[Editorial] Need for a National Border Guard

National Border Guard

What the editorial is about?

The need for a single security agency to guard Indian borders.

Context:

For the last few years, along with usurping its neighbours’ territories, starting with Doklam and followed by the Galwan crisis, China has escalated armed activities resulting in enhanced cross-border infiltration and armed intrusions. Similarly, the continued Pakistan-backed infiltration of terrorists poses fresh challenges to India.

Most probable and repeated topics of upsc prelims

What makes the Indian border more vulnerable?

Two recent developments initiated by China have made our borders more vulnerable which include

  • China’s Land Border Law (LBL) will enhance Beijing’s aggressive posture and is aimed at resolving border disputes on its terms.
  • Equally alarming is the move to build 628 “Xiaokang model border defence villages” along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is conceived as a tactic to consolidate Chinese claims over disputed areas and garner local support.
  • Additionally, these villages are capable of acting as forwarding assembly and administrative areas during hostilities. Two villages have already come up in the disputed area across Arunachal Pradesh.

These developments warrant a comprehensive review of border management to ensure the all-weather security of our borders.

India’s border management task is more complex than most other countries because

  • India shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, which stretch approximately 15,106 km.
  • In addition, India has an approximately 3,323 km-long LoC with Pakistan, which further extends to the rechristened 110 km stretch of “Actual Ground Position Line” (AGPL) dividing the Siachen glacier region.
  • Further east, India has a 3,488 km LAC with China.
  • India shares maritime boundaries with Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Indonesia; we have a 7,683 km coastline and an approximately 2 million sq. km exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Indian borders

Multiple agencies securing borders

  • Complexity is accentuated by the fact that along with the army, India has multiple other security agencies — the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) and the Paramilitary Forces (PMF) — sharing the responsibility.
  • While the army is deployed along the LoC and AGPL, the Border Security Force (BSF) looks after the international border with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Guarding the LAC has been assigned to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Assam Rifles.
  • The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is responsible for guarding the borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
  • The Assam Rifles looks after our border with Myanmar.
  • In a nutshell, in addition to the army, India has four agencies guarding borders with six neighbours. Conversely, maritime borders are guarded by a single agency — the Coast Guard.

security forces of Indian borders

border security forces of india

The need for a review of border management

  • Lack of a coherent policy on training, planning and the conduct of guarding operations among various outfits.
  • Overall coordination is often missing.
  • Indian adversary on the western border has often escalated violations by resorting to the prolonged use of military resources.
  • Chinese provocations along the LAC are military operations. Clearly, the peace-time scenario is now by and large militarised.

Border Forces in other countries

  • Most countries have raised specialised and dedicated armed bodies for border security.
  • Iran has the Border Guard Command, Italy has the Border Police Service, Russia has created a Border Guard Service, whereas, in the US, it is under Homeland Security.
  • Most of these countries, based on threat perception and for better combat cohesion, have placed these organisations under the command of the armed forces.

What can be a way forward?

Single security agency

  • India needs a single security agency adequately equipped, suitably armed and trained in advanced military drills and sub-unit tactics to guard our borders considering the vulnerability of the Indian border.

Create more manpower and infrastructure

  • The manpower and infrastructure should be created by pooling and merging the resources of the CAPF and Assam Rifles.
  • Further, to augment the battle efficiency, a fixed percentage of manpower, including the officer cadre, should be drawn on deputation from the army.

The explicit mandate

  • The proposed outfit, the National Border Guard, (NBG), should have the explicit mandate to effectively retaliate against cross-border transgressions and stabilise the situation till the operations are taken over by the armed forces.
  • To ensure the desired training and operational standards, the NBG should be designated as a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Defence and operate under the army.

A series of mergers

  • The ITBP and the SSB should be fully merged into the new outfit; the BSF and CRPF still have important internal security duties and can be partially merged.
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