It is good that the Narendra Modi government has given up its plan to build a wall along the Pakistan border in Jammu. The raised embankment proposal initiated by the UPA government in 2013 after the twin attacks in the Hiranagar/Samba sector, was envisaged as a barrier to cross-border terror along 179 km of the international border (IB) in Jammu.
There were impracticalities involved which were overlooked at the time the plan was conceived. Instead of dragging its feet, it is wise that the Centre has realised the futility of it, though belatedly. The Army had opposed the embankment, saying that it would pose hurdles to its forward movement during military operations. The wall proposal was even opposed by Pakistan, which shot off letters to the UN Security Council in 2015 accusing India of converting what it called a ‘working boundary’ into a ‘quasi international boundary’.
There were multiple issues. Unlike the Line of Control, the IB is densely populated and has fertile agrarian land. Not many people were willing to let go of their land. The result was that hardly 25 per cent of the land could be acquired.
Since the plan for raising an embankment was not materialising, the Modi government has decided to instead depend on ‘technological solutions’ such as a ‘smart fence’, a seamless virtual fence with sensors to identify any infiltration. It is imperative, however, that a speedy and effective solution be found because since 2014, when the NDA government came to power, there have been more than 900 ceasefire violations along the Pakistan border in Jammu.
The Home Ministry is now working on a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) for 24X7 surveillance. This time it is necessary that a proper assessment be done before a possible solution is worked out. It is no good for half-baked ideas to be put into shape without all aspects being considered. Currently, a pilot project is under way, where an integrated system of human resources, sensors, networks, intelligence and command and control solutions are being worked upon, according to a newspaper report.
The endeavour is to improve situational awareness to facilitate prompt and informed decision-making and quick response to emerging situations. A major component of this system will be the smart fence, which will be a seamless virtual fence, comprising various sensors and laser-based technologies.