~ By N. N. Vohra
For too long now there has been a general sense or general understanding amongst the people of India that the security management is the business of the central government or more particularly the Ministries of Defence and Home. But smart border management is not possible unless the whole country is involved in security management. Border is one segment of security management. If the people at large have no sense of security, no regard for security and no notion of what their responsibilities are in terms of security management, our borders cannot be protected. We often use the words unity and integrity of the country and often we do not realise what it means exactly. If we set the connotation that the citizens of India have the enormous responsibility of contributing to the preservation of unity and integrity of India in protection of its territorial integrity, there is a lot than can be done in terms of redefining mindsets. And that is what is needed to secure smart border management. Looking at various perspectives, best practices and on-ground experience, we can state that effective border management is not possible unless the whole country is involved in security management.
We have nearly 23,000 kilometres of land and sea borders. We have on our maritime borders nine little states, two union territories, what I may add to this is we have almost 1200 islands and seven million square kilometres of exclusive economic zones which also need to be guarded just beyond our coastline. We don’t discuss our aerial borders; they are managed by the air force.
By the end of the Second World War, the general belief was that the world would be a peaceful place to live in. The founding fathers of our Constitution did not fathom the extent of aggression and competitiveness that would emerge in all its geo-political implications with respect to border limits. Therefore, the Constitutional ambit of securing the nation and our borders were defined, and rest with specific institutions.
The Constitution stipulates that the defence of India, and all parts thereof, shall be the responsibility of Union or the Government of India. The constitution also enjoins that the Union shall protect the States against war and external aggression. A further provision in the Constitution mentions that the Union should protect the States against internal disturbances.
It is not enough to guard just the border but also the hinterland. If the hinterland is disturbed, guarding the border becomes a far more difficult proposition then it otherwise would be. The Constitution lays down that the States of the Union shall raise, train and maintain an adequate, effective, professional, civil and police service to maintain law and order across the length and breadth of the country.
After the Chinese war, the Parliament decided to set up the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, particularly for guarding of the Himalayan borders. After the 1965 war, the Parliament decided to set up a special force called the Border Security Force for guarding the western frontiers. At the borders, there is a mixture of forces deployed. In the north-east we have a large scatter of the Assam Rifles, one of the oldest security forces in the country, set up at the time of the British. We have the ITBP and the BSF. We have the Seema Suraksha Bal. At moments of heightened problems, other forces are also used to do border guarding. In terms of the Constitution and administrative arrangements, Army is the final guardian of the frontiers supported by the ITBP, BSF and such other forces. Coastal borders had so far been neglected.
In 1993 I happened to be in the home department. Earlier when we quickly reviewed what happened in Bombay, how did three tons or more of RDX get transported, got landed on the western coast, off loaded and then loaded into vehicles, brought all the way to the Maharashtra capital Bombay, who did it with whose assistance, with whose involvements did all this happen? We found out that we did not have on the coastline, leave aside the maritime police, any kind of force to even see how many fishermen in their boats went out in the sea, when did they go out, how many of them came back or didn’t come back, how many got lost or drowned, what other boats were coming and landing on the coast etc. So despite the intelligence coming out with the information that three tons of RDX or more had been brought by boats from Pakistan coast, we could not do much about it. Since then, the maritime police, state maritime police became our focus.
Having worked along the borders for many years in my earlier career, I can share that it is significantly important to see that the people living around the borders and behind the borders are taken care of. If we have a satisfied border community that contributes positively to the work or border force or border management, it goes very long way in extending strong support to the army and BSF in terms of supply of information and logistical support.
During the 1965 war, we did not have a very large army or developed infrastructure. We did not have enough vehicles or enough budget for defence. Hundreds of civilian trucks loaded their goods on the grand trunk road. Ordinary people carried ordnance material to the frontier. Vegetables, fruits were loaded with ammunition consignments. The kindness and support which came from the border communities could not be ignored.
In Jammu and Kashmir, infiltrations are attempted throughout the year across the high, snow mountains, the plains, river beds and drains. Therefore, if the frontline force does not succeed because of the mountain, terrain and geography in apprehending anybody who seeks to come in, highly trained militants and terrorists penetrate the hinterland. It becomes the responsibility of everybody physically present in that area, sector, subsector to offer great amount of coordination and collective effort in order to secure the borders.
Borders need much larger investments, allocations and attention. From 2012 onwards we had four successful attacks from Pakistan into our territories. We have deficiencies along the borders. We need a national security policy which details on security management. We need enormous involvement and cohesive coordinated functioning between the centre and the states on national security management.
(This article is the gist of the speech delivered by Mr N. N. Vohra, Hon’ble Governor of Jammu and Kashmir at the Conference on ‘Home Land Security 2016 – Smart Border Management’ on 6th September, 2016.)