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Security Challenges and Their Management in Border Areas

Security challenges and their management in border areas

Syllabus: Security challenges and their management in border areas

Table of content:

  1. Introduction
  2. India Bangladesh Border
  3. India Pakistan Border
  4. India China Border
  5. India Myanmar Border
  6. India Nepal Border
  7. India Bhutan Border
  8. Border Area Development Plan

India shares border with Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. All over world, most conflict-free borders are those which are geographical and have been there from the times immemorial. Here Civilizations settled on either side of geographical barriers like river or mountain ranges and limited exchange takes place from very beginning. Amur River flows between Russia and China, in same way Tigris River between Iran and Turkey and these both marks political boundaries between these countries. Other boundaries are political ones and they bear historical burden as is the case of (sections of boundaries) India with neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal etc .

In this case there has been a common historical cultural flow on either side of the border and as a result there are claims or counter claims. This doesn’t imply that natural boundaries are always undisputed, river often changes their course in long term and this river (if international boundary) can result into fluctuation of political boundaries. Further, in case of Mountain ranges, a state with expansionist designs (as China is) can exert its claim unilaterally, resulting into tense situations. It is pertinent to note that these areas between china and India were once inaccessible, but technological advancements have not only made them accessible, but also strategically important. To guard borders efficiently, it is pre required that borders are agreed/delineated between the neighbors. Also, a state with malicious intent can willfully dispute border to trouble its neighbor country to hamper its progress and to derail its growth.

In Indian case borders are quite complex and almost every type of extreme geography is present at different borders viz. deserts, fertile lands, swampy marshes or tropical evergreen jungles. It has 14818 kilometers of land borders and a coast line of 7516.6 kilometers. All states except Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, Delhi and Haryana have an international border or a coast line. 92 of India’s 593 districts are border districts in 17 states. India’s boundary with Pakistan (3323 km), China (3488 km), Nepal (1751 km), Bhutan (699 km), Myanmar (1643 km), and Bangladesh (4096.7 km).

Border management becomes more important for the fact that India is like island of democracy between seas of anarchical or instable states. Probably, no other neighbouring country has experienced uninterrupted democratic regime for more than 15 years. Additionally, in some countries there is cultural radicalism which is targeted on India, and terrorists and mafia groups are patronized by some of India’s neighbouring states. There is cross border smuggling problem of drugs, cattle, humans, artifacts, fake currency note etc. Unfortunately, in this scenario our border forces appear to be severely undermanned and under-equipped which is taking heavy toll on economic, social and political stability of our country.

In 2001, ‘Group of Ministers on review of border management’ gave many important recommendations. One of the major recommendations was the setting up of a separate Department of Border Management within the Ministry of Home Affairs. This has been done. Yet other major recommendations like the early settlement of our maritime borders and the demarcation of land boundaries has not yet been fully implemented. The GoM had strongly recommended the principle of “one border one force” for better accountability and specialization. It emphasized the imperative of not deploying the border guarding forces for law and order duties and counter insurgencies. It made some recommendations specific to better management of India-Pakistan, India-Nepal and other borders. It lamented the neglect of maritime borders and island territories and made recommendations to strengthen coast guard and police. As a result of these recommendations border management has got more attention but the Mumbai terrorist attacks had again shown that a lot more needs to be done to improve border management.

Indian Bangladesh border

India shares 4096.7 Km of its land border with Bangladesh. West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram are the States which share the border with Bangladesh. The entire stretch consists of plain, riverine, hilly/jungle and with hardly any natural obstacles. The area is heavily populated, and at many stretches the cultivation is carried out till the last inch of the border. Border was drawn by the Bengal Boundary Commission chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliffe.

The border was thus drawn on the basis of old district maps. This made the boundary random. Instead of following natural barriers, it meanders through villages, agricultural lands, and rivers, rendering the border extremely porous with many disputed pockets. Undemarcated stretches, existence of enclaves (chhit-mohols), and adverse possessions had been causing constant friction between the border guarding forces of India and Bangladesh.

Consequently, there was setup an ‘India- Pakistan boundary dispute commission’ in 1949 it settled many disputes but in soon they resurfaced along with new problems of enclaves. To address the boundary disputes and to reduce tensions between the two countries, the Nehru-Noon Agreement on India-East Pakistan Border was signed in New Delhi in 1958. These efforts, however failed to bring disputes to end. It was only in 1974, barely 3 years after liberation of Bangladesh that the Indira-Mujibur Agreement laid down the methods for demarcating various disputed stretches of the India-Bangladesh boundary. This also called ‘Land Boundary Agreement’ and, India and Bangladesh, both the countries committed to exchange the enclaves and cede the adverse possessions.

There were 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 enclaves of Bangladesh in India. India did not have access to these enclaves in Bangladesh, and hence, no administrative set-up to provide facilities like police stations, courts, schools, roads, hospitals, banks, markets, etc. to their residents could be established there. It was only in 2014 that bill ratifying Indira-Mujibur or ‘land boundary agreement’ was passed in Indian Parliament.

Issues with this border

Illegal Immigration – There were both push and pull factors working on this border. Under development, religious persecution, environmental concerns etc. pushed Bangladeshis into India, while India’s huge economy and accommodative society pulled immigrants. According to ‘Task Force on Border management, 2001’, there are about 15 million Bangladeshi illegal immigrants in India, increasing at rate of 3 lakh per month. Recent eruption of communal violence in Assam has direct link with this immigration.

Cattle and other Smuggling – It big unique problem with this border. It is said that if India restricts this supply then it can starve Bangladeshis of food. Cattle from as far as Haryana, UP, Bihar is taken to borders for grazing and then smuggled to Bangladesh. Bangladesh also imposes custom duty on these imports. Cattle confiscated on border alone are around one lakh annually. This way government is losing revenue of around 10000 crore annually.

Along with cattle, smuggling of arms, and other essential items such as sugar, salt and diesel, human and narcotics trafficking, counterfeit Indian currency, kidnapping, and thefts are quite rampant along the India–Bangladesh border.

Bases of Anti India elements: Presently, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) as well as several other insurgent outfits from the Northeast have bases in the Chittagong, Khagrachari, and Sylhet districts of Bangladesh. Incumbent government has to much extent curtailed activity in these bases.


Border out posts: BSF is presently manning 802 existing Border out Posts on Indo-Bangladesh border. In pursuance of Group of Ministers recommendations to reduce the inter-BOP distance to 3.5 Km, the Government has approved construction of additional BOPs on this border.

Border Trade: Along the India-Bangladesh border, there are 32 land custom stations spread over the states of West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram. Petrapole in West Bengal is one of the most important land customs stations with Bangladesh.

Fencing and Floodlighting: These are important constituents of maintaining vigilance along the borders. In order to curb infiltration, smuggling and other anti-national activities from across Indo-Pakistan and Indo-Bangladesh borders, the Government has undertaken the work of construction of fencing, floodlighting and roads along these borders.

In case of Bangladesh, of the 3326 kilometer border only 501 kilometers is left without fence of which 130 kilometers is land where barbed wire fencing is going on and the rest of the portion is covered with rivers and water bodies. On rivers Border Security Force is planning to erect ‘floating fence‘. (as on Aug. 2014)

Integrated Check Posts: There are several designated entry and exit points on the international borders of the country through which cross border movement of persons, goods and traffic takes place. Conventional infrastructure for discharge of various sovereign functions at these points is neither adequate or integrated nor coordinated and no single agency is responsible for coordination of various Government functions and services at these points. These functions include those of security, immigration, customs, human, plant and animal quarantine etc., as also the provision of support facilities for both the Government personnel and the immigrants such as warehousing, parking etc.

As a response to the situation of inadequate infrastructure for cross border movement of persons, vehicles and goods, it was decided to set up Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at major entry points on our land borders. These ICPs would house all regulatory agencies like Immigration, Customs, Border Security, Quarantine etc., along with support facilities in a single complex equipped with all modern amenities.

India’s first ICP was at Attari border, Amritsar with Pakistan. Second one was opened at Bangladesh border at Agartala in 2013.


India Pakistan Border

This is spread across extreme climatic conditions given that the boundary runs from the hot Thar Desert in Rajasthan to the cold Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir. India shares 3323 km long and complicated boundary with Pakistan. The India-Pakistan boundary is categorized under three different heads. The first is the international boundary also known as the ‘Radcliff line’. It is 2308 km long and stretches from Gujarat to parts of Jammu district in Jammu and Kashmir. The second is the line of control (LoC), or the Cease Fire Line, which came into existence after the 1948 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. This line is 776 km long, and runs along the districts of Jammu (some parts), Rajouri, Poonch, Baramula, Kupwara, Kargil and some portions of Leh. And the third is the actual ground position line (AGPL), which is 110 km long and extends from NJ 9842 to Indira Col in the North (Siachin Glacier).

In the 1990s, India began to fence this massive, border, of which 550 kms in J&K were completed in 2004. By 2011, almost all of the border fencing – along J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat – was completed.

The double-row fencing on the LoC is meant to keep out militants, separatists, smugglers and other infiltrators, and for this purpose, it has been electrified, connected to a range of sensors and strewn with landmines. The entire border is also lit up with strong floodlights installed on more than 50,000 poles. As a result, the Indo-Pak border can actually be seen from space at night.


There are about 700 border out posts, one Integrated Check post is there at Attari, Amritsar.

Despite of fencing smuggling, mainly of Heroine is rampant at border of Punjab. It happens because villagers at both sides of border are accomplice to such activities. Further, Involvement of Local politicians is also there in these cases.

Apart from this, anti-India Jihadist Groups are in collusion with Pakistan Armed forces who constantly tries to push terrorists to Indian Side of LOC. For this there has been occasional indiscriminate firing from Pakistani side in which Soldiers and citizens get killed. Few years back there was news that a 10 meter wall of earth excavations is being erected at border near Jammu.

Recently, Border Security Force is implementing a Rs. 4500 crore project, ‘Smart Fence’ mechanism. Under this laser walls and heat sensor system will be installed on the boundary. While this may deter terrorists and Pakistan, innocent villagers may get caught into the trap.

Integrated Check Post at Attari remains pretty busy for trade and this is only venue for cross border trade with Pakistan.

India China Border

India and China share a 3,488 km long boundary. Unfortunately, the entire boundary is disputed. The line, which delineates the boundary between the two countries, is popularly called the McMahon line, after its author Sir Henry McMahon. In 1913, the British-India government had called a tripartite conference, in which the boundary between India and Tibet was formalized after a discussion between the Indian and the Tibetans. A Convention was adopted, which resulted in the delimitation of the Indo-Tibetan boundary. This boundary is, however, disputed by China which terms it as illegal. It is interesting that in same agreement, boundary upto Myanmar was settled, and China accepts Mac Mohan line with Myanmar.

India and China had never shared a common boundary till; China “liberated” or occupied Tibet in 1950. It was then that the hitherto India Tibet boundary was transformed into an India-China boundary. Since 1954, China started claiming large tracts of territory along the entire border such as Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir, some areas in Uttrakhand and the entire Arunachal Pradesh. In 1957, China occupied Aksai Chin and built a road through it. This episode was followed by intermittent clashes along the border, which finally culminated in the border war of 1962. The boundary, which came into existence after the war, came to be known as Line of Actual Control (LAC). It is a military held line.

The rapprochement between the two countries in 1976 enabled India and China to initiate High Level border talks in 1981 to find a solution to the vexed problem. After eight rounds, the talks broke down in 1987. In 1988, following Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China, the Joint Working Group (JWG) was set up to look into the border problem. In 1993, the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was signed and the India-China Expert Group of Diplomatic and Military Officers was set up to assist the JWG.

In 1996, the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the Military Field along the LAC was signed. In 2003, two special representatives (one each from India and China) were appointed to find a political solution to the border dispute. Till 2009, these two special representatives had held 17 rounds of talks, but it seems they have not made much headway. Recently, NSA Ajit Doval was appointed as Special Envoy for talks.

There are three stages of negotiation:

  1. Agreeing to guiding principles to be followed – this is done
  2. Recognizing Boundary and area – evolving consensus – this is toughest one and process is struck here
  3. Demarcation of boundaries


China’s People Liberation Army has time and again intruded Indian borders. This was followed by Indian PM’s visit to China in 2013, where additional Confidence Building Measure on Border cooperation was agreed at. The measures include regular interaction between the Army Headquarters and Field Commands of the two sides, additional border personnel meeting points and more telecommunication linkages between their forward posts at mutually agreed locations. Despite this incursions continue, recent one when Xi Jinping was on Indian visit, suggests that either there is lack of coordination or there are differences in China Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army leadership.

As regards border management, the India-China border throws up only a few challenges. There is hardly any circulation of people or goods between the two countries through the border. Few intermittent interactions, nonetheless did take place though the gaps in the mountain ranges. These gaps were the trade and migration routes through which people and goods flowed. Some tribes like Monpas, Sherdukpens, Membas, Khambas and Bhutias had social and cultural ties with people across the border. Many other tribes also frequented the markets of Tibet to buy and sell products, but all these stopped after the 1962 war.

Presently, there are only three designated areas along the India-China border through which border trade takes place; these are Lipu Lekh, Shipki La and Nathu La. The volume of trade in these trading points is not large. However, large scale smuggling of Chinese electronic and other consumer goods take place through these border points.

India has under taken border road construction in Arunachal Pradesh which was objected to by China. India ignored the objection by reiterating its authority over the area. Indian side of Border almost has no Infrastructure. This is due to ever-present lethargy of Indian government. On other hand, China has built massive rail road linkages on its side. Further, to implement recommendation on Border out posts 3.5 Km distance limit of Working Group; work on building more BOPs is going on.

India Myanmar Boundary

Frontiers of British India and Myanmar came together first time in 1826 after British won 1st Anglo Burmese war. After Independence, The boundary was demarcated in 1967 under an agreement signed by both countries. There were many border agreements between these two years in which borders were fluctuating and this has created confusion.


The location of the Indo-Myanmar boundary throws up many challenges for the effective management of the boundary. Though the boundary is properly demarcated, there are a few pockets that are disputed. The rugged terrain makes movement and the overall development of the area difficult. The internal dynamics of the region in terms of the clan loyalties of the tribal people, inter-tribal clashes, insurgency, and transborder ethnic ties also adversely affect the security of the border areas.

There is practically no physical barrier along the border either in the form of fences or border outposts and roads to ensure strict vigil. Insurgents make use of the poorly guarded border and flee across when pursued by Indian security forces. Close ethnic ties among the tribes such as Nagas, Kukis, Chin, etc., who live astride the border help these insurgents in finding safe haven in Myanmar. These cross-border ethnic ties have facilitated in creation of safe havens for various northeast insurgent groups in Myanmar.


The location of the boundary at the edge of the “Drugs golden triangle” facilitates the unrestricted illegal flows of drugs into Indian territory. Heroin is the main item of drug trafficking. The bulk of heroin enters India through the border town of Moreh in Manipur. It is reported that the local insurgent groups are actively involved in drugs and arms trafficking.

Work for Fence erection and road building is going on, but at times it is interrupted because of opposition.

India Nepal Border

India and Nepal have shared an open border since 1950. The conception of such a border can be found in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship that the two countries signed that year. Provisions in the treaty, wherein citizens of both countries are given equal rights in matters of residence, acquisition of property, employment and movement in each other’s territory, provide for an open border between the two countries. While open border has been a great facilitator of strong and unique bilateral relations, at the same time, it has given rise to many irritants and problems that raise serious concerns.

Open border has been a great facilitator of strong and unique bilateral relations. At the same time, it has given rise to many irritants and problems that raise serious concerns. Allegations of excesses such as intimidation, and forcible grabbing of land by either side along the disputed border also surface from time to time.

All terrorist organizations, be it from Punjab, Kashmir, northeast or those of Maoists have fully exploited open borders with Nepal. It has been reported that many terrorists have sneaked into India through the porous and poorly guarded Indo-Nepal border. Apart from insurgents and terrorists, many hard-core criminals pursued by Indian and Nepalese security forces escape across the open border. These anti-national elements indulge in illegal activities, such as smuggling of essential items and fake Indian currency, gun-running, and drugs and human trafficking.

The problem is further aggravated by intelligence inputs that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been using Nepalese territory to carry out anti-India activities since the 1990s. WikiLeaks documents have revealed that the ISI has created a number of terrorist fronts in Nepal and has also pushed in men and explosives through the border to carry out terror attacks in India.

In recent times, police forces have achieved some success in capturing all types of criminals from these borders. This shows that cooperation from Nepal is increasing in this regard. In 2013 two Terrorists – Abdul karim Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal were arrested from this border.

Nepal is a landlocked country and its closest access to the sea is through India. As a result most of its imports pass through India. Keeping this in consideration, India has granted Nepal 15 transit and 22 trading points along the border.

India Bhutan Border

India and Bhutan share a 669 km long boundary. The boundary is demarcated except along the tri-junction with China. The process of demarcation of the India-Bhutan border started in 1961 and was completed in 2006. Like with Nepal, India’s boundary with Bhutan is also an open boundary. The border was peaceful till Indian insurgent groups established camps in the southern districts of Bhutan. This problem has been effectively dealt with during the Bhutanese government’s ‘Operation All Clear’, which saw the destruction and uprooting of all insurgent camps in Bhutanese territory.
Chinese made goods, Bhutanese cannabis, liquor and forest products are major items smuggled into India. Livestock, grocery items and fruits are smuggled out of India to Bhutan.

Border Area Development Program

Development of border areas has been a matter of concern for the country. The Border Area Development Programme (BADP) was initiated in western region, which at that point of time was the most volatile border, during the Seventh Five Year Plan period for ensuring balanced development of border areas through development of infrastructure and promotion of wellbeing and a sense of security among the border population. The programme has been expanded since to cover the border blocks of the 17 States (including 8 North Eastern States), which have international land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The development of border areas is now viewed as a part of the comprehensive approach to the Border Management, which focuses on socio-economic development of the people and promotion of wellbeing and a security environment in the border areas.

The programme is supplemental in nature to fill the gaps and the funds under BADP are provided to the States as a 100% non-lapsable Special Central Assistance for execution of projects relating to infrastructure, livelihood, education, health, agriculture, and allied sectors to meet the special developmental needs of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border.

The BADP is being implemented by the Department of Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs through the State Governments. Guidelines of the programme are prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with Planning Commission (or now NITI Aayog), Ministry of Finance and concerned State Governments. Formulation of schemes/projects, their approval and execution is the primary responsibility of the State Governments. Implementation of the Programme is monitored and reviewed by the State Governments and Ministry of Home Affairs.



As already said, Group of Ministers recommended principle of ‘One Border One Force’, due to which government has raised Paramilitary Forces Border Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Indo Tibetan Border police etc. which have specialized area responsibility. These will be covered in next article on the topic ‘Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate’.