Holistic Border Management – Latest News from Jammu and Kashmir | Tourism
Brick Anil Gupta
India enjoys a strategic location in the southern part of the Asian continent. It is located between East and West Asia. India is also strategically located at the center of the trans-Indian Ocean routes that connect Western European countries and East Asian countries. It is also considered a subcontinent as it covers a vast land mass which includes the Himalayan region in the north, the vast Gangetic plain, the coastal plateau and a wide coastline. The various passes through the Himalayas have served as gateways in the past for the exchange of ideas and products. Land and coastal borders were used by Indian kings and rulers to spread the cultural influence of India across its borders, while the same were also used by the various invaders who ventured to conquer Indian territory and plunder its wealth. Thus, borders played an important role in ensuring the survival of the great Indian civilization, one of only two surviving civilizations.
India’s strategic location also gives it many challenges. Large land and coastal borders are one such challenge. India’s coastline stretches for 7,683 km with an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) measuring over 2 million square kilometres. In this article, the focus will be on the management of land borders, not because coastal borders present a lesser challenge, but because after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, a great impetus was given to the Coastal Security, including the Maritime Theater Command Project and the Maritime Commission.
As for land borders, India shares borders with seven countries measuring over 15,000 km. India’s two neighbours, namely Pakistan and China, are hostile with unstable and disputed borders. The border with other neighbors is porous, which promotes cross-border migration due to its unprecedented rate of economic growth vis-à-vis the neighbors. Thus, India’s national security is inextricably linked to comprehensive border management. Many experts regard border management as the first line of defense. Border management does not simply mean the deployment of border guard forces, but has a much broader scope to include the development of the border area, communications, fulfilling the aspirations of border dwellers, promoting national interests and coordination with neighboring states. Border security provides a safe environment for economic development activities, including domestic and foreign investment as well as trade.
By ignoring the development of border areas, previous regimes had made our national security very vulnerable leading to smuggling, drug trafficking, cross-border terror, narco-terrorism, counterfeiting of currency, slicing up our territory in border areas and Kargil like operations. It was the NDA government under Bharat Ratan Atal Bihari Vajpayee that ordered the establishment of the task force to review the border management system after the Kargil war. As mentioned earlier, apart from border guards who require material and financial support from the government, there are also other stakeholders, hence the need for a holistic multi-stakeholder approach to border management.
The current NDA government led by Narendra Modi is very aware of the security and development of the border areas. It has not only taken steps to streamline the ongoing Border Area Development Program (BADP) by issuing new revised guidelines to maximize benefits and ensuring that priority is given to border villages/towns of importance as identified by border guards. To ensure that the funds are used wisely and for the intended purposes, only a social audit mechanism by Gram Sabhas or similar bodies in addition to the current mechanisms of State/UT/Central Governments has been introduced. A system of appointing Prabhari officers for each district to provide independent feedback on development work undertaken through quarterly reporting has also been put in place. In addition, all projects are geo-mapped and uploaded to the BADP online management system. The fund allocation and funding model has also been streamlined to give additional weight to hilly, desert, and Rann areas due to difficult terrain, scarce resources, and higher construction costs. The program currently covers 396 blocks in 111 districts in 16 states and 2 union territories. In addition, the program also covers census villages, semi-urban and urban areas within 10 km of the first habitation of the international border (IB). The government also clarified that once the 0-10 km area is saturated, the program benefits could cover an area of 10-20/30/40/50 km. Only 10% of allocated funds can be spent on assets created under the Border Areas Development Program (BADS) by States/UTs.
Immediately after coming to power in 2014, the Modi-led government made a very important decision regarding roads and strategic projects in states bordering China that had fallen victim to the very strict environmental and forestry rules set by the government. previous. Convinced of the fact that strategic and defense projects should not be delayed or suspended for procedural reasons and aware of the rapid development of the structure carried out by China on the other side of the border, he gave “authorization general” to authorize the diversion of forest land for the construction of two-lane roads within 100 km of the border in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This has led to the completion of many stalled projects and improved connectivity and infrastructure along the border with China. The effect of this was evident in the 2017 Doklam clash and the ongoing clash in Ladakh. To further expedite these projects, the government is now considering having a separate protocol for defense projects and infrastructure, as this would also help maintain much-needed confidentiality.
The Modi government is also focusing on the border with Pakistan. Realizing that any exodus from border villages negatively affects national security, a large number of programs have been initiated to improve the quality of life and provide better facilities and amenities to border residents. Outward migration is greatest from border villages in search of jobs and livelihoods. Continued cross-border shelling across the LOC and Labor Border (as Pakistan refers to IB in the J&K Plains sector) by Pakistan has also created a sense of insecurity and panic among border residents who have demanded land in safer areas to the rear where they could settle. However, the government is not in favor of evacuating border villages and has therefore given carte blanche to border guards and the army to retaliate and punish the enemy as they resort to fire. unprovoked cross-borders. It had the desired impact and peace now reigns along the Line of Control and the Labor Border.
In a first of its kind, the Modi government organized the Frontier Area Development Festival in the Rann of Kutch in the winter of 2020. It brought together the country’s Home Minister among others who made it clear that the government’s objective was not only to develop the border areas, but also to stop border migration and strengthen national security. He also said that despite the remoteness of the border areas, the government is determined to provide them with roads, gas, electricity, housing, electricity, health insurance and medical care. Many of them are also covered by the government’s ambitious district scheme.
The government’s most recent initiative is the announcement of the Vibrant Village program in the 2022-23 budget by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had also earlier taken on the role of Defense Minister. The program targets villages located on the northern borders so far development gains. Activities will include construction of village infrastructure, provision of decentralized renewable energy, road connectivity, access to Doordarshan, tourist sites, livelihood generation and health care. The government plans to provide additional funds for these activities as well as to converge all existing programs. It will be a real game-changer and a nod to the belligerent Chinese who are developing new villages on the border. This would help stem the tide of out-migration from the border areas and hopefully reverse the tide in the future as these villages will not only become livable but also generate livelihoods through Vocal for Local and the promotion of border tourism. The infrastructures thus developed can be dual-use or dual-use and used by the army or the border defense forces for patrols, surveillance and in the event of active hostilities. The government is also keen on extending the railways to these areas and is working towards this end.
As India continues to fight for its place in the committee of nations, it needs to develop a strong and balanced border management policy rather than relying on the convergence of different regimes and agendas.
(The author is a veteran based in Jammu)