Making India’s fences ‘smart’, from HHTI to CIBMS, on the path of revolutionizing the International borders.

Four heavily armed terrorists cowardly attacked the 12th Brigade of the Indian Army in URI in a pre-dawn ambush on September 18, 2016. The attack claimed the life of 17 soldiers, 13 burnt alive while four succumbed to their injuries later in the hospital, and left several jawans seriously injured. From the dead terrorists, the army recovered a map with marked locations in Pashtun language. The recoveries of the detailed plan of action of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists revealed the deadly fedayeen intention they came with.

Few days after the Uri attack, the Indian army conducted ‘surgical strikes’ on the ‘launch pads’ used by terrorists across the LoC, killing approximately 150 terrorists. Later, during the investigation, it was found that the terrorists infiltrated the Indian territory through Haji Pir Pass on the night of 16-17 September.

Few months before the Uri attack, a similar attack was committed by a heavily armed group of four terrorists on Pathankot Air Force Station. The attack left seven security personnel and a civilian dead. Later in the investigation, it was found that the terrorists had infiltrated into the Indian side and were in continuous touch with their handlers based in Pakistan.

After the 1971 war defeat, Pakistan reconciled with the fact that it cannot win over India in the conventional war. Since the late 1980s, Pakistan has adopted a policy of proxy war, using the fragile nature of India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir (1,225 km) through the infiltration of terrorists in India. From the late 1980’s till present, thousands of attempts have been made by Pakistan backed terrorists to infiltrate India for creating insurgency in the country. Cross border terrorism and infiltration has been a matter of grave concern for the forces and the government of India.

Soon after the Pathankot attack, the government formed a committee under the chairmanship of the then Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, to study the gaps and vulnerability in border fencing along the India-Pak border. Kiran Rijiju, the minister of state of the Home Affairs, stated in the Parliament that the committee was mandated to asses “the issues of Threats and Border Protection, assessment of force level, deployment on the border, infrastructure and technology issues for protection of border and administrative issues,” and to make recommendations based on the observations. Although, the recommendations of the committee are not public, the government has reportedly accepted all the recommendations and has announced to work upon them.

Before getting on to what the government is doing in the direction of improvising the Indian borders with the help of technology, let’s have a look at a report on Border Security: Capacity Building and Institutions by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs presented in Rajya Sabha in April 2017. The report showed that out of the total India-Pakistan 2063.06 Km border, only 60.00 km is yet to be covered by fencing.

As per the recent report available, floodlights have been installed along 1943.76 Km. It means that there are still loopholes in the first primary line of defence, i.e. the traditional fencing. The present government has decided not only to do away with such gaps but to revolutionise the borders by securing them with the use of technology.

As per the recent data available, Indian defence forces have been using thermal imaging technology based Hand-held Thermal Imager (HHTI) since long. The HHTI are handy and are used by the forces in short duration special operations. They have been used by the Indian forces extensively, including manning the borders and LoC. After the Pathankot and Uri attack, they have come under critical scanner, the people have started questioning the credibility and efficiency of HHTI.

In contrast to the questions raised, the reality is that HHTI is meant to be used only in special operations and for long-duration regularly. Whereas, the Indian forces are using it extensively, leaving the equipment damaged. Moreover, it is practically impossible to watch through HHTI across the night without a blink of an eye; it’s beyond the human capacity.

Considering the need of the hour and the recommendation made by the Madhukar Committee, the government decided to seal the India-Pak border entirely with the use of advanced technology. In that direction, India’s first ‘smart fence’ pilot project was initiated in India-Pak borders in Jammu. The first project was inaugurated by the then Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh on September 17, 2018. The project includes Israel’s comprehensive, integrated border management system (CIBMS) system which uses BOLD-QIT technology.

BOLD-QIT is a laser fence and technology-enabled barriers-based technology to plug in venerable gaps in the boundaries. CIBMS can be modified for scanning as per the topography of the region. Since then, three CIBMS have been added to the fences in total, two across LoC and one on India-Bangladesh border.

The CIBMS technology is currently being tested, and as per the reports, till now it has proven to be an efficient system. If it is found successful, the government will expand the technology all along India’s border with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  In addition, the tech-based fences will be routed through the CCTV network, and the control room will be 2-3 km inland and will be monitored all around. Whenever the tech-based fences or the CCTV detects a breach or any suspicious activity is recorded, the BSF will deploy its rapid action team to neutralise the threat.

Many experts believe that because of the flexible nature of the CIBMS, as the scanning could be modified according to the requirement, will prove to be a game-changer for the Indian border security. It will be interesting to see the outcome in the areas where the technology has been deployed. However, recent attacks like Pulwama, which left 40 soldiers dead and hundreds injured, and with the recent political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, there is an urgent need of sealing the borders as soon as possible with the latest and most viable technology available.