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Managing India’s Borders: Lessons from the US Experience

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  • January 28, 2011
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Shri Naveen Verma, National Security Council
    Discussants: Professor Chintamani Mahapatra and Shri K Srinivasan

    The paper focuses on how United States manages its borders through the concept of “smart borders”, enhanced cross border cooperation with neighbours and utilisation of technological solutions and how far these measures are relevant to India’s approach to border management. Smart Border concept encompasses safe and secure flow of people and goods and improvement of transit infrastructure and cross border cooperation. According to Dr. Das, border management entails facilitating cross border flows of people and goods while concurrently preventing the entry of persons or goods which pose threat to home territories or population. In this context, the paper summarizes the Indian approach to border management and American practices to conclude that India’s “security centric” approach should be replaced by “smart border” principle for more fluid borders and increased trade efficiency.

    The major point of discussion and suggestions to the author:

    • The paper has given a new perspective on how traditionally borders are managed in India and the challenges posed by the same.
    • Excellent comparison of border management in two largest democracies in the world but respective countries have qualitatively/quantitatively different border issues that has to be borne in mind, for example drug trafficking and large scale illegal migration is a menace to the US while cross border terrorism is an issue for India.
    • India’s festering border issues with its neighbours and hostile relations pose security challenge to India’s borders and hence India has to keep “security approach” unlike US that has amiable relations with Canada and Mexico (main countries in focus in the paper).
    • Political economy of US and South Asia are unique by themselves, hence the fundamental flaw would be to compare how two countries manage their borders.
    • In Indian Context, “Smart Border” does not seems to be an ideal concept as long as an unstable region prevails. Basic political dilemmas have to be addressed in the region for further improvement in relations between the countries that will entail better border management in the longer run.
    • Greater importance to land border management negates the importance of coastal security, specially post 26/11 threats that emanate from the coasts. Hence, a new turf to explore in India’s security ambit.
    • Role of individual states in border management needs to be incorporated/ evaluated for a robust border security
    • Overall, a security approach complementary with cooperative approach is in India’s interest, and not smart border approach.

    Report prepared by Anwesha Ray Chaudhuri, Research Assistant, IDSA