The long, porous and difficult borders have created the security challenges of illegal immigration, cross border terrorism, narcotics and arms smuggling, abetment of separatists and left -wing extremism and separatist movements aided by external powers. Pakistan policy of supporting cross border terrorism has led to constant border skirmishes along the line of actual control makes further accentuating the security challenges. Borders with Mayanmar and Nepal are also causing serious concern.
These terror operatives have travelled across borders from Afghanistan resulting in an enhanced vigil by the security forces to thwart infiltration and terror bids along the sensitive frontier in Jammu-Kashmir. Sources said that while infiltration bases and terror launch pads along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir are still intact, the latest concern of the security agencies are the well-trained terrorists from Afghanistan whose presence along the vulnerable infiltration spots along Pakistan border can be used to foment trouble in the newly-created Union Territory (UT) of Jammu-Kashmir and other locations in the hinterland. The BSF, they said, has also recently completed and exercise to fully “map and identify” vulnerable spots all along these two borders as part of a three-staged exercise carried out last year.
India faces major border management challenges having to manage over 15,000 km long borders with seven countries, sections of which are contested or not formally demarcated on the ground or constitute only an agreed line of control. Since most of Indian borders are man-made artificial boundaries and not based on natural features such as rivers and watersheds, they are very permeable and easy to cross. The task of border management become even more complicated due to geographical factors. There are mountains, swamps, rivers, deserts, forests, and variety of other geographical features which pose a challenge in front of security forces. Due to vulnerable borders, India has witnessed numerous cross-border terrorist attacks. During 2016, there were hundreds of instances of ceasefire violations and several security forces personnel and civilians were killed.
The challenges are equally formidable in maritime domain. India occupies a major strategic position in Southern Asia and has to gaurd its long coastline in Indian Ocean region that is 7,683 km long, and an Exclusive Economic Zone that is over two million square km in size, extended maritime zone, island territories, sea lanes of communication for its trade and energy flows and offshore oil installations.
“The challenge of long-standing boundary and territorial disputes, some of which are legacy issues, coupled with difficult terrain, extreme climatic conditions and porosity of borders, has rendered India’s Borders vulnerable to several external and internal security threats and made efficient and effective border management a foremost priority for the Indian Government,” writes parliamentary standing committee report.
To tackle these challenges, India has actively pursued the strategy of strengthening of border policing and guarding, creation of border infrastructure like roads, fencing and floodlight, Border Out Posts (BoPs), implementation of the Coastal Security Scheme to strengthen coastal security infrastructure, implementation of Border Area Development Programme and development of Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) on the land borders of the country including setting up of Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI).
The measures to check infiltration include boosting surveillance architecture and intelligence gathering, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said in the Lok Sabha in March 2021. Naik said the ‘innovative’ deployment of troops, proactive use of surveillance and monitoring devices have enhanced the ability to detect and intercept terrorists attempting to infiltrate into India. ‘The Indian Army has adopted a robust counter infiltration strategy which has an appropriate mix of technology and human resource put together to check infiltration effectively,’ the minister said.
Since the borders with six countries are having entirely different terrain and temperature profile the Indian Army needs for surveillance systems on these different border areas are also hugely varied. While the army would require the unmanned aerial vehicles for across the borders day-night monitoring in all the seasons, the ground level deployment of the night vision devices and other ground level intrusion detection systems are also very important.
Sources explained that what is badly needed in the region is surveillance equipment that can work at altitudes where temperatures dip to -40 degrees. While the situation along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh is peaceful and the number of intrusions by the Chinese is much less this year as compared to last year, surveillance is still an important requirement.The army has asked some industries to come to Nyoma and ahead of Partapur (Siachen brigade location) during November and December for the evaluation of their logistics and surveillance equipment. The army wants to check whether they can function in such weather.
Smuggling is one of the major challenges across the India Pakistan border. In a bid to counter the illicit activities across the border the government completed two pilot projects covering about 71 Kms on Indo-Pakistan Border and Indo-Bangladesh Border of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS).
Terrorist infiltration from Pakistan has come down by a large extent in Jammu & Kashmir, though there is no let-up in attempts being made by the neighbouring country to push terrorists and weapons into India, the Army has said. According to official figures, 27 terrorists have infiltrated into India so far this year, as against 130 in 2019 and 129 in 2018. Sources in the defence and security establishment said higher deployment of troops, reshaping of the anti-infiltration grid, and use of technology have helped bring the number of successful infiltration attempts down in 2020.
Comprehensive Integrated Border Management (CIBMS)
Mr G Kishan Reddy, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Govt of India, called for integrating new technology and infrastructure to ensure a safe and smart border management system. Speaking at ‘Smart Border Management – 2019’ organized by FICCI, Mr Reddy said that the government has, for the first time, initiated a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) to cover areas where physical fencing is not feasible. “The recorded date and information can be shared with all intelligence and security forces,” said Mr Reddy. “CIBMS includes integration of manpower, sensors, networks, intelligence, and command and control solutions to improve situational awareness at different levels of hierarchy to facilitate prompt and informed decisions and a quick response to emerging situations,” added Mr Reddy.
Technology can play a significant role in border management. For example, virtual fencing, surveillance through satellites, the sensor for movement detection, alarms etc can help in better management of borders. Government of India has also decided to deploy technological solutions in the form of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management (CIBMS), on a pilot basis to begin with, in different terrains on Indo-Pakistan border. With the help of latest technology system would detect infiltration via land, underwater, air and tunnels. So this will be helpful in counter infiltration and cross-border terror.
‘Innovative troops deployment, proactive use of surveillance and monitoring devices and the Anti Infiltration Obstacle System (AIOS) have enhanced the ability to detect and intercept terrorists attempting to infiltrate/exfiltrate,’ he said in a written reply. On the basis of regular analysis of threat assessment and past infiltration attempts, drill and procedures are being modified to counter emerging threats, Naik said. Some of the measures employed by the Indian Army to check infiltration included augmentation of AIOS with surveillance assets and enhanced incorporation of aerial platforms, night vision equipment, radars and underground sensors etc, he added. Naik said maintenance of heightened alert in areas along the LoC is also part of the measures.
India is erecting a new non-cut ‘steel fence’ to plug vulnerable and infiltration-prone patches along its sensitive border with Pakistan and Bangladesh. They said the single-row fence, with loops of concertina wires on top, is being erected at a 60-km border stretch in near Amritsar in Punjab. A ‘pilot project’ of this new fence is also being tested at a 7-km stretch in Assam’s Silchar along India’s border with Bangladesh and is being analysed by the BSF, they said. This fence will cost about Rs 2 crore for a kilometre, official sources said.
CIBMS is based on integration of manpower, underground, under water sensors, networks, intelligence and command & control solutions, including options such as Electro-Optic Sensors (high resolution day & night cameras), Radars and other devices. One of the major components of CIBMS is the ‘virtual fence’. This will be very helpful, keeping the difficult geographical features in mind. The second component is the command and control, to help in optimum utilization of resources for border management. Another component is power management so that CBIMS can run without any interruptions.
Realising the need to have smart barriers to check intrusion from China and Pakistan, ministry of home affairs (MHA) is setting up a space and technology cell. The cell is expected to improve border management and help in operations. In consultation with ISRO and DRDO, the ministry has identified areas where space technology could be leveraged to put a check on suspicious activities around the 15,106.7 km land border and 7,516.6 km coastline with seven countries. Latest surveillance equipments like Hand Held Thermal Imager (HHTI), Long Range Recce Observation System (LORROS), Night vision Goggle/devices, etc. are being inducted.
An important component of the CIBMS is the use of satellite imagery, which helps security forces to find out details of the terrain and fortifications across the border. It also helps in planning operations and in infrastructure development. The BSF has installed a 3-D based Geographic Information System, which captures, stores and displays data related to locations on the Earth’s surface. Satellite images procured by the BSF from ISRO and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) are installed in the system, enabling the BSF’s headquarters and ground units to view them. The feasibility of using drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Aerostat Balloons fitted with day- and night-vision devices may also be used.
Border Surveillance Platforms and technologies
The need to secure maritime borders, land borders and airspace different technologies including perimeter security sensors, radars/sonars, C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems, digital intelligence, predictive analysis tools, etc. are required for security from any kind of outside intrusions/attacks.
There is need of a strong intelligence collection mechanism at the borders so that information on any upcoming threat can be gathered beforehand and preventive measures can be taken. Different tools and systems should be deployed for SIGINT (signals intelligence), COMINT (communications intelligence), ELINT (electronic intelligence), and IMINT (imagery intelligence).
The effective border surveillance calls for a wide range of mission capabilities requiring flexible, high-performance multi-sensor systems, installed and operated from a variety of platforms. Many surveillance technologies are being employed : Airborne Sensor Systems, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Airships, and/or Aerostats, containing RF, Electro-Optical,Infrared, and Video payloads. Land-based Sensor Systems both Attended/Mobile and Unattended with CCD, Motion, and Acoustic sensors. Maritime Sensor Systems also include RF, Electro-Optical, and Infrared sensors.
A strong response mechanism is needed to respond to any intrusion events, which can include autonomous UAVs/UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles)/remote weapon stations, to act as a force multiplier and can help ground forces without endangering forces that are physically protecting the borders.
India is looking at inducting several new technologies at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, including a range of drones for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance purposes, loitering munitions, counter drones with varying soft and hard kill options as well as several Artificial Intelligence-based systems to interpret images better, detect intrusion and quantum computing, said Army Chief General Manoj Pande while speaking to a group of journalists on the sidelines of Aero India 2023.
“We are looking at more soft-kill and hard-kill options for countering drones, and even swarm drones for that matter,” he said, adding that the Army is looking to find some good options among loitering munitions which it is seeking to procure.
Short- and medium-range platforms integrate a wide variety of sensors – including such systems as tautwire perimeter detection, vibration intrusion detection, electromagnetic intrusion detection, electrostatic field disturbance, electro-optical observation, and even microwave field disturbance detectors.
- Perimeter fences – deploy a variety of electronic surveillance technologies for intrusion detection and warning. These ground-based systems are primarily short-range, up to around 500 meters.
- Observation towers extend surveillance capabilities many tens of kilometers further from a border installation, and provide a platform for ground-based medium-range surveillance.
- Mobile surface observation platforms, such as land vehicles as well as maritime vessels, patrol frontier regions and coastal waters, extending the reach of medium-range surveillance sensors.
- Observation aerostats, stationary platforms, generally tethered balloons, allow for extended observation over wider areas, extending the reach of surveillance sensors beyond what can be seen from an observation tower
The most effective intrusion detection systems use multiple technologies to increase the probability of early detection with low false alarm rates under a range of atmospheric and lighting conditions. Closed circuit television (CCTV), infrared image cameras, surveillance UAVs, long range radar and laser radar (LIDAR) are often deployed in appropriate combinations.
For coastal borders and seaports, artificial intelligence and machine learning-based maritime analytics can play a bigger role by taking information from centralized systems like AIS (Automatic Identification System), GIS (Geographic information system), etc., and can inform the authorities in advance about any suspicious vessels/ships/ boats before they even enter national waters.
There is requirement for a reliable communication system (wired and wireless) in place with a strong encryption mechanism (an overlap of 256-bit encryption and proprietary algorithms) and their exclusive waveforms so that nobody can hack into their mission-critical communication.
Other measures and technologies include, Better border security controls, Smarter electronic surveillance systems to effectively detect, categorize, identify, prevent and deter threats, Improved tools and processes for the forces to respond quickly and effectively to any potential threat, and Enhanced coordination between multiple agencies and stakeholders for an integrated and sophisticated smart border management.
A top Army commander said in Nov 2022 that counter-drone equipment have been deployed at different places in Jammu and Kashmir to check airdropping of weapons and drugs from across the border.
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi said the security agencies have also identified all the places where weapons are being dropped to ensure that terrorists, who are running short of arms, do not get hold of the weapons.
Gen. Dwivedi said terrorists are present in Jammu and Kashmir but despite planning to carry out an operation, they are not able to strike due to a shortage of weapons. “We have installed counter-drone equipment at different places and are also looking at those places where drones were used to drop weapons. We have earmarked those places and are taking appropriate action so that terrorists cannot get the weapons,” he said.
“Drone is an evolving technology and in the coming days, you will see action from both sides — they (Pakistan) will try to send drones (with weapons and drugs), we will deploy counter-measures using technology,” the Army commander told reporters here on the sidelines of a programme to mark the platinum jubilee of the historic “Poonch Link-up Day”.
Tata Power SED wins pilot project order from Ministry of Home Affairs
Tata Power’s Strategic Engineering Division (Tata Power SED) has received an order for a pilot project from Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (GOI), for the supply of comprehensive integrated border management system (CIBMS) to Border Security Force (BSF). This order is an initial phase of the larger Border Management project of the Ministry of Home Affairs to enable round-the-clock surveillance of Indian borders and to ensure every inch of area of interest is kept under vigil by our forces.
CIBMS will establish a seamless, multi-tier security ring at the border using a variety of sensors to identify any infiltration attempts and will be operational 24x7x365. Sensors (viz. thermal imager, radar, aerostat with EO payload, optical fibre intrusion detection system, unattended ground sensor and underwater sensor) can detect threats not just on the surface but also underground and underwater. The command and control system processes data from each of these sensors and fuses them together forming a Common Operational Picture (COP) for timely decision assist to troops on the ground.
CRON Systems has been building technology that will help the Army in predicting intrusions and prevent them.
Delhi-based startup CRON Systems — an Internet of Things-based border security startup has been building technology that will help the Army in predicting intrusions and prevent them. CRON Systems, co-founded by Tushar Chhabra, Saurav Agarwala, and Tommy Katzenellenbogen— is working at the borders to build the product based on Army’s requirements.
CRON has installed multiple sensors including Active Infra-Red, Passive Infra Red, Microwave and IR Cameras with Day and Night Capability, thermal cameras for accurate intrusion verification . Through sensor fusion the system is capable of recognizing friends or foe movement with range of 100-200 meters.
These developments were shared by the systems’ developers, Cron Systems, an Indian startup, in partnership with a California based technology firm, Quanergy Systems. Cron Systems has also setup three “technology centres” in Kashmir and Ladakh for repairing, maintaining and customising army electro-optical equipment. This is in view of lack of adequate technical support in remote areas. It plans to open a total of eight centres along the Line of Control (LoC).
The Kavach Z, which employs different sensors, is being pitted by Cron Systems for preventing intrusions by providing “actionable intelligence” about potential attacks. It provides 360-degree situational awareness to security forces by detecting objects and persons approaching a perimeter as far as 200m. Tushar Chhabra, co-founder and CEO of Cron Systems, explains that it provides a 3-D mapping system for tracking such objects. He adds that it classifies a threat and a non-threat on the mapping screen, such as differentiating between a person and animal by using colour coding. “The colour red has been defined as the threat, while green is for human and few identified colours for animals,” he explains.
As soon as an intrusion happens or a movement is detected beyond the perimeter/border an alarm is raised, detected by these sensors and an alert is sent to an analytics platform, through an encrypted wireless communication system. Simultaneously, the nearest drone and rover are sent an alert for live surveillance & visual verification. However, when someone blocks this communication, the object is differentiated if its an animal or a human. Instantly, data is transmitted to each station where the jawan then has to press a button saying either he is in trouble or secure.“The Kavach Z has been deployed at a particular patch along the Line of Control and is undergoing trials.
“Collecting such data points, the platform is creating descriptive analytics, which probably in the next 5-6 years will help you predict the threat around the perimeter before an attack likely happens. For instance, if he is carrying any weapon, the light radar and thermal technology will detect it. He explains over the last two-three years, through their data points they found that during November, intrusions usually spike up. But also, before an intrusion happens lot of activities take place. “Such data points help in predicting these intrusions.”
Chabbra adds, “We also realized just checking in line will not solve the problem but we need to look at the counterpart’s territory. All perimeters have different threats so a camp in Kashmir will have altogether a different set of data point from an Indo-Nepal border and even the level of threats are different.
For example in the Indo-Nepal border, a person will always try to move alone so that he isn’t caught whereas in Kashmir territory while doing areas inspection, they will move in larger groups. Proximity to the perimeter is another crucial criteria. In heavy threat areas, proximity will be very less around 10-12 ft and it will be around months before the attack whereas otherwise, it will be 3 days before and around 100-200 metres away.
The GeoSight which works similarly has a design that makes it capable of creating a 3D visualisation of the surrounding area, even in adverse environmental conditions and at night, according to Cron Systems. The GeoSight is setup on a vehicle and consists of sensors at the front and back for tracking the road and the surrounding terrain, including houses, walls, vehicles and movement. It can track up to 150 m. Like the Kavach Z, it also classifies the threat using colour coding. The data is saved and placed on a virtual map, creating a 3D view. “Imagine, making army vehicles into such data centres. This will be the first step towards situational awareness…The vehicle with the device is creating a map… It will be handy for counter terrorist operations and perimeter security,” explained Tushar.
The DRDO is focusing on developing high altitude, long endurance, vertical take-off, medium altitude, long endurance and combat UAVs. Indian private players like Idea Forge, Dynamatrics, Hi-tech Robotics, Ufcon, Omnipresent Technologies, Tata Pattern, Tata Advance Systems and the public sector Bharat Electronics are working in this area.
The Army plans to use the mini UAVs for counter insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, which should have an endurance of 30 to 90 minutes equipped with a camera which can track the targets automatically. The mini UAVs are also intended to carry out reconnaissance along the LoC with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China.
Indian Army is performing technical assessment for acquisition of 600 mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). A total of Rs 950 crore ($145 M) will be incurred to procure the devices through “Buy Indian” in an effort to give a boost to government’s ambitious programme, ‘Make in India’. As per sources, each infantry battalion will be allocated one mini-UAV.
Chinese Border excursion challenge
However, CIBMS is more suited to counter terrorism operations and in future India has to upgrade it to counter adversaries like China which has large payload high altitude stealth drones, stealth aircrafts, large number of missile batteries, light tanks and directed energy weapons. The 2020 China–India skirmishes are part of an ongoing military standoff between China and India. Since 5 May 2020, Chinese and Indian troops have engaged in aggressive melee, face-offs and skirmishes at locations along the Sino-Indian border, including near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region, and near the border between Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Additional clashes also took place at locations in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).According to Indian sources, melee fighting on 15/16 June 2020 resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers (including an officer) and casualties of 43 Chinese soldiers (including the death of an officer).
The Chinese garrison on Pangong Lake, which straddles the India-China border, has been reinforced with new assault boats. At least six are now present on the lake, allowing for a mobile assault force of at least 60 troops. They are stationed near to the contested line of actual control. The border region has been the scene of heightened tensions between the two countries including several clashes. The Type-928D assault boats are generally similar to the Swedish CB-90. They represent a significant increase in capability for Chinese forces on the mountain lakes along the contested border. The type was first deployed to the lake in October 2019.Based on satellite imagery analysis they began appearing at the western end, nearer the defacto border around June this year.
The Type-928D is 13.8m (45 ft) long and has a beam of 3.9m (13 ft). Its three 295 hp motors give it a top speed of 38.9 knots. In the assault role it can carry up to 11 troops. They are primarily armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun mounted in a remote weapons station (RWS) above the cabin offering a wide arc of fire. Two crew-served machine guns can be mounted on the aft deck.
Amid the standoff, India reinforced the region with 12,000 additional workers, who would assist India’s Border Roads Organisation in completing the development of Indian infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border.Experts have postulated that the standoffs are Chinese pre-emptive measures in responding to the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road infrastructure project in Ladakh. The Chinese have also extensively developed their infrastructure in these disputed border regions and are continuing to do so. The revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, in August 2019, by the Indian government has also troubled the Chinese.However, India and China have both maintained that there are enough bilateral mechanisms to resolve the situation through quiet diplomacy. The border tension between India and China has not been resolved despite several rounds of military and diplomatic talks. China has set up permanent structures near the border areas despite repeatedly committing on disengagement to the Indian Army.
DRDO’s Bharat drones to boost army’s surveillance missions over Chinese activities along LAC
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has provided indigenously-developed drones called ‘Bharat’ to the Indian Army amid the ongoing boundary tensions at LAC between India and China, as reported in July 2020. The drones are sent in order to conduct accurate surveillance along the Line of Actual Control in high altitude and mountainous terrains of Eastern Ladakh, ANI quoted defence sources as saying.
Projected to be among ‘world’s most agile and lightest surveillance systems’, the drone has been developed indigenously by the DRDO. The “small yet powerful drone works autonomously at any location with great accuracy. The unibody biomimetic design with advance release technology is a potent combination for surveillance missions”, according to DRDO sources. The UAV was made in a way to ensure its survival in extreme cold weather temperatures. With transgression by the Chinese troops along the LAC as the major challenge, the drone also provides real-time video transmission during the mission and can detect humans hidden under deep forest covers.
It has been equipped with advanced night vision capabilities and its stealthy design ensures that its signature remains undetected from enemy radars. It is gaining a lot of popularity because it can operate in swarm operations, sources said. “The drone is capable of providing real-time video feed as well as still images to its operators and its controlling software has built-in artificial intelligence tools for analysis and decision-making,” Tribunequoted a senior DRDO as saying. “Besides the armed forces, it also has the potential for being used by the Central Armed Police Forces and law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Bharat has been designed entirely by DRDO’s Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), which is involved in development, production, processing and characterisation of different high-explosive compositions, fragmentation studies of warheads, captive flight testing of bombs, missiles and airborne systems and ballistics evaluation of protective systems like body armour, vehicle armour and helmets.
AI-based tech to guard India’s borders
With an objective to improve the overall border security scenario and check the illegal intrusion and drone-based activities, the Sashastra Seema Bal and the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has jointly launched the Hackathon DRISHTI initiative in Dec 2021 to develop low-cost home-made solutions for effective border management.
The problem statement provided by Sashastra Seema Bal includes two (02) areas of focus and technology development for charting out an effective indigenous solution to SSB specific problems in order to improve overall border security scenario.
As a part of the Intelligence inputs available to security forces, there are a number of occasions where there is an urgent need to identify suspicious persons/vehicles along the borders using the inputs available. Requirement is Detection of unauthorized/suspected vehicles and persons moving across the border through various check posts and vulnerable points along with seamless integration of data from various check posts. Provide a creative yet practical system so as to enable the CAPFs identify the suspicious person/vehicle and make informed decisions.
To create a solution using AI based sensors and other electronic devices to identify suspicious person/vehicles from a data base of collected information. Data could be in the form of audio, video, image, text etc. Data so gathered should be well analyzed and correlated to identify the suspicious person/vehicle and provide information of the target. Facial/image recognition and matching capabilities can also be used to derive meaningful insights. Should include the ability to:
(i) Identification and verification
(ii) Have a data base of collected information
(iii) List out actions based on the learnings
UAVs and Drones are being used by Security forces to gather sensitive information along the borders. Surveillance of the open borders and Vulnerable gaps along the IBB/INB is an essential requirement for SSB, so as to monitor the encroachments along the no man’s land and disputed areas. Requirement is for UAV/Drone based surveillance along with geospatial mapping of vulnerable areas across the border.
An easily operable system is needed for enhancing surveillance security of the open borders and especially in vulnerable areas using Drones and UAVs. The prototype should be easily operable and Cost effective so as to help the Forces take proactive action.