” One border-one force” might be a fine principle to propound but it’s simply not working on the ground in India, thanks to turf wars among various security agencies. The ministry of defence (MoD) and ministry of home affairs (MHA) have once again locked horns over the proposed deployment of BSF along the Indo-Myanmar border.
The home ministry wants BSF to replace the Assam Rifles along the 1,643-km border with Myanmar, which has long been a hotbed for insurgents, smugglers, drug traffickers and poachers.
But the MoD-Army combine is opposed to any move to pull back Assam Rifles – it administratively comes under the MHA as a central paramilitary force, but is under the Army’s operational control – from the border to restrict it to just its counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland.
The face-off had led to a bitter tussle between MoD and MHA last year, with the matter even reaching the PM-chaired Cabinet Committee of Security, but a workable solution was elusive, as was reported by TOI.
After remaining in cold storage for some months, the dispute has flared up again with a series of meetings being held between top officials from MHA and MoD-Army but the unseemly deadlock persists, say sources.
Army is blaming MHA for going slow on sanctioning the raising of 26 additional battalions of the Assam Rifles, which it underlines is much better geared to handle “both external and internal security challenges”, with China’s shadow looming large in the region.
Assam Rifles is not getting land near the border to construct outposts, roads, tracks and helipads for additional troop deployment. The paramilitary force has over 65,000 troops in 46 battalions, with 31 deployed for counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland and 15 guarding the border.
“With 90% of its officer cadre drawn from Army and 30% of its troops hailing from north-east, Assam Rifles is better geared for both counter-insurgency and border management. It has been working seamlessly with Army in the region, stretching from border to hinterland, in intelligence-sharing and operations. BSF will find it an alien environment,” said a MoD source.
MHA, however, feels posts of Assam Rifles should be located closer to the border to effectively prevent infiltration and smuggling. Additional battalions can be raised if the force moves closer to the border, instead of sticking to its present “company operating bases” located at a distance, and comes under MHA’s operational control. Conversely, BSF should move full steam ahead to raise 41 additional battalions for border management with Myanmar.
There is a similar pattern along other borders as well. MHA has stonewalled the Army’s proposal to take operational charge of ITBP, another of the seven central police forces, for better guarding of the Line of Actual Control with China in eastern Ladakh.
India’s long unresolved land borders with Pakistan and China continue to suffer from lack of synergy among various forces deployed in forward areas. This when the Group of Ministers’ report on reforming the national security system had underlined the importance of the ‘one border-one force’ principle over a decade ago.
-via Times of India