Man­ag­ing the Land Borders

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 (MAVs), for­ward-look­ing in­frared (IR) and hi

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

IN­DIA HAS A LAND bor­der with six coun­tries over var­ied ter­rain, to­talling about 15,072 km; 5,852 km com­bined with China-Nepal-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 in ad­di­tion to an ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ) of 102 mil­lion sq km. We have an un­sta­ble neigh­bour­hood and Pak­istan as the epi­cen­tre of global ter­ror­ism has sub­jected In­dia to cross-bor­der ter­ror­ist strikes over the past two decades both across the land bor­der and coast­line. Dif­fi­cult ter­rain and hos­tile weather make bor­der se­cu­rity dif­fi­cult. In­fil­tra­tion and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion oc­cur at rapid fre­quency. The land borders are manned by a mix of forces like the Army, Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force (BSF), Indo-Ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice (ITBP), As­sam Ri­fles (AR), Sashas­tra Seema Bal (SSB), etc—all not op­er­at­ing un­der the Army or for that mat­ter un­der the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD). The coast­line and EEZ are guarded by the Navy and Coast Guards. Then there is the is­sue of guard­ing the airspace to pre­vent re­cur­rence of in­ci­dents like the clan­des­tine arms drop at Pu­ru­lia.

In­dia be­gan fenc­ing the 190-km bor­der with Pak­istan in Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K) dur­ing 2001. In 2001, some 40-km of fenc­ing was laid and the over­all task as per govern­ment of­fi­cials is likely to be com­pleted over the next two years. How­ever, there are many im­ped­i­ments be­cause of fir­ing by Pak­ista­nis and in­fil­tra­tors us­ing im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices (IEDs) to make en­tries for in­fil­tra­tion and clan­des­tinely lay­ing mines to hin­der con­struc­tion. Por­tions of the fence gets an­nu­ally de­stroyed in avalanches, re­quir­ing re­lay­ing. 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 tun­nelling un­der the fence for both pur­poses of in­fil­tra­tion and smug­gling. On the In­di­aBangladesh front, of the 3,000-km 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 cul­ti­va­tion in many ar­eas per­mit­ted right up to the bor­der and lo­cals re­sid­ing in close prox­im­ity to the bor­der.

In for­eign coun­tries, bor­der 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. While the ageold 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 on 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.

In In­dia, the unat­tended ground sen­sors (UGS) are mostly im­ported but be­ing pri­mar­ily meant for guard­ing houses/premises, are ren­dered in­ef­fec­tive with snow­fall. Un­for­tu­nately, we have in­dige­nously 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 do ex­ist. 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 suc­cess­ful mix. Use of UAVs for bor­der sur­veil­lance is be­ing done but 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 the ground that can pre­vent the breach or in­tru­sion. The UAV pic­ture goes to the ground con­trol sta­tion and only then the in­for­ma­tion is con­veyed to the cut­ting edge 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 (MAVs), for­ward-look­ing in­frared (IR) and high-res­o­lu­tion im­agery ca­pa­ble of iden­ti­fy­ing ob­jects at ex­tremely long dis­tances. Amer­ica’s MQ-9 Reaper UAV used for do­mes­tic op­er­a­tions, car­ries cam­eras that are ca­pa­ble of iden­ti­fy­ing an ob­ject the size of a milk car­ton from al­ti­tudes of 60,000 feet, and has for­ward-look­ing IR that can de­tect the heat from a hu­man body at dis­tances of up to 60 km. Bri­tain is work­ing on plans to build a fleet of sur­veil­lance UAVs rang­ing from MAVs to UAVs ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing tasers for crowd con­trol or weapons for killing en­emy com­bat­ants, lat­ter im­ply­ing a weaponised drone in­valu­able against ter­ror­ists in­fil­trat­ing across 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

In In­dia, the unat­tended ground sen­sors (UGS) are mostly im­ported but be­ing pri­mar­ily meant for guard­ing houses/ premises, are ren­dered in­ef­fec­tive with snow­fall. Un­for­tu­nately, we have in­dige­nously not been able to come up with one suit­able for snow con­di­tions.

com­plex sur­veil­lance of borders and bat­tle­fields. Aside from a laser weapon they can also be armed with in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing chem­i­cals, com­bustible pay­loads or even ex­plo­sives for pre­ci­sion tar­get­ing.

While our De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) is also de­vel­op­ing UAVs and MAVs and has pro­duced the ‘Raz­zler Dazzler’ for crowd con­trol, it would be use­ful to mate ‘Raz­zler Dazzler’/ laser weapon with the MAV ab ini­tio rather than look­ing into this as­pect af­ter a few years later. In­ter­est­ingly, there is a whole range of mi­cro mini-UAVs avail­able off-theshelf that can tremen­dously boost sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties at the cut­ting edge. For ex­am­ple, the lighter than air sur­veil­lance (LTAS) sys­tems have al­most un­lim­ited flight time, can carry up to 200 pounds (plenty for a point-and-click SLR cam­era or full-size high-def­i­ni­tion video cam­era) and can reach up to 2,500 feet in the air. Then there are a range of fixed-wing and ro­tary­wing MAVs that are also avail­able in the world mar­ket. For ef­fec­tive coastal sur­veil­lance, the coast­line nec­es­sar­ily must have a no gap radar and elec­tronic sur­veil­lance, satel­lite cover and also own ves­sels, Navy, Coast Guard and civil­ian must be fit­ted with ra­dio fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (RFID) and geo-lo­ca­tion de­vices, RFID be­ing the wire­less non-con­tact use of ra­dio-fre­quency elec­tro­mag­netic fields to trans­fer data, for the pur­poses of au­to­mat­i­cally iden­ti­fy­ing and track­ing tags at­tached to ob­jects.

In ad­di­tion comes the aerial sur­veil­lance cover com­bined with sea pa­trolling. The re­quire­ment re­ally is not only to op­ti­mise tech­nol­ogy but more sig­nif­i­cantly co­or­di­nat­ing and match­ing the tech­nol­ogy with the hu­man re­sources de­ployed at the bor­der. It goes without say­ing that con­sid­er­ing the ex­panse of our borders, it is un­doubt­edly an ex­pen­sive af­fair. Large de­fence firms are ready to pro­vide the ‘vir­tual fence’ that ap­plies soft­ware struc­tures to the se­cu­rity sys­tem but at an ex­or­bi­tant price. In our case, a holis­tic assess­ment of what tech­nol­ogy should be ap­plied where and in what mea­sure must be weighed vis-à-vis na­tional se­cu­rity re­quire­ments. It would be pru­dent to fo­cus on: early in­duc­tion of the BSS and BMS to en­able pro­vi­sion of real-time in­for­ma­tion at the cut­ting edge; field­ing of MAVs and mi­cro mini UAVs with the in­fantry; mat­ing indige­nous MAVs un­der de­vel­op­ment with the ‘Raz­zler Dazzler’/laser weapon, pro­gress­ing to a weaponised MAV; de­velop/pro­vi­sion ap­pro­pri­ate UGS for snow con­di­tions; re­view scal­ing of night vi­sion de­vices (NVDs), night vi­sion googles (NVGs) and hand-held ther­mal im­agers (HHTIs) should be re­viewed. Faced with in­fil­tra­tion, cross bor­der ter­ror­ism and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion since the past sev­eral years, pro­tect­ing our borders is a vi­tal re­quire­ment for our na­tional se­cu­rity. As the asym­met­ric war is likely to heighten with the im­plo­sions within Pak­istan and fall­out of post-2014 with­drawal of the US troops from Afghanistan on the re­gion, there is an ur­gent need to up­grade our bor­der se­cu­rity, us­ing the best tech­nol­ogy. Our DRDO and pri­vate in­dus­try should fo­cus on this as­pect. The pol­icy-mak­ers need to re­view this crit­i­cal re­quire­ment holis­ti­cally.

NAL Golden Hawk 450 MAV

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