Op­ti­mis­ing Tech­nol­ogy for Bor­der Se­cu­rity

As the asym­met­ric war is likely to heighten with the im­plo­sions within Pak­istan and fall­out of post-2014 withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on the re­gion, there is an ur­gent need to up­grade our bor­der se­cu­rity, us­ing the best tech­nol­ogy. Our DRDO an

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

As the asym­met­ric war is likely to heighten with the im­plo­sions within Pak­istan and fall­out of post-2014 withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on the re­gion, there is an ur­gent need to up­grade our bor­der se­cu­rity, us­ing the best tech­nol­ogy.

IN­DIA HAS A LAND bor­der of some 15,072 kilo­me­tres with six coun­tries—5,852 km com­bined with Chi­naNepal-Bhutan, 3,431 km with Pak­istan, 1,452 km with Myan­mar and 4,337 km with Bangladesh. A ma­jor por­tion of the land bor­der is along dif­fi­cult ter­rain and passes through high and very high al­ti­tudes. Then there is a coast­line of 7,863 km that needs to be guarded, in ad­di­tion to an ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone of 102 mil­lion square km with 97 per cent of our trade done by sea. Our un­sta­ble and volatile neigh­bour­hood cou­pled with Pak­istan be­ing the epicentre of global ter­ror­ism and wag­ing a proxy war against In­dia, we have been sub­jected to trans­bor­der ter­ror­ist strikes over past two decades both across the land bor­der and coast­line. Dif­fi­cult ter­rain and hos­tile weather make the task of bor­der se­cu­rity dif­fi­cult. In­fil­tra­tion and il­le­gal im­mi­grants are oc­cur­ring at rapid fre­quency. The land bor­ders are manned by a mix of forces like the Army, Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force, Indo Ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice, As­sam Ri­fles, Sashas­tra Seema Bal, etc—all not op­er­at­ing un­der, the Army or for that mat­ter un­der one Min­istry. Then there is the is­sue of guard­ing the airspace to pre­vent re­cur­rence of in­ci­dents like the clan­des­tine arms drop at Pu­ru­lia. This ar­ti­cle pri­mar­ily ex­am­ines the role of tech­nol­ogy in se­cur­ing our land bor­ders ex­clud­ing the ‘de­signer tech­nol­ogy’ be­ing used by most na­tions at air­ports, ports and of­fi­cial land cross­ings for in­di­vid­u­als and cargo.

Bor­der Fenc­ing

In­dia be­gan fenc­ing 190 kilo­me­tres bor­der with Pak­istan in Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K) dur­ing 2001. In 2001, about 40 kilo­me­tres of fenc­ing was laid and the over­all task as per govern­ment of­fi­cials is likely to be com­pleted in the next two years. How­ever, there have been nu­mer­ous im­ped­i­ments to lay­ing this fence. Work has been stalled many times due to fir­ing by Pak­ista­nis. Pak­istani in­fil­tra­tors have been us­ing im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices (IEDs) to make en­tries for in­fil­tra­tion and clan­des­tinely lay­ing mines to hin­der con­struc­tion. Por­tions of the fenc­ing get de­stroyed in avalanches ev­ery year and need to be laid again. Heavy snows in North Kash­mir dur­ing win­ter also cause ma­jor por­tions of the fence to get buried com­pletely, ren­der­ing it in­ef­fec­tive. In the plains sec­tor, Pak­istan has re­sorted to tun­nel­ing un­der the fence for both pur­poses of in­fil­tra­tion and smug­gling. On the In­dia-Bangladesh front, of the 3,000 kilo­me­tres fenc­ing sanc­tioned, close to 75 per cent of the work has been com­pleted but dis­putes be­tween the two coun­tries have arisen over some 180 sites on the bor­der, where fenc­ing needs to be done up to 150 yards of the zero line. Lay­ing of IEDs or mines along the fence is not fea­si­ble be­cause of agri­cul­ture in many ar­eas per­mit­ted right up to the bor­der, as even lo­cals re­side in close prox­im­ity to the bor­der. Abroad, in no con­flict con­di­tions, fences have ex­ten­sive pro­vi­sion of flood­light­ing. So­lar panels, recharge­able bat­ter­ies and diesel gen­er­a­tors pro­vide the sys­tem with enough power to run off the power grid. Op­er­a­tors can pan and tilt the cam­eras re­motely when­ever any sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity is ob­served. How­ever, such ar­range­ments are not fea­si­ble along an ac­tive bor­der with an en­emy like Pak­istan that re­sorts to un­pro­voked fir­ing re­peat­edly.

Elec­tronic Mon­i­tor­ing

While the age-old trip­wires are very much in use, mod­ern elec­tronic sur­veil­lance in­volves de­tec­tion of move­ment and is largely based on seis­mic, acous­tic, in­duc­tive sen­sors and in­frared sen­sors. Seis­mic sen­sors de­tect vi­bra­tion in the ground and they can dis­tin­guish be­tween peo­ple and ve­hi­cles. In­duc­tive sen­sors de­tect me­tal in an ob­ject that is mov­ing, while an in­frared sen­sor can de­tect hu­man body heat from a dis­tance of up to 100 me­tres. There are many kinds of con­ven­tional sen­sor tech­nolo­gies, each hav­ing its ad­van­tages and disad­van­tages. The unat­tended ground sen­sors (UGS) are mostly im­ported and pri­mar­ily meant for guard­ing houses/premises in the West. Th­ese are in­ef­fec­tive with snow­fall. Un­for­tu­nately, the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) has not been able to come up with one suit­able for snow con­di­tions.


The fenc­ing along the bor­der has been fit­ted with cam­eras and the con­soles are with req­ui­site com­man­ders though lim­i­ta­tions ex­ist dur­ing ad­verse weather and vis­i­bil­ity con­di­tions. This ca­pa­bil­ity is beefed up with night vi­sion de­vices (NVDs), night vi­sion gog­gles (NVGs) and hand-held ther­mal imagers (HHTIs), but th­ese are al­ways in limited sup­ply and not across the board with ev­ery boot on ground. Use of radars as done abroad to de­tect smug­glers as along the US-Mex­ico bor­der, has the dan­ger of giv­ing away the elec­tronic sig­na­tures of the equip­ment to the en­emy. Be­sides, radars also have a dead zone. Sig­nif­i­cantly, elec­tronic sur­veil­lance with bor­der dogs is a very suc­cess­ful mix.

Use of un­armed aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs)/ drones for bor­der sur­veil­lance is be­ing done but is in limited num­bers due to paucity of re­sources and re­stric­tions on fly­ing mul­ti­ple UAVs si­mul­ta­ne­ously in the same area/zone. Ad­di­tion­ally, the in­duc­tion of the bat­tle­field sur­veil­lance sys­tem (BSS) and bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem (BMS) in the In­dian Army are still a few years away and hence, the UAV pic­ture can­not be de­liv­ered di­rectly to the cut­ting-edge sol­dier on ground who can pre­vent the breach or in­tru­sion. The UAV pic­ture goes to the ground con­trol sta­tion and only then the in­for­ma­tion is con­veyed to the cut­tingedge sol­dier, by when its ac­tion­able value may be lost. More im­por­tantly, what has been lack­ing is the de­layed in­duc­tion of the mini-aerial ve­hi­cles (MAVs) that are hand launched and are planned to be in­ducted into the in­fantry.

Dig­i­tal imag­ing tech­nol­ogy, minia­turised com­put­ers and nu­mer­ous other tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances over the past decade have con­trib­uted to rapid ad­vances in aerial sur­veil­lance hard­ware such as mi­cro-aerial ve­hi­cles, for­ward-look­ing in­frared and high-res­o­lu­tion im­agery, ca­pa­ble of iden­ti­fy­ing ob­jects at ex­tremely long dis­tances. For in­stance, the MQ-9 Reaper, a US UAV used for do­mes­tic op­er­a­tions by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, car­ries cam­eras that are ca­pa­ble of iden­ti­fy­ing an ob­ject the size of a milk car­ton from al­ti­tudes of 60,000 feet and has for­ward­look­ing in­frared de­vices that can de­tect the heat from a hu­man body at dis­tances of up to 60 kilo­me­tres. Bri­tain is work­ing on plans to build up a fleet of sur­veil­lance UAVs rang­ing from mi­cro-aerial ve­hi­cles to full-size drones with MAVs ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing tasers for “crowd con­trol”, or weapons for killing en­emy com­bat­ants. The lat­ter ac­tu­ally im­plies weaponised MAVs, which would be in­valu­able against ter­ror­ists in­fil­trat­ing across the bor­ders. The US mil­i­tary is de­vel­op­ing swarms of tiny un­armed drones that can hover, crawl and even kill tar­gets. Th­ese mi­cro UAVs will work in swarms to pro­vide com­plex sur­veil­lance of bor­ders and bat­tle­fields. Be­sides a laser weapon they can also be armed with in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing chem­i­cals, com­bustible pay­loads or even ex­plo­sives for pre­ci­sion tar­get­ing.

If our de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­mains in limbo and we do not take res­o­lute ac­tion, many more in­tru­sions will fol­low and we will lose much more ter­ri­tory

For the same rea­son, China lit­er­ally in­vested Myan­mar and Nepal, claims Dok­lam Plateau in Bhutan and is prac­tis­ing eco­nomic hege­mony in Afghanistan, Cen­tral Asia and Africa, be­sides em­ploy­ing wa­ter as a weapon against In­dia, bla­tantly ig­nor­ing wa­ter shar­ing norms. It is only in 2006 that China con­verted its claim from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to en­tire 90,000 square kilo­me­tres of en­tire state of Arunachal Pradesh. Even eco­nom­i­cally, China has in­vested In­dia akin to the Bri­tish East In­dia Com­pany. Sixty per cent of the bi­lat­eral trade is in China’s favour and it is al­ready ad­versely af­fect­ing the in­dige­nous small-scale in­dus­try.

We may hes­i­tate to ad­mit but the in­tru­sion into DBO is a well en­gi­neered strate­gic move or­ches­trated as part of a mil­i­tary strat­egy jointly by the CCP and the PLA. It should be seen (in con­junc­tion Pak­istan re­port­edly leas­ing out Gil­git-Baltistan to China for 50 years and il­le­gal Chi­nese oc­cu­pa­tion of Shaks­gam Val­ley and Ak­sai Chin) as plac­ing the frame­work for bridg­ing the gap be­tween Gil­git-Baltistan and Ak­sai Chin. It is in this con­text that both for­mer Pak­istan Pres­i­dent Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf and Gen­eral Ash­faq Parvez Kiyani have been push­ing for withdrawal from Si­achen, the ad­verse geostrate­gic im­pli­ca­tions of which should be am­ply clear by now. Both China and Pak­istan are will­fully sup­port­ing and arm- ing in­sur­gen­cies in In­dia, em­ploy­ing cyber at­tacks and ev­ery con­ceiv­able asym­met­ric method to desta­bilise In­dia.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal Chal­lenge

Be­sides the phys­i­cal chal­lenge, the Chi­nese have also thrown a psy­cho­log­i­cal chal­lenge through the DBO in­tru­sion. It is quite log­i­cal that the CCP would have ob­tained a prior as­sess­ment from the Chi­nese Em­bassy in In­dia; and given the state of af­fairs, Zhang Yan, the Chi­nese Ambassador, would have as­sessed that In­dia would per­haps not go be­yond diplo­matic plead­ings and rhetoric, which would suit China. Zhang’s as­sess­ment would prob­a­bly have been based on how we han­dled our smaller neigh­bours. Some re­cent in­ci­dents like Pak­istan’s In­te­rior Min­is­ter Rehman Ma­lik be­ing in­vited against bu­reau­cratic ad­vice and his anti-In­dia ut­ter­ances not be­ing re­sponded to; our For­eign Min­is­ter rush­ing off to Jaipur to host the Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter on a pri­vate visit and the lat­ter head­ing an anti-In­dia res­o­lu­tion in the Pak­istan Par­lia­ment soon af­ter re­turn­ing from In­dia; In­dia’s re­sponse to Pak­istan in gen­eral and in the wake of re­cent be­head­ing of an In­dian sol­dier; in­creased in­fight­ing be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the wake of com­ing elec­tions; avalanche of scams; in­de­ci­sive­ness in the ab­sence of a national se­cu­rity strat­egy and dis­jointed higher de­fence struc­tures; may well have been ex­am­ples for him.

China has thrown the gaunt­let through this deep in­tru­sion to gauge whether In­dia can re­spond be­yond diplo­matic plead­ings at all. It is a psy­cho­log­i­cal chal­lenge. The so-called pre­con­di­tions laid by China for with­draw­ing the DBO in­tru­sion (as be­ing re­ported in the me­dia) is an­other ploy to put In­dia on the de­fen­sive, as th­ese would be un­ac­cept­able. It is amus­ing to see how the Chi­nese build up pres­sure. China which very tightly con­trols so­cial net­work­ing within the coun­try has al­lowed a stream of mes­sages on twit­ter that claim no PLA troop move­ment has taken place, that In­dia has com­pletely fab­ri­cated the DBO in­tru­sion and that In­dia should be ‘taught a les­son’ for this de­meanour. It would not be sur­pris­ing if th­ese mes­sages are be­ing posted by nom­i­nated agents of the CCP.


China’s DBO in­tru­sion will stay, con­sol­i­date and ex­pand if we think that mere re­liance on diplo­macy can wish away the prob­lem. We have failed to con­vey a strong mes­sage even through diplo­macy. The Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter is treat­ing the is­sue as rou­tine and not even post­pon­ing his visit to Bei­jing. Should the In­dian po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship not be held re­spon­si­ble for turn­ing a blind eye to­wards the in­creas­ing Chi­nese in­flu­ence in the bor­der vil­lages of Ladakh and East Sikkim? Is it not a mat­ter of shame that the In­dian Tri­colour flies no more at Dem­chok for fear of the Chi­nese? Shouldn’t the Prime Min­is­ter, For­eign Min­is­ter, De­fence Min­is­ter ex­plain to the na­tion why such a state of af­fairs has been per­mit­ted to evolve de­spite hav­ing a 1.2-mil­lion-strong mil­i­tary? It should be quite clear that this in­tru­sion can­not be re­solved through dia­logue alone. There is no need to phys­i­cally at­tack this in­tru­sion. We need to cre­ate con­di­tions to com­men­su­rately re­spond to this phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal chal­lenge posed by China. China should be clearly told that sit­ting in our ter­ri­tory they have no busi­ness to put for­ward any pre-con­di­tions in the first place. We need to draw lessons from ear­lier Sino-In­dian stand­offs. Even the most in­tense one at Nathu La (1967) did not es­ca­late into war. Then what are we scared of ? There is no need to at­tack and throw the Chi­nese out from DBO—which is giv­ing the jit­ters of es­ca­la­tion to paci­fists. Let a counter chal­lenge be posed to China by es­tab­lish­ing an In­dian Army post be­hind the DBO in­tru- sion in what is our own ter­ri­tory and throw the ball back in their court. Al­ter­na­tively, such a step could also be taken in an­other sec­tor. This should not be mis­con­strued as beat­ing of war drums, as the weak-hearted may.

This is not 1962 and the pol­i­cy­mak­ers must have faith in our mil­i­tary. Surely, the Chi­nese are not gun­ning for con­flict, for if it does es­ca­late, then they have equal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and they will know that at tac­ti­cal lev­els the In­dian Army would well match them. Me­dia re­ports are talk­ing of In­dia hav­ing es­tab­lished a post in front of the DBO in­tru­sion. If true, that can be con­strued by the Chi­nese of hav­ing gained an­other 19-km of In­dian ter­ri­tory. There is ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity that with­out res­o­lute ac­tion by In­dia, the Chi­nese will de­velop a met­alled road link­ing DBO with Ak­sai Chin, de­velop de­fence works, he­li­pads, per­ma­nent shel­ters and plan fur­ther ex­pan­sion. Un­chal­lenged, China may well oc­cupy KK Pass.


The govern­ment should once again se­ri­ously re­view the ex­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence mech­a­nism and make the In­dian Army re­spon­si­ble for com­plete land bor­ders. All se­cu­rity forces in­clud­ing Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force, In­doTi­betan Bor­der Po­lice, Sashas­tra Seema Bal on the bor­ders must be put un­der the op­er­a­tional con­trol of the Army.

Our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers must re­alise that at this point of time the rep­u­ta­tion of the coun­try is at stake as the world is watch­ing. If we are go­ing to let the Chi­nese con­sol­i­date in DBO then pass­ing res­o­lu­tions in the Par­lia­ment af­firm­ing that J&K is an in­te­gral part of In­dia is mean­ing­less. If we dilly-dally, China will con­sol­i­date at DBO. If our de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­mains in limbo and we do not take res­o­lute ac­tion, many more in­tru­sions will fol­low and we will lose much more ter­ri­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.