Interview: New technologies being adopted to aid border guarding during peace and war

Photo: India’s Border Security Force Director General Rakesh Asthana.

India’s Border Security Force (BSF) Director General Rakesh Asthana tells Defence.Capital editor N. C. Bipindra that country’s adversaries and anti-national elements within the country are using rapidly changing technologies, equipment, and strategies to destabilise the overall security situation in the country.

Ques. The Border Security Force (BSF) observed its raising day on Dec. 1 and on this occasion, what are the thoughts on the role of BSF in the next five to 10 years, and how would it shape up as India’s first line of defence?

Ans. We are in the process of modernising our technological equipment and weaponry. In the near future, we will be equipped with all such resources required to make our borders impregnable, Gradually, we are shifting from being a force solely dependent upon human capabilities to a force which has adequately adopted latest technological gadgets.

Ques. Soon after taking over as the Director General of BSF, there was a tour of the front lines in Jammu and Kashmir. What has been the assessment of BSF personnel’s preparedness for their peacetime and war-time roles there? Where or in which part of their role do the men and women need improvement?

Ans. Undoubtedly, BSF has always proved its mettle as ‘India’s First Line of Defence‘. This has been true in both peace as well as war postures. However, development is a continuous process. Considering the prevailing geopolitical scenario of South Asia, threats to our country are no longer just conventional. Our adversaries and anti-national elements within the country are using rapidly changing technologies, equipment, and strategies to destabilise the overall security situation in the country. The sensitive scenario in J&K requires that we adapt and implement our strategies as the situation presents itself.  

Owing to the high morale and levels of training, BSF is able to successfully compete with the geographical and strategic challenges of the boundaries since inception year, be it a peacetime or a war-time role. At the same time, the Border Security Force has efficiently executed the internal security duties of the country in the Northeastern states, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, etc. In recent elections held in various states of the country, the force has played an important role in establishing a fair democracy.

Ques. Is the assessment correct that BSF is now more attuned to its peacetime role than war-time role? Please share your thoughts on the issues involved.

Ans. In today’s scenario, it is exceedingly difficult to categorise a situation as peace or war. In fact, it is more or less a ‘No War, No Peace’ scenario. As a result of Pakistan’s nefarious intentions, the western international border of the country is very sensitive. The continued failure of anti-national forces due to deployment of the force on the border, is causing frustration amongst militants, intruders, and smugglers. This implies that in order to keep our hinterland at peace, we have to continuously prove our skill in a war like situation on the frontiers.

The BSF has also retaliated in a befitting manner to the frequent and continued cross border firing being resorted to by Pakistan. Both the peacetime and war-time functions are integral to our nature and purpose of deployment all along the borders, whether be it the International Border or the Line of Control. In fact, we are prepared for all exigencies at all times.

Ques. Drones are now being used by drug traffickers from across the border to push narcotics to the Indian side.  Drones are also the chosen weapon delivery platform of terrorists. What strategy has been adopted by BSF to counter the new challenge?

Ans. Of late, trans border criminals have adopted ‘Drones’ as a medium to perpetrate crimes. BSF has also expanded its strategic capabilities through modern technology and equipment, by taking necessary steps towards finding technical solutions to drones used by anti-national forces on the western borders of the country. We already have ‘Anti-Rogue Drone’ Standard Operating Procedures at hand to counter the threat. Also, counter-drone technologies are being actively explored. Soon, we will be in a far better position to counter the new challenges.

Ques. How has the effort of BSF helped and succeeded in interrupting drug trafficking from across the border?  Please provide statistics such as seizures and arrests that have been carried out in the last one year.

Ans. Tackling the ‘drug trafficking menace’ has been one of the important challenges that we face today along the western borders. In order to thwart the attempts of drugs smuggling into our country, followings steps have been taken:

(a) Effective domination of the borders by 24×7 surveillance, patrolling, laying checkpoints including depth checkpoints, manning observation posts all along the International Borders.

(b) Special operations are regularly launched based on the vulnerability mapping.

(c) Anti-Tunneling exercise is being conducted regularly in vulnerable areas.

(d) Up-gradation of intelligence network and coordination with sister agencies.

The following data pertaining to seizures and arrests made for ‘Drug trafficking Crime, themselves speak of the efforts of the BSF, in the field:

Source: Border Security Force

Ques. BSF regularly holds talks with its counterparts from Pakistan and Bangladesh.  Please highlight some of the issues and matters that are currently under discussion with the border forces of these neighbouring nations for better cooperation and understanding, apart from operational efficiency in controlling smuggling, crimes, trafficking and illegal trade?

Ans. With Pakistan, our talks are generally focused upon cross border firing and cross border violations and protection of border population.

With Bangladesh, the talks are more about confidence building measures, joint efforts for effective implementation of Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP), mutual co-operation in developmental works, particularly in the border belt and measures to strengthen mutual trust between the two forces. We are also moving ahead on establishing a robust system to jointly curb the various trans-border crimes by means of real time information sharing.

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