Historically,
after a major terror attack occurs within India, policymakers in New Delhi often
call for punitive action against the perpetrators both inside and outside of the
country. When investigations of the attack reveal the hand of Pakistan-based
terror groups, this rhetorical escalation can precipitate an escalation of
military, diplomatic, and political tensions between India and Pakistan. Though
India’s retaliation since the 1998 nuclear tests has been limited to the de facto border along the Line of Control (LoC), whenever two
nuclear-armed powers come into conflict there is potential for the situation to
spiral out of control. The nuclear doctrines of India and Pakistan, including
Islamabad’s consideration of a first strike option, have called
into question the strategic stability of the subcontinent. These developments
raise an important concern: are there any better border security and management
solutions available to ensure New Delhi can minimize these types of incidents,
especially those caused by Pakistani
militants infiltrating and carrying out acts of terrorism within
India?

Border Management Gaps and Solutions

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Following
the 1999 Kargil conflict, a Task Force on Border Management
under the Chairmanship of Madhav Godbole (former Home Secretary, government of
India) was formed.  The report produced
by this body recommended the accelerated development of infrastructure along
the border to dissuade the border population from engaging in illegal
activities. After the release of this report, the Indian government made
concerted efforts to create a comprehensive security infrastructure at the
border. The approach, as employed by the government towards managing the
borders, has four important elements: guarding, regulation, development of
border areas, and constituting bilateral institutional mechanisms for resolving
disputes and ironing out conflicts with neighbors. In April 2016, the Union
Ministry of Home Affairs also constituted a Committee to Strengthen Border
Protection (CSBP) with the well-defined mandate “to
study all types of gaps in fencing and all other vulnerabilities on
Indo-Pakistan border and to suggest comprehensive approach to fix these gaps in
fencing and other vulnerabilities on interim and permanent basis.”

However,
investigations into the militant attacks in Gurdaspur
(July 2015) and Pathankot (January 2016) found
that they had been carried out by militants who crossed over the international
border in Punjab, although this border is fenced and guarded by Border Security
Force (BSF) officers. Subsequent investigations revealed further gaps in border
guarding, like the riverine gaps caused by seasonal rivers and the Beas River that
flows from India into Pakistan. Since previous methods have not improved border
management effectively, the case can be made for the immediate need of India to
strengthen its border security by adopting alternative models of border
management. The government of India has already chosen to improve its border
infrastructure by launching the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management
System (CIBMS) in the
same vein as Israeli border security mechanisms.
Similarly,
India could improve the gaps in its border security by consolidating the
multiple agencies responsible for border guarding and management into one
single department, much like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Consultancy firms like Accenture could
then contribute to and improve the security of borders as far as electronic
surveillance and data handling is concerned.

Legal
Mechanisms

It
is shocking to note that there is an absence of a standing bilateral treaty or
legal instrument between India and Pakistan on the issue of border management. The
only legal document currently referenceable is the 1960-61 agreement between
the two governments, which is supposed to form the basis for the management of
the border on the two sides. However, this was signed by military
representatives only and not by their respective governments. In 2005, the two
governments met to frame new rules,
but no substantial progress has been made thereafter. Interestingly, the
countries are abiding by the 1960-61 Indo-Pak Border Ground Rules in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan,
and Gujarat, but the confusion begins when it comes to the border in Jammu and
Kashmir. The non-finalization of the ground rules of 1960-61 poses a serious
problem in the Jammu sector given Pakistan’s non-recognition of the finality of
this border, which it calls a “working boundary,” and the recurrent ceasefire
violations that happen in this region.

Ceasefire
violations are often a result of local-level factors—not, as one
might believe, negative bilateral tensions—many of which can be avoided if the
two sides have a mutually agreed set of rules to abide by. The other major
context of confusion is on the LoC in Kashmir, where India argues that the Shimla Agreement of 1972—which brought the LoC into
existence—be the basis of management.  This
makes the Karachi Agreement of 1949, the first legal document
to define the ceasefire line, redundant—a legal point with which Pakistan
strongly disagrees. The two governments have also not finalized the Ceasefire Agreement of 2003,
despite the fact that hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been killed in violations
since then. This may be because the Ceasefire Agreement was not a written
document with well-constructed rules, norms, or principles, an achievement that
would have enabled the two sides to better manage the border and in turn reduce
violence and casualties.

Both
countries must understand that these border tensions also cause the suffering
of the border populations on both sides, who face temporary displacement, loss
of livelihood, and human and livestock casualties. These kinds of adverse
developments further effect the common citizen, by restricting travel for
business, medical treatment, and even religious tourism, to say the least. Moving
forward, in order to resolve these disputes, and for increased accountability
between the two states, India and Pakistan should consider adopting the United States-Mexico
model of economic interdependence, including an increase in local trade by
allowing local work permits. India and Pakistan are ethnically and
demographically linked and the denial of people-to-people contact is not going
produce a positive result. 

In
the coming years, both countries will witness an increase of transnational
trade infrastructure through the Trans Asian Highway and Rail Network and other regional connectivity initiatives, all
of which  is essential for the
development of the South Asian region. However, escalating diplomatic and
military tensions will only adversely affect these developments and deny both India
and Pakistan potential economic gains. The time is ripe for both India and
Pakistan to engage in some diplomatic and inter-ministerial groundwork on
formalizing the border agreement and creating a strong institutional framework
to execute and monitor these agreements.