With increasing evidence of trans-border complicity in the deteriorating internal law and order situation, a proactive border sentinel policy becomes imperative.
India has nearly 15,000 km of land border with its neighbours — Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. A travel along the border in Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal by a team of intrepid correspondents of the Hindustan Times during the last fortnight reveals how dangerously porous are the borders.
Though Jammu and Kashmir makes headlines, borders with Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar too are active. At a seminar in New Delhi recently, a senior army officer said that while there may be a drop in infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, influx into other states continues, resulting in increase in terrorism. In the wake of this, there is a feeling in certain quarters that a new Central agency like the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US is required to check trans-border and inter-state crime.
The 1,690 km India-Nepal border appears the most dangerously active, despite the two countries enjoying a special relationship. Trafficking in arms, explosives, drugs, counterfeit, contraband goods and even women is unchecked through the “open” Bihar and Uttar Pradesh borders.
Mushrooming madarassas and increasing Maoist influence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are worrying security agencies. Young Communist League activists have added another dimension to it by claiming some parts of India as disputed territory. And with the Naxalite problem having touched menacing proportions in many parts of the country and fundamentalism being on rise in South Asia, officials warn that ignoring the borders would be dangerous.
On the 605-km Bhutan border, for example, the Indian security forces face the twin problem of containing northeastern militants and the Maoists. The threat from the latter can be imagined from the fact that the area between Nepal and Bhutan is referred to as the “red corridor”.
The Bangladesh border adjoining Meghalaya and Assam is no different. A fence was erected in 1999 but it has either snipped or rusted in many places. The result: smugglers, militants and bandits move across borders without much trouble.
All this when the western front, including the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan, is far from quiet. During the past two years, there is evidence of a reduction in infiltration. This is primarily because of fencing, proactive military stance and continuing ceasefire with Pakistan since 2003.
Security officials and analysts say there is need for a multi-pronged strategy. They point out that on the Nepal border, there is need to put up a fence to check free movement of nefarious elements across the “open” border. They point out that even in the case of US and Canada, which enjoys a special relationship, the US Customs and Border Protection has issued a list of 10 documents of which at least one must be carried by frequent crossers.