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Safeguarding the Borders

It wasn’t that long when a historic constitution amendment bill was passed to settle the then 41-year-stretched Indo-Bangladesh border issues. The government had appointed A.K. Mangotra, IAS officer of Manipur-Tripura cadre, as the Secretary, to head the Department of Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs. The department looks after different aspects of the Border and Disaster Management in India. India has a varied geographical identity. 7,000 kilometers of the country’s borders have different geographical existence and features ranging from snow-clad Himalayan terrains to desserts, and oceans. Each geography has its own pros and cons, and certainly throw some amount of challenges. These challenges are unique, varied, not encountered elsewhere. In such a scenario, the involvement of an experienced officer who knows the in and out story of the borders, is imperative.

Not to forget, a whole range of natural and man-made disasters occur in India, on a daily basis, which necessitates the emergence and implementation of initiatives that can reduce the risks of disasters and its aftermath, while building resilience, which top the list of national priority. This agenda will be worked out under the supervision of Mangotra. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has now appointed Mangotra as the Chairman of the Indo-Bangladesh Border Committee, after his retirement. His rich experience in this segment will account for resolving various allied issues.

And, the recent developments also show that a lot of constructive action is being carried out to protect the border areas. The BJP-led government has brought into action, India’s first ever Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) along the riverine stretch that borders Bangladesh in Assam. It is based on a Smart Fence concept (have an addition of electronic systems to the barbed wire to detect movement along the border), which is initiated and implemented by BSF, meant for sealing the susceptible gaps lying on the borders on India, shared with Pakistan and Bangladesh. Smart fencing work in Assam is being led by Modi government, and is very different from the barbed fencing (securing of the border with physical fences that obstruct infiltration) and CIBMS (using sensors to detect any form of movement in the water, on the land surface and in the air, to tackle issues that a physical border security system may have due to the geographical reason like in case of Dhubri, where fencing can’t be erected). Earlier, this was done by using reconnaissance in the riverine area by the BSF forces, so to protect the areas. The Government of India, in association with the BSF has kick-started border securing process through CIBMS in the Eastern region of the country, and will soon launch it, along the borders of Pakistan.

However, among all the hullaballoo about the border security and its disaster management, three issues yet prevail between India and Bangladesh, which may affect the bi-lateral ties. They are: Teesta water issues, Rohingya refugees, and National registration of citizens being conducted in Assam.