Why India needs a single agency to guard its borders
- For the last few years, along with usurping its neighbours’ territories, starting with Doklam and followed by the Galwan crisis, China has escalated armed activities resulting in enhanced cross-border infiltration and armed intrusions.
- Similarly, the continued Pakistan-backed infiltration of terrorists poses fresh challenges to India.
- Two recent developments initiated by China have made our borders more vulnerable.
- China’s Land Border Law (LBL) will enhance Beijing’s aggressive posture and is aimed at resolving border disputes on its terms.
- Equally alarming is the move to build 628 “Xiaokang model border defence villages” along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is conceived as a tactic to consolidate Chinese claims over disputed areas and garner local support.
- Additionally, these villages are capable of acting as forward assembly and administrative areas during hostilities.
India’s Land and Coastal Border
- India shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, which stretch approximately 15,106 km.
- In addition, we have an approximately 3,323 km-long LoC with Pakistan, which further extends to the rechristened 110 km stretch of “Actual Ground Position Line” (AGPL) dividing the Siachen glacier region.
- Further east, we have the 3,488 km LAC with China.
- India shares maritime boundaries with Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Indonesia.
- India have a 7,683 km coastline and an approximately 2 million sq km exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Issues in managing Border
- The vastness and complexities in India’s long borders makes India’s task more complex than most other countries.
- This complexity is accentuated by the fact that along with the army, we have multiple other security agencies — the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) and the Paramilitary Forces (PMF) — sharing the responsibility.
- While the army is deployed along the LoC and AGPL, the Border Security Force (BSF) looks after the international border with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- Guarding the LAC has been assigned to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Assam Rifles.
- The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is responsible for guarding the borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
- The Assam Rifles looks after our border with Myanmar.
- In a nutshell, in addition to the army, we have four agencies guarding borders with six neighbours.
- Conversely, maritime borders are guarded by a single agency — the Coast Guard.
- Most countries have raised specialised and dedicated armed bodies for border security.
- Most of these countries, based on threat perception and for better combat cohesion, have placed these organisations under the command of the armed forces.
- In India, we have unwieldy arrangements.
- As a result, there is a lack of a coherent policy on training, planning and the conduct of guarding operations among various outfits. Overall coordination is also affected.
Why there is need for a single Border agency?
- Absence of co-ordination among various agencies
- Lack of technological resources
- Difficulties of co-ordination between states and the centre
- Lack of mobile teams
- Sparse use of cyber technologies
- Absence of co-operation with neighbouring states
- The proposed outfit, let’s call it the National Border Guard, (NBG), should have the explicit mandate to effectively retaliate against cross-border transgressions and stabilise the situation till the operations are taken over by the armed forces.
- To ensure the desired training and operational standards, the NBG should be designated as a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Defence and operate under the army.
- Finally, a collateral spin-off — an opportunity to prune the bulky CAPF into a cohesive, lean and efficient force.
- The ITBP and the SSB should be fully merged into the new outfit; the BSF and CRPF still have important internal security duties and can be partially merged.
- The reorganised Assam Rifles too should retain its role of conducting counter-insurgency operations and act as a reserve for the army for conventional operations.