The recent attack on a BSF convoy by Pakistani infiltrators near Udhampur, the storming of a Gurdaspur police station by gunmen, and last September’s tense border standoff in Ladakh’s Chumar sector are among a string of incidents that serve as a stark reminder of lurking border security dangers.
The army is bracing itself for a likely upward spiral in infiltration attempts on the volatile Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of a brutal winter. Guarding a meandering border stretching across punishing geography strings together a maze of risks and challenges that India’s security forces have to confront day in and day out.
Securing the country’s disputed and porous borders is no easy task. The length of India’s land and maritime borders is more than 22,600 km, covering craggy mountains, uninhabitable barren lands, swirling rivers and treacherous jungles.
Nowhere are the threats more evident than along the LoC and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — India’s de facto borders with Pakistan and China, respectively.
It is at these volatile frontiers where unfolding developments test the preparedness of the security forces at short intervals.
A vicious cycle of infiltration and ceasefire violations on the 740-km-long LoC and incursions along the undemarcated LAC in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh have made these borders a top priority for the forces defending them.
During the two-week Chumar standoff in September 2014, Indian soldiers held their own against Chinese troops at Pt 4991, the control of which allows a firm hold over 480 sq km of disputed border area. Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a bitter three-week standoff in Ladakh’s Depsang area in April 2013 too.
India and China have held 18 rounds of talks on the boundary issue, a perennial irritant in bilateral relations.
A security fence that runs 590 km along the LoC in J&K has met with limited success in keeping infiltrators out, prompting the army to replace it with a new all-weather barrier. Indian troops guarding the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in the Siachen area are pitted against nature’s fury. A ceasefire holds along this frozen conflict zone.
Porous borders with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan have left India vulnerable to an array of threats — gunrunning, narcotics trade, counterfeit currency and influx of illegal immigrants. Insurgent networks are taking advantage of the porous borders to stir up trouble in the Northeast, with their cadres repeatedly attacking security forces and slipping away to safety.
The insurgents who attacked an army convoy in Manipur’s Chandel district on June 4 and killed 18 soldiers were able to easily escape to Myanmar, a striking example of how flaws in border management dangerously undermine the country’s security.
Threats emanating from the seas are bigger than ever before and lend urgency to the need to secure a sprawling 7,516-km coastline, with the mainland accounting for 5,422 km, Andaman and Nicobar Islands 1,962 km, and the Lakshadweep coast measuring 132 km.
The 26/11 Mumbai attacks and the explosives-laden Pakistani terror boat that blew itself up near the Gujarat border on January 1, 2015, are a worrisome manifestation of risks India faces and its vulnerability to maritime terror.
Growing presence of floating armouries, laden with unauthorised weapons and ammunition, close to India’s shores could jeopardise security, including possible infiltration by terrorists.
A headache for security agencies, these unregulated armouries provide armed guards to vessels passing through pirate-infested waters.