading the security measures of our borders and the border guarding forces.

Home minister Rajnath Singh inaugurating the CIBMS pilot project, in Jammu

While the idea of deploying a comprehensive border management system with state-of-the-art technology was decided as early as 2012, it was only after multiple instances of brazen intrusion and the consequent harrowing attacks on bases that the government decided to deploy technological solutions in the form of the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS).

CIBMS uses a plethora of sensors, radars, and devices, and a delay in the procurement of the technology caused a delay in the deployment of the pilot project in Jammu. The Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam’s Dhubri area was the first location to receive CIBMS on 11 April 2018. It was only on 17 September 2018 when CIBMS was finally deployed along the border in Jammu. Covering two stretches of 5.5 kilometres, this system supposedly creates an invisible electronic barrier across multiple terrains and helps the border guarding forces in detecting and disrupting any infiltration attempts.

Amidst the discussion of utilising state-of-the-art technology in the CIBMS, a burning question arises – is CIBMS alone the answer to better border security? To explore an answer to that question, one must see how the current equipment is being used by the Border Security Force (BSF). Most of the BSF battalions deployed at the borders are equipped with devices like Hand Held Thermal Imagery (HHTI) systems, Long Range Reconnaissance Observation Systems (LORROS), Battle Field Surveillance Radars (BFSR), etc.

While the currently available technology and surveillance systems did prove to be useful to the BSF and the other border guarding forces, it was the continued instances of infiltration that led them to review its effectiveness. Speaking to FORCE, Additional Director General, BSF, Krishna Sood (retd) said that due to the hugely varying terrains and weather conditions along the borders, the current management systems have suffered major drawbacks mainly due to – a) Technology not working in adverse weather conditions, b) The system is too manpower intensive, c) Lack of roads and infrastructure along the borders hampering quick response.

ADG Sood added that operating and maintaining the current equipment has been a problem in the BSF. A lot of the high-tech surveillance and reconnaissance systems deployed by the BSF are not used to their full potential since the training required to operate and maintain the equipment is severely lacking in the personnel of the force. We don’t have an adequate infrastructure to utilise this technology properly. What adds to this problem is the extremely high costs of these devices and the lack of repair options that lead to even trained personnel staying away from vital surveillance devices like Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) because they don’t want to ‘break it’.

According to ADG Sood, the personnel are reluctant to use the current technology. Not only is training lacking, but rotating shifts also make it such that the new personnel arriving at the borders require training, and so the cycle continues.

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