Smart Border Management Conference 2017

The 2nd edition of the conference on ‘Smart Border Management’ was organised by India Foundation in partnership with FICCI at the FICCI auditorium on 18-19 September 2017. The conference brought various stakeholders together on a common platform to address the fundamental challenge of border management: How to enhance trans-border movement of peoples, goods and ideas while simultaneously restricting all forms of illegal activities across the borders?

Mr. Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Government of India, in his inaugural address underlined the need for enhanced coordination and collaboration among diverse government agencies and stakeholders besides adoption of technology and change in the mindset for stepping up India’s border management system. With respect to mindsets, the Minister said that other countries encourage civilian settlements in border areas and promote trade and commerce there. These areas are well connected by surface communication means and have all amenities as available in the hinterland. India, on the other hand has isolated its border areas and restricted civilian movement and commerce. He said it was imperative to develop our border areas and promote commercial activity in all such areas.

Mr. Rijiju said that the engagement of multiple agencies in border management was resulting in delay of implementation of policies and adoption of technology. He cited an example where the tedious tender process and other formalities caused unwarranted delay in installing a full body scanner and emphasised the need to address such issues immediately. He said that the government is working towards improving security and infrastructure in border areas and along the coast and that national security cannot be compromised at any cost. Towards this, the government is working towards strengthening marine police to secure India’s long coastal borders. He added that to make India’s border management system robust, secure and well-guarded, it was essential to have seamless coordination between policy makers and defence and security agencies.

Mr. Rijiju informed the audience that for sealing the India-Pakistan border, a smart technology aided fence will be in position by December 2018. He also highlighted the fact that India believes that borders were not for dividing people but for bringing them together and engaging in trade and commercial activities for bringing prosperity.

On the occasion, the Minister released the FICCI-PwC Report ‘Smart Border Management - Indian Coastal & Maritime Security’.

Dr. Subhash Bhamre, Minister of State for Defence, Government of India, said that varying challenges were posed by each border state in India. The major challenges in border security were cross-border terrorism, insurgency, infiltration, narcotics, separatists’ movement and smuggling. There was a need for coordinated and concerted efforts to strengthen policing and guarding of border areas while developing infrastructure. He added that power of technology was needed to be leveraged for effective border management system.

Speaking about Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS), which has been deployed by the Government of India on a pilot basis on select terrains to boost India’s security systems, Mr. K. K. Sharma, Director General, Border Security Force (BSF), said that the main components of the system were virtual fencing, command and control system, response mechanism, power backup, maintenance and training. He added that with the adoption of CIBMS, India was looking at moving towards network-centric surveillance from human-centric to counter the limitations of human resource. He added that adoption of advanced technology and reduced human resource intervention was needed to strengthen India’s defence systems.

Mr.Rajan Luthra, Co-Chair, FICCI Committee on Homeland Security & Head, Special Projects, Chairman’s Office, Reliance Industries Ltd., said that smart borders on one hand should allow seamless movement of authorised people and goods, while on the other, minimise cross border security challenges using innovation and technology enablement. Adoption of advanced technologies for border control and surveillance, and the development of integrated systems for capture and exchange of data will facilitate enhanced effectiveness of the operational agencies with enhanced security. He added that over the long term, smart border management will also have to incorporate systems that digitally monitor patterns of activity through and around
border areas to root out organised crime and anti-national events.

In his theme presentation, Mr.Dhiraj Mathur, Partner & Leader, Aerospace and Defence, PwC India, said that the FICCI-PwC report elucidates the present status of various programmes that have been undertaken by the government, both in the hinterland and in coastal states. It highlights the efforts required for enhancing costal and maritime security with support from industry, especially on the technology, infrastructure and capacity building fronts, and for building an integrated and collaborative coastal and maritime security management framework.

In his special address on ‘Countering Transnational Organised Crime through Effective Border Management,’ Mr. Sergey Kapinos, Representative - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for South Asia, said that UNODC is formulating an action plan for 2018 - 21 which will spell out the threat assessment of transnational organised crime in South Asia. The details of the plan will be shared with countries of the region to enable them to take effective and timely measures for putting in place an integrated border management system.

Transnational organised crime manifests in many forms, including trafficking in drugs, firearms and even persons. At the same time, organised crime groups exploit human mobility to smuggle migrants and undermine financial systems through money laundering. The vast sums of money involved can compromise legitimate economies and directly impact public processes by ‘buying’ elections through corruption. It yields high profits for its culprits and results in high risks for individuals who fall victim to it. Every year, countless individuals lose their lives at the hand of criminals involved in organised crime, succumbing to drug-related health problems or injuries inflicted by firearms, or losing their lives as a result of the unscrupulous methods and motives of human traffickers and smugglers of migrants.

Mr.Kapinos said integrated border management needs to be developed as an integral part of the overall national security system in close coordination with neighbouring countries as improving security unilaterally will amount to nothing if not implemented in cooperation with border States. Organised crime has diversified, gone global and reached macro - economic proportions: illicit goods may be sourced from one continent, trafficked across another, and marketed in a third. Transnational organised crime can permeate government agencies and institutions, fuelling corruption, infiltrating business and politics, and hindering economic and social development. And it is undermining governance and democracy by empowering those who operate outside the law.

Mr. Ram Madhav, National General Secretary, Bharatiya Janta Party, while addressing the valedictory session of the conference said that the Government is working towards upgrading the capabilities of security agencies and developing physical infrastructure along with adopting technology for effective management of Indian borders. He said that several border posts of India were still not accessible for maintaining a vigil on the border, but in the next three to four years, the government was committed to connect each border post with a motorable road. Emphasising the importance of having good diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries to combat cross-border terrorism, Mr. Madhav said that recent example was the diffusing of Doklam situation where India was able to secure its interests without resorting to armed conflict. On the Rohingya issue, Mr. Madhav said that India was dealing with the situation from both the security and humanitarian angle.

Mr. Madhav urged FICCI and India Foundation to assist the government in strengthening relations with neighbouring countries by engaging with them on the economic front. He pointed out that it was expected that by 2025, the Indian Ocean Region would emerge as a strong economic power offering immense opportunities to the private sector. However, this would give rise to security concerns. To address such issues, India was upgrading its naval capabilities.

Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Secretary General, FICCI, said that FICCI had been engaging with ASEAN and BIMSTEC and other neighbouring regions of India and would continue to strengthen ties with them. While the government is building and maintaining progressive diplomatic relations, the private sector was doing its bits to assist the government in this regard.

Maj. Gen Dhruv C. Katoch, Director, India Foundation, said that the two day conference had productive deliberations. The actionable points and outcome would be documented and presented to respective ministries and agencies for consideration and implementation.

(This article is carried in the print edition of November-December 2017 issue of India Foundation Journal.)

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