Secure Borders

Cooperation and coordination necessary for effective security management

R.C. SharmaR.C. Sharma

“The first requirement in the country was external and internal security. You cannot have any plan unless there is security,” said independent India’s first home minister, Sardar Patel.

The statement in itself is a manifestation that external and internal security management needs a coordinated approach and coordinated response from stakeholders responsible for national security. India has a vast boundary line of 15,106.7 kilometres. The hugeness of the borders makes border security the most important domain of national security. With hostile neighbours and a highly volatile security scenario, border guarding needs methodologies to address dynamic border security challenges seamlessly. Border security needs to be effective and impregnable, to tackle conventional and unconventional threats, which border guards face on a daily basis.

Strong border security is directly linked to effective border guarding which strengthens border defence and upholds the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation. Weak border security has multidimensional ramifications on national security. Therefore, the border guarding domain needs to be truly professional with both conventional and unconventional methodologies and dynamic innovations. To be dynamic it needs to innovate new methods in border guarding and wipe off the shelf those which have become outdated, outlived utility, curb the initiative of commanders and are a hurdle in professional border guarding. There also needs to be total coordination between border management and border defence domains.

Border management domain covers peacetime border guarding whereas border defence is the preparations to take on adversaries in case of any misadventure or conflict and brings into focus the role of defence forces. Both domains are complementary to each other. Dilution or degradation of one affects the other and is reflected in the dilution of field proficiency. There is also a need for greater synergy among different subsidiary/support domains of border guarding to make border guarding truly professional. It is only possible once a balance is maintained, administrative and field aspects affecting border guarding attract high priority from the state, keeping in mind hostile adversaries all around, ready to exploit chinks and gaps/aberrations in border guarding.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has brought back focus on border security, border management and border defence. It was a total breach of the national borders of Israel by Hamas through land, air and sea by degrading and rendering ineffective Israel’s technological superiority in terms of weaponry, technical and human intelligence and rendering boots on the ground ineffective. Hamas caused a huge dent in the general perception that Israel’s defence forces and technical infrastructure are impregnable. The attack exposed lack of coordination among stakeholders responsible for national security at the micro and macro level. Hamas killed over 1000 Israeli citizens and defence forces and kidnapped more than 200. The scale of mayhem and chaos it created shattered the confidence of citizens in the security establishment and caused a huge dent to the morale of the local population. Israel retaliated but chinks in its border guarding and border defence were exposed.

Compared to Israel, India has a vast boundary line with overtly and covertly aggressive adversaries who miss no opportunity to exploit gaps in border security and border defence. After the 1971 war with Pakistan and to date, India has faced many such attacks both on the internal and external security front. It dealt with and tackled such adversities successfully, but why wait for D-Day? Better is to be fully prepared for any eventuality through peacetime coordinated readiness, 365x24x7.

External and internal security threats are interconnected and intertwined. External and security management needs a coordinated response mechanism from agencies responsible for border management, border defence and internal security. The agencies are border guarding CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces): BSF (Border Security Force), ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police), SSB (Sashashtra Seema Bal), Army, internal security CAPFs and police, guarding the borders against hostile adversaries Pakistan and Bangladesh. ITBP is deployed against China on the line of actual control (LAC) where an all-time requirement is border defence. SSB is guarding the border against Nepal and Bhutan, both treated as friendly neighbours. Border guarding CAPFs also have a wartime role. It is imperative to have effective border management and border defence. There is also a need to be prepared for border defence at all times. Border guarding and border defence require in-depth analysis, since both are complementary to each other. The dilution in one affects the other. It is professional border guarding which will create an environment and infrastructure for conventional border defence. Border guarding should not be seen only from the prism of peacetime border security but also border defence for conflict management. Professional border guarding with strong border infrastructure will greatly help during wartime or conflict, enabling defence forces to have abetter and stronger response in case of any challenge by adversaries.

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