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India’s $2B Border Solution: Satellites, Gear and Sensors

Oct. 24, 2012 - 06:22PM   |  
By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI   |   Comments
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NEW DELHI — India plans to build a Border Space Command as part of a larger effort to manage the country’s more than 15,000-kilometer border with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, according to an Indian Defence Ministry source.

After concluding that fencing, unattended ground sensors and other gadgets are not sufficient to monitor the country’s porous border, the Indian Home Ministry will build advanced structures that use satellites to manage the border, the MoD source said. The Home Ministry finalized the plan this month to spend more than $2 billion in the next five years on the command.

The Home Ministry plans to send “expressions of interest” to overseas companies for advanced solutions, the source said. The ministry will also assess available worldwide technologies to create a blueprint for the plan, which will include acquiring a dedicated Home Ministry satellite, and setting up ground structures with advanced sensors, fences and electronic equipment linked to command structures.

The ministry decided to beef up border security after Indian authorities discovered a 400-meter-long tunnel from Pakistan into India on July 28. The tunnel, in the Samba district, was detected after rains forced a straight-line cave-in near border fencing.

“Satellites can play an important role for management of borders in varied forms. Continuous surveillance is key to border management. Satellites can provide [that], in addition [to] terrain mapping, communications with remote locations and transponders,” said Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

The Border Space Command plan will include construction of more than 500 border posts along the frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The government will also purchase electronic surveillance equipment, such as night-vision devices, handheld thermal imagers, battlefield surveillance radars, direction finders, unattended ground sensors and high-powered telescopes.

India mainly uses fences and unattended ground sensors along sections of the 15,000-kilometer border. However, the fences are not foolproof, and the sensors have not responded on several occasions, said a source in the border paramilitary force.

This year, India sent a team to Israel to learn from that country’s experience in erecting the security barrier along the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to assess technologies New Delhi could use, an official from the Home Ministry said.

India launched its fencing project in 1986, and only 40 percent of the border is fenced, the paramilitary source said.

Managing the border is important for not only maintaining the security of the country, but also reducing the workload of the Indian Army, which is fighting a low-intensity war with terrorists and insurgents, an Army official said. The Army must devote its time exclusively to preparing to fight a future war with Pakistan and China simultaneously, rather than getting bogged down in border skirmishes, the official said.

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