HomePolicy & GovernanceStrategic Perspective on Dynamics, Dilemma and Diversities of Indian Borders

Strategic Perspective on Dynamics, Dilemma and Diversities of Indian Borders


Dr. Neeta Rani Assistant Professor, Department of National Security Studies, Central University of Jammu, Rahya-Suchani (Bagla), District-Samba – 181143(J&K) Email: neetam29@gmail.comProf. (Dr.)Rakesh Datta Professor, Department of Defence & National Security Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh-160014 Email:

While borders are associated with establishing a security perimeter for controlling entry into the territory of a nation, Indian perspective in this regard, takes a more expansive view in terms of defining, demarcating and delimiting of borders. The country’s dilemmahas been that, but for little more than half a period of last century, India didn’t exist as a sovereign nation and so were its boundaries.

Even though, India claims to be an ancient civilisation with recorded history of five thousand years, it has seen frequent change of frontiers with every passing of time, and so was dealing of boundaries, by the respective rulers. Not going much far, if Khaybar Pass dominated passage to Afghan, Turks and Mughals on the hinterland, European powers chose coastal areas to assault, marking diversities of varied frontiers to deal with. On both the accounts, it was Panipat Syndrome which largely prevailed, shifting battlefield frontiers much inside, besides providing an indelible mindset to stay forever.

The independent India rests more with truncated frontiers on its land borders, in all diversities from marshy ground to snowy heights, not much seen in the world. Combined with territorial contestations, it offers a great dilemma and new dynamics in terms of building strategic infrastructures, and border management more terrain specific.

India being increasingly getting globalised and service orient economy relies, heavily on the movement of people and goods, causing pressure on the borders. It demands, progressive review of ever evolving challenges, including lagging of robust counter strategies, involving all stake holders to develop unified integrated border defence mechanism.

Given the premise, that border is an area far from the centre of political, economic and social power in the country, but close to someone else political and cultural boundaries; such advantages can help the country next door, to indulge into activities suiting its requirements, which may be detrimental to home security. In this regard, the lack of aggressive strategic perspective, in India’s frontier areas, to make them dissuasive to external luring loose relevance, as the wars are becoming more strategical, notwithstanding, the role of the local people, as well significance of initiating any development processes, facilitating national integration.

Before independence, Indian subcontinent was considered a single geographical unit, comprising Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal based on their cultural, economic, social and political unity. People had the freedom of movement, from one place to another, within the subcontinent. However, division of Indian subcontinent, based on ethnic and religious identities, marked the beginning of briny relations, and tensed boundaries, between India and its neighbours.

There is no uniformity in India, in terms of the physical nature of borders, as being both natural and man-made,with distinct features such as land, rivers, deserts, marshy, mountains, jungles, oceans, and snowy peaks makingthe country unique. The topography of the coasts, include backwaters, beaches, estuaries, creeks, hills, lagoons, mudflats, small bays and islands, rivulets, rocky, sandbars, swamps etc.

While some borders are rigid and porous, others are open, such as India Pakistan border, demandingRound the Clock Protection. In such place,movement of goods and people are either restricted or clogged, most of the time. Similarly, India and Bangladesh border is also rigid. India and Nepal border is open one, which does not require much attention and people are free to move between these two nations; such border however are more vulnerable to smuggling, illegal movement of migration and goods etc.

India has been facing dilemmas with regard to its borders, from the very beginning and after independence; its ill-defined borders have led to conflicting situation with neighbours. The protection of India’s land and maritime borders is one of the national priorities. It has always remained a major challenge for the country, due to several factors.

Different featured borders face different kind of threats, which keep on increasing, with the passage of time. The threat to India’s border security emerges from neighbouring Pakistan, China, Bangladesh andMyanmar,in profound manner, and apparently from Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka in lesser way.

India’s border with Pakistan, suffers several dilemmas, which it needs to overcome. The border disputes over Siachen Glacier, Kashmir, Line of Control, IB in J&K, Sir Creek and water sharing, have caused immense trouble between the two since independence.

The border between India and China, is highly sensitive, can be triggered by any small incident and behaviour, of either of the two countries. The Chinese occupation of Tibet, transgression of Aksai Chin, occupying areas in Ladakh, claiming Bara hoti and Arunachal are some of their blatant realities of troop building and heightened tensions, on our borders, creating lasting dynamics and dilemmas, on diversified borders.

India has the longest border with Bangladesh, marked with territorial and water issues, illegal migration, smuggling of cattles, ammunition, drugs, salt, sugar including movement of some insurgent groups,as some of the major dilemmas.

There are nearly 54 areas of dispute between India and Nepal, bringing new dynamics to the open borders, between the two countries. There is growing trust deficit, marking fragility of existing closer ties, demanding vigorous counter strategies.

With Sri Lanka, India share international maritime boundary. Palk Strait is one of the major border disputes between these two countries. It is not a dispute for land or people, but for abundance of fish, a source of livelihood of fishermen of India and Sri Lanka.Further, added to other challenges between, India andSri Lanka; Coastal and maritime security requires critical technology infrastructure, such as surveillance mechanism, to monitor coastal security, across coastal states and union territories. Lack of such technologies lead to gaps in the maritime security of India.

Thus India’s borders since independence have several issues and challenges beginning from difficult terrain and climatic conditions, disputed borders, militancy, smuggling of narcotics and drugs, human trafficking, ceasefire violations, fake Indian currency, lack of information sharing and ill-coordination among security forces and agencies, lack of infrastructure etc.

The security forces are under several dilemmas, due to India’s border security. They have to cooperate and coordinate, according to the government orders. The communication is a big issue for them as theborder areas lack communication and telecom facilities. Moreover, shortage of personnel in the forces leads to lengthy duties for these personnel. The available infrastructure and equipments are not sufficient for guarding the border, as well as for their own security.

To counter the evolving challenges, India needs to strengthen its border management. India is caught between securing the borders or managing them. In this regards, the number of border outposts and guarding personnel should be increased specially in the sensitive areas. The security forces need to be trained properly and should be equipped with advanced technology weapons, so that they can keep vigil on the border, in a better way.

Regulating border is equally important. To remove obstruction and get a clear line of vision, it is necessary to restrict civilian intervention and cultivation between the border, and fencing known as no man’s land. Steps like installation of alarm systems, providing advance technological weapons, open markets near borders, and issuance of identity cards to people living along the border etc can improve the security and management of India’s borders.

The Indian government has launched border area development programme, through which it assists the local people, as first responders, and builds infrastructure for their education, health and livelihood. Bilateral mechanism, which includes interactions and meetings, help in resolving border disputes, chalk out the tensions andmaintain peace between nations along the border. All these united efforts can facilitate India’s borders defence mechanism in a better manner.

There are some points for which need attention. India has no one to blame as far protecting its strategic interest on country’s borders are concerned. Itpossesses a false dichotomy as far our internal and external frontiers are concerned. Those are completely enmeshed.

Indiais a country of countries joined by 7 nations by land and 3 by seas; besides, jungles, mountains, oceans and deserts connect and separate us. It shares all kinds of religions with strong sense of mixed culturalization in its neighbourhood.

So, when China attacksIndia, it traces its bonding to ancient civilisation with Buddhism as ever flowing viscous. India will not bomb Pakistan nor create trouble for it, despite their stated objective of dismembering India by thousand cuts. It is important tomention here that Government of India was more concerned with the safety of Musharraf, that, no harm comes to him or Mullahas may take over Pakistan.

Imagine India’s destiny of cultivating good relations with all countries in the region, which generally backfire. India had state visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2013, and before that Chinese incursion occurred at the LAC. In the following year, the two countries locked horn in a standoff at Demchok, with the backdrop of President Xi Jinping visit to India with many such instances.

Mr Vajpaype under took bus drive to Lahore, and on the other hand Pakistan was building offensive action in Kargil.

So, where does it yield to. Speaking of external security challenges on India as theme of the session,India needs to change its inherent basic defence philosophy. It is not fighting Maratha Wars, where the losses seemed were bare minimum.  It is in the 21st Century, and so are the conflicts, with cripple down effect.

India’s borders marked as LOC with Pakistan, and LAC with China, are ceasing to exist as two separate domains, instead the growing nexus between the two, is compelling India to think about TWO FRONT WAR. But the question is, does India have the capability to kill a terrorist or a militant given its capabilities. India needs to look rationally, at its basic strategy of deploying huge troops on the borders, and that too on permanent basis, rather should start searching for a political solution. Though may not be possible in many ways.

Yes, there are some pronounced changes, in terms of SURGICAL STRIKES as modulating strategies, in the recent past, but there is no set mechanism. Instead, national security seems to be hijacked as a convenient poll plank.

See, when we speak about security challenges, which India have rather inherited, from colonial timesmanifesting as territorial disputes; there are only two ways of dealing with it. Either India continue to live with those and forget, letting ourselves to be bled constantly courtesy our adversaries, or be little stern, in its outlook and behaviour, besides raising its capabilities with credibility.

India must understand that it is a dominant power in the region with high aspirations and this majestic Elephant should not be seen behaving as a Hare or a Kangaroo. However, unlike its good friends,assaulting iton various fronts, India is generally plagued by No Policy Approach, thereby making it reactionary, giving advantage to the enemy.

For instance, Chinese strategy is to keep India on tenterhook on the frontiers including claiming and possessing large chunk of Indian territory, thereby keeping border issue alive; also support rebels andinsurgent movements; opposing India on diplomatic front to mention a few.

Pakistan on other hand, has Kashmir as an objective, besides active infiltration on borders, and heightening terrorism. So with these objectives in mind, they are hell bent on creating trouble for India, individually and in close support with Beijing.

It is amazing to know, that there is Kashmir Chowk in Islamabad close to diplomatic enclave. India does not have such aims, on any other country and history is witness to it, right from the time of two epics.

This makes India’s defence forces more reactionary in approach to simply defend us as and when country is assaulted. India does not have LAHORE or Beijing, as an objective. So, this 4th largest army supported by Nukes ceases to be a deterrent or dissuator, rather, remains at the receiving end.

It’s so amazing to see Nepal front, getting active at times reflecting soft acrimony, despite India’s constant help on political, economic, trade, cultural and military angles.

In fact, India is deeply enmeshed with its neighbours whether Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or Myanmar But, all these countries, sovereign in their status and outlook, have different national security interests, and expectations from India. While the latter try to meet those, its China factor which tries to wean them away from India by doling out large chunk of money; influencingtheir political processes, equipping them with military support and  making them partner in her Belt and Road Initiative concept.

Kautiliya said, while citizens of the country must have MORALITY and Character, the nations can afford to be AMORALS.  The Geopolitics also teaches how to govern nations and their interests.

But India has difficulty in thinking strategically. We as a country are incapable of dealing forcefully, rather are more spiritually inclined. The more defining moment is when we have the capability, but are unable to be proactive.

India needs to develop a multi-tiered strategic matrix for its neighbourhood in the manner that China has. Similarly, India needs to begin asserting itself in the region, in order to have a leading role in the decision-making and delivery process, concerning the region’s security.

India’s counter insurgency and counter terrorism actions are more at domestic level, than seen to be across the borders. This is unlike countries of Israel, the United States, Syria, and even Palestine who bomb their insurgents in their hideouts. Could it be imagined, that while nearly sixteen states of India both on the hinterland and along the coastline are succumbed to left wing extremism, the Government of India refuses to use the Air Force to bomb them, justifying its own people.

Well various countries have undertaken, different border management system, to strengthen their frontiers susceptible, to extraneous influence.The Government of India, is also becoming progressive on building strategic roads and infrastructures along the borders, ailing for the last several years. However, there is a fundamental question warranting attention is, “Does India need to defend borders or manage borders”?

Border Defence Management is a national security matter, and cannot be left bewildered between the Ministry of Defence and Home Affairs.It may be mentioned, that, the United Nations Counter Terrorism Centre, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum, have co-opted to bring out a set of Good Practices for border security and management.

In this context, the creation of Homeland Security Department, after 9/11, has taken over majority of border functions, in the United States: while Australian Customs and Border Protection Serviceis given the leading role in border protection.

According to Pakistan, it has completed fencing of 900 km border with Afghanistan, barring infiltration from entering.

The United States, assisted in building Jordan’s border management, beginning in 2008, it was launching 20 million USD project to install surveillance along 30 miles stretch with Syria, later extending to border with Iraq and Israel.

Saudi Arabia has history of internal terrorist attacks, driven by external influence. The borders are generally open, with vast stretches of deserts. Saudis, have built a fence with ultraviolet sensors with facial recognition software and observation Towers, at every 100 yards.The United Kingdom Border Agency was established in 2008, with the purpose of securing the UK borders and controlling migration for the benefit of the country.

Our country, which is acknowledged as an IT powerhouse, has a lot of resources and standalone systems in place, which should be integrated to converse with each other, to share data with each other, and raise alarm on any abnormal activity or behavioural pattern, within and in neighbouring countries. India cannot get bogged down by such assumptive notions as privacy intrusion etc., where border management and national security is concerned. Most of the Western countries like US, Israel as well Russia, China, UAE, Saudi Arabia etc. are already utilising such systems for the said purpose. They have the capability to monitor movement of all persons of interest, whether friendly or inimical including in the neighbouring countries. India knows the areas controlled by it, irrespective of existing border disputes, and can install and utilise advance systems, within areas controlled by us. In current globalised threat scenario, no country can take refuge behind high moral ground factors at the cost of security of nation. 



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