Conference on Smart Border Management 2018

For ages, larger stretch of Indian land was known to be safeguarded by natural barriers like sea & mountains, and threats from neighbouring countries were more conventional and therefore predictable. In last two decades, geopolitical environment of the world has taken a major shift and emerging economies like India have started facing new set of challenges from across borders and near border areas within its own territories which is often induced by external forces. Border guarding forces have been facing increased pressure of safeguarding Indian land & nullifying potential threats in addition to ensuring safe & smooth trade, movement of individuals, development of border areas, welfare of border communities etc.

Meeting these diversified expectations demands decision making based on massive amount of information coming in all possible natures, formats and from various sources. Artificial intelligence coupled with Big data analysis act as the critical differentiator by enabling border agencies to make every interaction simple and smart. Machine learning techniques help border guarding forces and CAPFs to train robots & unmanned systems for enhancing their capability of taking appropriate decisions in varied situations for their deployment in the remotest areas, difficult terrains, areas with harsh climatic conditions and threat prone/ Naxalite-affected parts of the country.

FICCI & India Foundation jointly organised third edition of ‘Smart Border Management’ with an objective to explore possible ways to address contemporary border management issues with help of new age solutions. The two-day conference was organised on September 17-18, 2018 at FICCI, New Delhi.

The programme was inaugurated by General V. K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, Govt. of India who underlined the need for user-oriented technological solutions for securing the country’s borders. Close interface of the manufacturers of border surveillance systems with the users was critical to enable border security forces to identify, delay and disrupt infiltration, he added.

Gen. Singh said that in view of the uniqueness of India’s borders in terms of the variety of terrain and climatic differences, it was imperative to have in place systems that required minimal maintenance and were easy to handle. In addition, technology should have reliable and robust alarm systems to reduce the response time for counter-measures, he emphasised. In this context, he suggested that user core groups need to be constituted to interact with manufacturers of border management technological systems to build customised solutions.

FICCI has been advocating for the implementation of technology and solutions for Smart Border Management and it is noteworthy that the Smart Border Management conference coincided with the launch of two pilot projects in Jammu by Mr. Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister, Govt. of India under the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management Solution (CIBMS). Each project covers 5.5 kms-border stretches. The two stretches along the international border in Jammu will have a first-of-a-kind, high-tech surveillance system that will create an invisible electronic barrier on land, water, air and even underground, helping the BSF to detect and foil infiltration bids in the most difficult of terrains. Necessity of appropriate technological solutions and strategies were extensively discussed at FICCI platform at the previous editions of Border Management programmes.

Chief Guest for the Valedictory session Mr. Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party said that Industry must adopt ‘Ocean-centric’ approach, tap cross-border opportunities in less security-breach prone areas. He urged the business community to leverage the myriad cross-border opportunities that were available in areas where security was not a major issue.

In his valedictory address Mr. Madhav said that the Indian Ocean region was a 2 billion-strong market and advised businesses to look at North-East India not just as a gateway to trading with the country’s eastern neighbours but to make the region as a manufacturing hub for doing business with the littoral states. He said that people living on the borders were important security agents and called for their inclusion in any strategy to secure the country from infiltration. They have to be provided with electricity, roads, means of communication and this aspect has to be integrated in overall border management, he added.

Inaugural ceremony of the programme also witnessed release of FICCI-BDO Report on ‘Smart Border Management’. A report on smart border management prepared by FICCI-BDO was released during the inaugural session. The report noted that the vast amount of data collected by security forces could be made more insightful through the use of big-data analytics. This could be used for logistics, manpower, intelligence, and a host of other critical security concerns. Seamless integration of strategic intelligence with operational and tactical Intelligence across defence services and other agencies is needed and this can be made feasible using Big Data analytics.

Agencies need a data integration layer, that can connect all the disparate databases residing across the agency, department or other central, state and local government entities - a single layer that can link a comprehensive set of data from multiple data sources into a single dashboard in real time. In other words, to successfully analyse vast amounts of granular data, this data infrastructure must be able to: process large volumes of data quickly; handle the huge variety of structured and unstructured data and manage the velocity of data, which is increasing rapidly.

The report suggests possible applications for big data and predictive analysis in areas such as:

  1. a) Signal Intelligence, cyber intelligence and intelligence from social media platforms can be integrated with operational and tactical platforms/sensors thus providing actionable intelligence to troops on ground and value inputs to decision makers to timely deploy resources and take corrective actions.
  2. b) Better management of land borders and maritime security can be achieved by having terrain/traffic/asset analytical layer on digital/raster maps. This can act as a useful tool in formulating plans.
  3. c) Analytics can revolutionise the supply chain management system by creating diagnostic tools for fleet / equipment management, ammunition management (manufacturing - storage - replenishment) and inventory management.
  4. d) Cognitive analytics with behaviour prediction is an essential tool for the decision makers in the defence forces.

The report provides use cases of big data and predictive analytics and the way forward for smart border management covering areas of coastal security management, land border security management, enhancing communication and surveillance systems for mobilising forces, customs administration and management. It highlights the areas of intervention and key challenges faced and possible solutions along with expected outcomes and potential benefits.

Cdr. Gautam Nanda, Associate Partner, BDO India, said that big data technology and services provided the decision-makers with powerful information. The market for such technology and services was estimated to grow at a CAGR of 22% from 2015 to 2020 and reach $58.9 billion in 2020.

Mr. Rahul Chaudhry, Chair, FICCI Homeland Security Committee, stressed the need for looking at technology of today and the future needs in order to meet the country’s requirements. Border management, he said, was multi-dimensional and highlighted the critical role of big data and predictive analytics in tackling border infiltration.

Major General Dhruv C. Katoch, Director, India Foundation, underscored the importance of taking on board the concerns of those living in and around the borders and suggested that sarpanches of border villages should be co-opted as members of border management groups.

Mr. Sandip Somany, President-Elect, FICCI, said that there was tremendous scope for big data and predictive analytics for coastal security management. He suggested the need to explore data-driven intelligent systems to harness R&D potential at public-funded R&D labs and transfer of technology with industry partners. Innovation and technology infrastructure could be utilised to enhance border management services such as predicting immigrants’ risk profiles through data analysis for immigration fraud control, automation and robotic cargo handling.

He stressed the need for enhancing communication and surveillance systems at border areas. Better technologies and means must be employed to encrypt data during communication from command centre to border posts and vice versa. Industry, he said, would be happy to partner with the government in exploring possible solutions to address these challenges.

Six plenary sessions on different aspects of border management were organised during the stretch of two days. In addition to the technical deliberations, a unique session, “Significance &Aspirations of Public Participation in Border Security” was organised to understand perspective of people living near border who could serve as a force multiplier in border management.

Session on “Significance & Aspirations of
Public Participation in Border Security”

The session was Chaired by Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Director, India Foundation and Lt. Gen. Shokin Chauhan, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, Chairman, Ceasefire Monitoring Group delivered a Special Address in the session. Sarpanches (majority of them were women) from key border areas like Falkawan, Mizoram (Indo-Myanmar & Indo-Bangladesh Border), Doklam, Sikkim (Indo-China & Indo-Bhutan Border), Bhachau, Gujarat (Indo-Pakistan Border), Khatan, Rajasthan (Indo-Pakistan Border), Manipur (Indo-Myanmar Border), and Bhuj, Gujarat (Indo-Pakistan Border) participated in the session, shared their perspectives and placed their concerns on record.

Another important session, “Interactive Session with Senior Officials of Border Defence & Border Guarding Forces” was Chaired by Maj. Gen. Dhruv C. Katoch, SM, VSM, Director, India Foundation. Heads of border guarding forces, Lt. Gen. Shokin Chauhan, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, Chairman, Ceasefire Monitoring Group; Lt. Gen. Sukhdeep Sangwan, SM, Director General, Assam Rifles; Mr. R.K. Pachnanda, IPS, Director General, Indo-Tibetan Border Police; and Dr. N. C. Asthana, IPS, Additional Director General, Border Security Force had a discussion on diversified challenges faced by forces on difference border areas and how India as one nation could manage to establish a sync among difference kind of technologies and equipment to satisfy varied border requirements.

Threats and challenges pertaining to Indian coasts were discussed during session, “Surveillance of Indian Coast – Way Ahead” which was Chaired by Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, PVSM, AVSM, NM & Bar. Special Address was delivered by Lt. Gen. A. K. Singh, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, Former C-in-C Southern Command and Former Lt. Governor, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Distinguished Panellists of the session include DIG, Kailash Negi, Principal Director (Ops.), Indian Coast Guard; Cmdre. Anil Jai Singh, Vice President, Indian Maritime Foundation and Cmde. Abhay Singh, Research Fellow, Military Affairs Centre, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

Three technology-focused sessions were organised at SBM 2018. Advancements in technology and solutions for perimeter security for land and coastal borders were discussed in session “Technologies & Solutions for Perimeter Security”, Chaired by Lt. Gen. S. A. Hasnain, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM & Bar, Former General Officer Commanding 15 Corps.

Session, “Application of ‘Unmanned Systems’ for Border Security and Intelligence Gathering” was aimed at understanding the problems posed by various types of borders and to delineate realistic unmanned systems to tackle such specific problems; and was Chaired by Mr. M. V. K. V. Prasad, Director, Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), DRDO, Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India.

Session on “Big Data and Predictive Analytics for Smart Border Security”was Chaired by Lt. Gen. Davinder Kumar, PVSM, VSM Bar, ADC, Distinguished Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation & Former Signal Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Indian Army. The session was aimed at highlighting advancements in technology and solutions for predictive analytics for strengthening border security and finding solutions for the challenges faced by the Border Guarding Forces.

SBM 2018 witnessed participation of over 400 delegates including experts from Government, Border Guarding Forces, Indian Defence Forces, State Police, Industry, Think Tanks as well as Border Communities.

 (This Report is carried in the print edition of November-December 2018 issue of India Foundation Journal.)

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