Border Management

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  • Internal Security Trends in 2013 and a Prognosis

    The internal security situation in India reflected a marked improvement in 2012-2013 relative to previous years. This Issue Brief offers an assessment of the major trends in 2013 for Jammu and Kashmir, the land borders of India, Naxalism, the Northeast, terrorism and radicalism in India. It also offers a prognosis for the year ahead.

    January 24, 2014

    Border Defence Cooperation Agreement: The Icebreaker in Making?

    The long expected Agreement on Border Defence Cooperation (BDCA) was signed between the governments of India and China on 23 October 2013 in Beijing, during the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to the People’s Republic of China. The draft of the agreement had been through close-door negotiations by both the governments for about a year prior to its signing. Incidentally, it was also during these negotiations that a three week long face-to-face incident occurred—in April-May 2013—at Depsang located in the Aksai Chin region which is disputed between India and China.

    January 2014

    Chinese intrusions across the LAC

    China’s border intrusions have been bolstered by a steady and committed expansion of its military hardware and infrastructure in Tibet and neighbouring provinces. The improvement of surface transportation near the LAC has resulted in larger military presence and augmented rapid deployment capacities of the PLA and the PLAAF.

    December 17, 2013

    Krishnadev Asked: Why does India have an open border with Nepal?

    Pushpita Das replies: The seeds of an ‘open’ border between India and Nepal can be found in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship which the two countries signed in 1950. Articles VI and VII of the Treaty specify that citizens of both countries have equal rights in matters of residence, acquisition of property, and employment and movement in each other’s territory; thus, providing for an open border between the two countries. These provisions allowed the citizens of India and Nepal to cross their shared borders without passport and visa restrictions.

    In fact, the practice of keeping the borders with Nepal open is a British legacy which was continued by India after the independence. During the colonial times, the British required Gorkhas for their army and the Nepalese market for their finished goods. These requirements necessitated unrestricted cross-border movement of both goods and people. In addition, the rise of an assertive China and the absence of any physical barrier between India and Nepal compelled India to define the Himalayas, lying north of Nepal, as its northern barrier with China. Thus, the open border between India and Nepal not only addressed the mutual security concerns, but also fostered close socio-economic relations between the two countries.

    The unrestricted flow of people over the years has resulted in the dissemination of ideas, culture, and settlements of people in each other’s territory, thereby, strengthening the bilateral social and cultural relations. The open border also has had a favourable impact on the two economies. Nepal is a landlocked country and its closest access to the sea is through India. As a result, most of its imports pass through India. As for India, it is the biggest trading partner of Nepal. An open border has also allowed many Nepalese citizens to find employment in India and Indians to open business ventures in Nepal.

    India-Myanmar Border Problems: Fencing not the only solution

    In addition to building a 10-km fence along its border with Myanmar, India should strengthen the security of the border by deploying adequate guarding forces, revise the FMR and constructively engage with Myanmar to prevent the cross-border movement of insurgents and traffickers.

    November 15, 2013

    BDCA with China and its Implications for India

    The new architecture admittedly is a rehash of previously signed (1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012) de-escalatory measures. Most of the Clauses outline mechanisms for exchanging information, consultations about military activities and enhancing communications between border personnel and headquarters.

    October 29, 2013

    Need to effectively manage the India-Nepal Border

    Transforming the India-Nepal border from an ‘open border’ to a ‘closed border’ would severely damage the traditional socio-cultural and economic ties. It would be prudent to keep the border open but manage it more effectively through mutual cooperation.

    September 19, 2013

    Niras asked: It was recently stated that India-Myanmar border trade would be upgraded to normal trade. What is the difference?

    Udai Bhanu Singh replies: Trade on the Indo-Myanmar border was traditionally conducted on an informal basis and was quite negligible compared to the normal trade. Trading in traditional goods on head load basis and through barter was the usual practice. A legal basis was accorded to the customary trade when India and Myanmar signed a border trade agreement in 1994. Land Customs Station (LCS) at Moreh was the first trading-point to be operationalised on the Indo-Myanmar border in 1995. The second one is the Zowkhathar-Rhi LCS. A third LCS is expected to be opened up at Avakhung-Pansat/Somrai.

    Border trade constitutes only a fraction of the bilateral trade. Enhanced border trade is considered as critical for the development of India’s North-eastern Region (NER). India has a long land border (over 1600 km) with Myanmar, but the border trade remains minimal. In 2010-11, the border trade was only $12.8 million whereas the bilateral trade was $1070 million. Indian exports included cotton yarn, auto parts, soya bean meal and pharmaceuticals while India’s imports included betel nuts, dried ginger, green moong beans, turmeric roots, resin and medicinal herbs. Currently, on the India-Myanmar border, trade at a concessional rate of duty (5 per cent ad valorem) and in certain conditions is permitted for 62 tradable items (effective since December 2012 following DGFT notification) through the LCSs at Moreh (Manipur) and Zowkhathar (Mizoram) as per the Department of Commerce notifications.

    The problem lies in the smuggling of items like fertilizers, vehicles especially two wheelers, etc. This illegal transaction on the border gives border trade a bad name while bringing little or no benefit to the communities living on either sides of the border. In addition, the NER is landlocked, and despite its vast natural and human resource, the people of the region cannot have a share in the maritime trade. To the extent the increase in maritime trade does not stimulate the economic growth in the NER (and ignores and even breaks traditional trade links), it perpetuates the perception that the benefits of the ‘Look East Policy’ is bypassing the NER as 98 per cent of the trade is conducted through ports. Thus, promotion of ‘cross border growth poles’ or ‘growth triangles’ is suggested, besides systematic sociological, anthropological and political analyses of the systems in the two countries.

    Normal trade is also permitted through the LCSs. The 3rd India-Myanmar Joint Trade Committee (2008) decided that border trade would be upgraded to normal trade, which refers to the trade between two countries that is subject to payment of custom duties applicable on international trade with any other country of the world. According to the Northeast Vision 2020, “opening up trade routes will expand economic opportunities for the region and accelerate its growth process.” There is great potential in the revival of international commerce through road, river (Kaladan) and railways; and, connecting to Chittagong and Kolkata besides Sittwe (to Dawei and beyond in Indochina). It can boost the economy of the north eastern states which could bring back some of the glory of yesteryears when the land-based silk route flourished. Among the 13 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) being set up in NER, one is at Moreh in Manipur. The objective of ICP is to provide integrated infrastructure (including immigration, customs, and border security with support facilities like warehousing, banking and hotels) and to interdict elements hostile to the country in order to facilitate legitimate trade and commerce.

    For more details, refer to the following IDSA publication:

    Udai Bhanu Singh and Shruti Pandalai, “Myanmar: The Need for Infrastructure Integration” in Rumel Dahiya and Ashok K. Behuria (eds.), India’s Neighbourhood: Challenges in the Next two Decades, Pentagon Security International, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 110-136.

    Cooperation is the key to manage the India-Bangladesh Border

    That cooperation between neighbours can pave the way for resolving issues relating to the management of shared borders is amply demonstrated by the outcomes of various bilateral interactions that took place between India and Bangladesh in recent months.

    October 12, 2012

    Securing Central Asian Frontiers: Institutionalisation of Borders and Inter-state Relations

    This article develops the message that the artificially introduced administrative borders during the Soviet era, which were subject to the processes of re-delimitation after 1991, whether for reasons of security, administration, mutual distrust or the population's ethnic attachment, have become results and means of political manipulation and pressurisation. This has resulted in further pushing regional states to follow mutually exclusive policies.

    July 2012