SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Chinks in border fencing: But what about facilitators

Issue No. 3 | February 1-15, 2016By Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd)

The bottom line is that while India should go for the latest technology, it should also eliminate the mafia within its border areas, besides establishing credible deterrence to Pakistan’s proxy war

That terrorism has become an industry is a widely acknowledged fact but when heavily laced with narcotics it becomes that much more lucrative. However, in the case of what is has happening in Punjab, the situation is also linked to a strategic objective of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Special Forces of a friendly country having done joint training in Pakistan had disclosed five years back that ISI had a definitive plan to revive the insurgency in Punjab, and that as a prelude they would flood Punjab with narcotics. Punjab being an affluent state had stonewalled similar ISI move earlier after much violence and should do so now too but the present deluge of drugs into Punjab has created a sinister situation.

As per a National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), AIIMS 2015 study, in Punjab out of a population of 27.7 million, around 2.3 million people are opioid-dependent, around 8,60,000 people are estimated to be opioid users, and more than 1,23,000 people are heroin-dependent, which is an alarming situation. The largest numbers of addicts are in the 18 to 35 age group. Over Rs. 7,500 crore worth of drugs is consumed on an annual basis in Punjab. The money spent on heroin abuse is calculated to be a whopping Rs. 6,500 crore. Businessmen, transport workers, labourers and farmers are consuming drugs, the study found, but college students are taking it in increasing quantities. It is obvious that the recent terrorist strikes in Dinanagar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot were linked to these infiltration-cum-narcotics smuggling routes. But obviously, the narcotics smuggling has been going around for lot many years beyond the last five years.

What is even more surprising is that post the Pathankot terror strike, media reports that “more than 40 vulnerable unfenced stretches along the India-Pakistan border will be covered by laser walls soon”. Why were there more than 40 vulnerable points left unaddressed in the first place especially when Pakistan had shifted the cross-border firing from the line of control (LoC) to international border (IB) sector months back? The border along Punjab is not like Jammu and Kashmir where hilly terrain, vagaries of weather and enemy cross-border firing facilitates infiltration and helps terrorists use explosives to make gaps in the fencing or dig holes under the fence.

In November 2014, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had visited one of the border outposts in Gaza and saw the Israeli technology used for border security which includes high-quality long-range day cameras along with night observation systems, third-generation thermal imagers, long-range detection radars, electronic touch and motion sensors on the fence as well as underground sensors to detect any tunneling attempts. The Israeli border fencing along West Bank, Gaza and Egypt also consists of latticed steel, topped and edged with razor wire, extending at least two metres below ground and in some sections reaching seven metres above the ground. Ditches and observation posts with cameras and antennae will line the route. An electronic pulse runs through the fence, setting off an alarm on contact that allows security guards to locate the exact spot of attempted infiltration. A sandy tracking path shows the footprints of infiltrators and the military patrol road gives unhindered access to army units. The Home Minister was told that in certain “dark areas” where fencing was not possible, like on India-Pakistan border as well, Israel had used small UAVs for security coverage.

The US has adopted the Israeli system consisting of seismic sensors, Elbit’s Hemes (UAV) ground surveillance radars, etc. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) use the ELM -2112 family of surveillance radars featuring four stationary antennas, each covering a 90-degree sector enabling persistent surveillance and a wide horizon visual and sound track. These radars can detect individuals within a 20-km range and vehicles within 40 km, and present an integrated picture when multiple radars are combined into a single system. Oversights are ensured through alarm alerts, drone surveillance, etc.

As far as adopting the Israel type border fencing, we also must doubly ensure we do not get surprised like Israel was when multiple tunnels dug by Hamas under the Gaza strip were discovered. Ironically, we have been using the unattended ground sensors (UGS) imported from Israel in J&K even though they are not meant for snow condition and our Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has not been able to develop a substitute despite so many years. However, no matter what technology we finally adopt, the human factor of narco-terrorism will remain supreme. As discussed above, narcotics coming into Punjab are huge money and while some security forces on the border for sure would be part of the mafia, involvement of politicians at whatever level can hardly be ruled out. Media reports of narcotics being pushed across PVC pipes through the border fencing indicates there is an institutionalised setup. Therefore, arrest of one or two ex cops and ongoing investigations with respect of Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh amounts to only scratching the surface of the problem, especially with ISI highly focused on its nefarious objectives to destabilise India including Punjab.

The bottom line is that while we go for the latest technology, we must also eliminate the mafia own side of the border, in addition to establishing credible deterrence to Pakistan’s proxy war.

The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.