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DEFENCE-SECURITY

The India-Pak IB At Punjab Is Now The More Active Border

Given Pak’s incessant efforts to create turmoil in Punjab, the security forces will have to step up vigilance.

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On August 22, 2020, Border Security Force (BSF) personnel shot dead five unidentified armed Pakistani intruders in the Tarn Taran District of Punjab. A BSF spokesperson said that after suspicious activity was noticed near the India-Pakistan International Border (IB) in the region, the troopers “cordoned the area and challenged the intruders to stop and surrender. The Pakistani armed intruders did not pay any heed to the challenge and opened fire on the BSF troops resulting in a gun-battle.”

Later, the troopers recovered dead bodies of five slain intruders along with nine packets containing 9.92 kilograms heroin, an AK-47 rifle, four 9mm Beretta pistols, and some ammunition.

This was the most violent incident, in terms of the number of fatalities, recorded along the India-Pakistan International Border in Punjab, since 2000, according to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM).


The worst previous incident was recorded on January 21, 2014, when BSF troops deployed in the area of Border Out Post (BOP) Naushera Dhalla in Amritsar District, shot dead three Pakistani intruders and recovered 20 kilograms of narcotics and ammunition.

Other prominent incidents of violence include:

October 26, 2013: BSF troops shot dead three Pakistani smugglers near the Mullankot border outpost in Amritsar District and recovered 24 kilograms of heroin and arms and ammunition.


March 29, 2012: BSF personnel killed three intruders and recovered 10 kilograms of heroin and one pistol from the check post near pillar number 72/17, close to the Sundergarh border outpost near the India-Pakistan International Border.

March 19, 2012: A patrolling party of the BSF shot dead three Pakistani intruders near Amarkot village in Amritsar District and recovered 22 kilograms of heroin.

According to partial data compiled by ICM, since 2000, at least 22 violent incidents have been reported along the IB in Punjab (data till August 30, 2020). These incidents have resulted in a total of 33 killings (all intruders) and two injuries (both intruders), and 13 arrests.

It has been found that the perpetrators in most of these violent incidents along the border were Pakistani intruders attempting to smuggle ‘composite consignments’ [weapons/drugs/Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN)] into the State, and thereafter, further into the rest of India, in order to help Pakistan-backed terrorist groups replenish their coffers as well as their armouries.

Indeed, on August 23, 2020, a day after the gun battle at the Border, BSF personnel detained four persons after a raid in the remote rural belt along the IB in Tarn Taran for their links with the five slain Pakistani intruders in the District. The Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Dhruman Nimbale, later disclosed,:


“Prima facie it appears to be an attempt to push narcotics from the Pakistan side in connivance with drug smugglers on this side of the border. Also, we unlocked the two mobile phones recovered from the scene. The call details and data led us to some border-belt residents. The phones have been sent for technical forensic examination, as it may lead us to more drug operators.”

On December 10, 2019, Parliament was informed that, according to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) data, large quantities of drugs had been recovered from Punjab between 2015 and 2018. These included a total of 5,414.5 kilograms of Ganja (cannabis); 1,830.72 kilograms of Heroin; 1,669.41 kilograms of Opium; 168,420.32 kilograms of Poppy Husk and Poppy Straw; and 15,888,517 tablets of all type.

SFs had arrested a total of 46,909 persons in drug-related cases over this period.

Recently, on March 4, 2020, the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) informed that a total of 991.64 kilograms of Ganja (cannabis); 116.98 kilograms of Hashish; 894. 95 kilograms of Heroin, 361.57 kilograms of Opium; 31,559.155 kilograms of Poppy Husk and Poppy Straw; and 79,20,932 tablets of all type were recovered in 2019. SFs arrested a total of 10,057 persons in drug-related cases in 2019.

According to a data released by the BSF, as on August 23, 2020, around 357.931 kilograms of heroin worth INR 17.89 billion in the international market have been recovered by the BSF in the State during the current year. Meanwhile, according to the Punjab Police data, 662 kilograms of heroin was recovered in the State between January 1 and July 31, 2020. This included 209 kilograms recovered by the BSF. In 2019, a total of 1,096 kilograms of heroin was recovered in the state, including a single day recovery of 532 kilograms on June 29, 2019.

SAIR has already highlighted the increasing use of the air and water routes to smuggle ‘composite consignments’, the former using drones.

More recently, according to an August 23, 2020, report, the BSF issued an alert that “Pakistan’s ISI plans to pump in a massive consignment of drugs, arms and ammunition inside India with the help of drones”.

The intelligence wing of BSF also alerted the Security Forces (SFs) that Pakistan intended to use drones to attack security establishments near the IB in Jammu and Kashmir’s RS Pura and Samba sectors. The possibilities of such attacks in Punjab cannot be ruled out.

Further, according to an August 17, 2020, report, intruders from Pakistan were trying to use water channels to push ‘composite consignments’ into Indian territory. In this context, an unnamed BSF official stated:

“Enhanced vigilance by the BSF has thwarted the attempts from Pakistan to push consignments of contraband items into India and that is why they have now chosen riverine areas to push such consignments.”


Indeed, sources indicate that at least 72 incidents of seizures of ‘composite consignments’ were reported from border districts of Amritsar, Ferozepur and Gurdaspur between 2009 and 2019. The recoveries included drugs such as of heroin, opium, etc.; and weapons and ammunition including AK-47/56 rifles, pistols, and RDX, as well as counterfeit currency (Fake Indian Currency Notes, FICN).

Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) uses the services of a common network of ‘drug smugglers/couriers’ to push in ‘composite consignments’ into Indian Punjab from Pakistan, exploiting gaps along the land and riverine border.

The ‘drug smugglers/couriers’ working under the ISI’s aegis also throw the consignment over the Border fence in areas where infiltration is not suspected. Their Indian partners later collect the goods.

Meanwhile, according to an August 24, 2020 report, in a drive against the use of drones by the Pakistani operatives, the BSF, with the help of other security agencies is conducting anti-drone tests along the India-Pakistan border to shoot down any drone carrying weapon-load for terrorists in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

To combat the narcotics menace in the State, the Narcotics Control Bureau had recently decided to undertake efforts and coordinate a crackdown along with the Punjab Special Task Force and the BSF, against drug traffickers and syndicates that operate along the India-Pakistan border.

Significantly, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, declared on June 26, 2020:

“…while the back of the drugs mafia had been successfully broken, the war is still continuing, with narco-terrorists from across the border continuing to push drugs into Punjab, using drones and other routes.”

The Security Forces have demonstrated their capabilities in neutralizing narco-terrorist networks and have neutralized numerous attempts by cross-border operatives to push ‘composite consignments’ into Punjab.

However, given Pakistan’s incessant efforts to create turmoil in Punjab, the security agencies will have to step up vigilance to neutralize every attempt to destabilize the situation in the State.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Dr Indrajit Sharma

Indrajit Sharma is associated with the South Asia Terrorism Portal at the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi based think tank focusing on Conflict and Terrorism in South Asia. He holds an M.Phil. and a PhD in Security Studies from Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India.

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DEFENCE-SECURITY

IAF’s Largest Combat Fleet Needs More, Now

The induction of just 36 Rafale is not the panacea to all our woes.

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On September 10, 2020, the Indian Air Force (IAF) formally inducted the Rafale into operational service in a befitting ceremony and the Defence Minister rightly termed it a “game-changer”. The Rafale is an excellent choice and it is almost a decade after the IAF finalised the aircraft through a long and tedious evaluation process that it is finally here. Given the controversy that overshadowed its induction and the existing threat scenario in India’s neighbourhood, the Rafale is making headlines, not just in India but across the border as well.

The Rafale brings with it proven enhanced combat capabilities and ease of maintainability that multiplies the offensive airpower tremendously. Some airpower strategists have argued that the results of aerial engagements with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27, 2019 would have been very different had the IAF possessed Rafale then; and now that the aircraft has been inducted, it will play a pivotal role in the outcome of any future skirmish.

Irrefutably, Rafale is a force multiplier. However, to infer that the results of February 27, 2019 aerial engagements would have been different is not a consequence of the aircraft per se, but the enhanced combat capabilities that are packaged with the Rafale.  There are capabilities that the IAF possesses and these could have been enhanced further through smartly planned timely upgradation of existing fighter fleets such as Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000 and MiG-29.


The aerial combat that took place over Kashmir skies on February 27, 2019 was no ordinary event. For the first time, since the Kosovo Campaign in Europe in 1999, were two countries engaged in an aerial combat with Beyond Visual Range Air-Air Missiles (BVRAAM). Since Kosovo, all subsequent air campaigns, be it in Kargil, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali or Syria, have been devoid of any aerial combat. The one that precipitated on February 27 was the first Large Force Engagement (LFE) with BVRAAMs of the 21st century!

Miffed by India’s airstrikes against terror camps inside its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Balakot region on February 26, 2019, Pakistan launched a face-saving “Operation Swift Retort” in the early hours of February 27, 2019. The PAF offensive was well packaged with embedded elements of electronic and communication jammers, BVRAAM armed F-16 and JF-17 aircraft and stand-off strike aircraft. However, despite the numerical superiority of the attacking forces, better air-air missiles and, most importantly, the advantage of surprise, the PAF offensive was not only successfully neutralised by a few IAF Su-30MKI, M-2000 and MiG-21 BISON aircraft, but an F-16 was also downed while losing only a MiG-21 in the dogfights that ensued. This is an excellent exchange ratio by any standards of aerial combat.

On that historic day, of all the capabilities of Rafale that the IAF missed the most were its long-range BVRAAM, Meteor and, more importantly, its electronic warfare (EW)capability. When engaged in aerial combat against a numerically superior force, better weapons and EW capabilities can make up for skewed numbers in the sky. Electronic jamming degrades communication and radar detection, creating a fog of war and confusion that can be exploited to neutralise numerical superiority. Rafale’s EW suite and its Meteor BVRAAM are among the best in the world today and gives the aircraft that critical ability to perform optimally even while operating in a dense electronic jamming environment.


Had the Su-30MKIs that engaged in combat with the PAF’s American made F-16s and the Chinese made JF-17s been equipped with a superior BVRAAM and an upgraded EW suite, the kill ratios may have been even more favourable. In such a case, the IAF could have caused higher attrition on the raiders. Furthermore, instead of seeing a courageous pilot paraded as a prisoner of war (PoW), India may have held the bargaining chips at the negotiating table. It was not so much because of delayed induction of the Rafale, but perhaps a consequence of delayed upgradation of the existing fighter fleets, principally the Su-30MKI.

The responsibility for this skewed BVRAAM imbalance and lack of upgraded EW capability has to be shouldered as much by agencies such as the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) as the IAF itself. Upgradation programmes for EW equipment comprising of Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) and Aircraft Self Protection Jammers (ASPJ) have run into delays primarily to foster indigenous production/development. Sometimes the specifications given by users may have been over-ambitious but mostly the technology sought was just beyond indigenous capability.

The Su-30MKI is a case in point. With a fleet of more than 260 aircraft and more in the offing, it is the mainstay of IAF and will remain so at least for the next two decades. It is a unique product housing components and weaponry from many countries fitted on a Russian platform. India, France, Israel, South Africa and the Russian Federation have all contributed to the development of this aircraft. While the intent has been to equip the aircraft with the best products from various manufacturers, integrating those systems to function harmoniously has been a challenge for the HAL. Post induction into the IAF in 2002, the first indigenously assembled Su-30MKI was rolled out by the HAL’s Nasik division in 2004. Since its induction into operational service, the Su-30MKI fleet has been trapped in a constant cycle of evolution with many mission-critical equipment that require upgrades awaiting indigenous production or a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Russia. The fleet is now almost two decades old and upgrades are required to retain edge over the enemy.

The upgrade programme for the Sukhoi fleet was initiated about a decade ago and it was to be timed with the first overhaul stage of the aircraft. However, many aircraft have already been overhauled but there has been little progress on the upgrade programme thus far. The responsibility can perhaps be deflected between Russian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for demanding exorbitant prices and withholding technology, the HAL (Indian manufacturer) and the DRDO for delayed projects, the ministry concerned for inordinate delays in clearing projects, and the IAF itself for not aggressively pursuing these issues. The bottom line is that the equipment/capability that directly dictates operational readiness cannot be compromised and it is the IAF that has to draw the line.

Indigenous capability development cannot continue for decades without the desired results and diminutive accountability. Military technology is constantly evolving and it so often happens that technology becomes redundant even before it is operationalised. Staying ahead of the curve is both imperative and a challenge. It thus raises the question: Is national security a suitable opportunity cost for developing indigenous capability?


By no means is it being suggested that indigenous research and development (R&D) must be shelved and only foreign equipment purchased; however, it must be a parallel process. In our quest for regional dominance, the substitution of expensive foreign equipment by locally developed systems is not just desirable but necessary in the long run. However, this must happen without any compromise in operational capability. The armed forces can no longer bank on drawing board promises to fight the next war. Continuous capability enhancement of combat assets to stay ahead of the adversaries needs strong impetus and that too indigenously. The government’s drive for Atmanirbharta or ‘Self Reliance’ in defence production is a step in the right direction. Indisputably, Atmanirbharta in defence production is the key to India’s rise as a great power. However, the opportunity cost must be fixed realistically.

The Rafale has definitely added a punch to the IAF’s firepower and India’s adversaries will surely be taking notes. However, the induction of just 36 Rafale is not the panacea to all our woes. The Su-30MKI, IAF’s largest fighter fleet, will continue to have a vital role to play, at least for the next two decades, in any future conflict. The upgradation programme for the Sukhoi that has been under consideration for many years, and perhaps already delayed a little too long, needs to be expedited. Any further delays come only at the cost of the IAF’s war-waging capabilities, and the developing threat scenario in India’s sphere of interest and influence no longer allows the liberty of time.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Anurag Sharma

Gp. Capt. Anurag Sharma, VSM (Retd.) was Director Operations (Air Defence) SU-30 at Air HQ (VB), New Delhi.

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AGENTS OF CHANGE

Strategically Important Atal Tunnel In Rohtang Open Now

It is the world’s longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres.

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MANALI (Himachal Pradesh): Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. PM Modi was accompanied by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff, CDS Gen Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

Earlier CDS General Rawat and Army Chief General Naravane received the Prime Minister at the South Portal of Atal Tunnel of Rohtang. Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur received the PM at Sase Helipad at Manali.

Atal Tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in the world was built by the Border Roads Organisation. The tunnel reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and the travel time by four to five hours. The 9.02-km tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year, the valley was earlier cut off for about six months every year due to heavy snowfall.


The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had taken the decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass on June 3, 2000, and the foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.

In December 2019, the Government decided to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel in honour of the former Prime Minister and scholar Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had passed away the previous year.

A network protocol includes the pre-defined rules and conventions for communication between network and devices connected. These include identifying and establishing connections among devices. Besides, there are formatting rules specifying packaging, sending, and receiving messages. Additionally, there are protocols for message acknowledgement and data compression too. It also enables the establishment of reliable and high-performing network communication.


In the absence of protocols, devices would not be able to understand the electronic signals that they send while communicating over network connections. Nowadays, protocols use packet switching techniques to send and receive messages in the form of packets. These messages are again divided, collected, and reassembled at their destination. Numerous computer network protocols serve defined purpose and environment.

Highlights:

  1. The Atal Tunnel is constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 3500-4000 crores.
  2. It reduces the distance between Leh and Manali by 46 km, the tunnel will bring down the driving time by around 4 hours.
  3. The BRO built this tunnel in the shape of a horseshoe.
  4. It is the world’s longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres.
  5. It is a 10.5-metre wide single tube bi-lane tunnel with a fireproof emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself.
  6. With the help of this tunnel, connectivity to the remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh will easily be possible, regardless of the weather conditions.
  7. The opening of the Atal Tunnel will bring a boost in tourism activities in the Lahaul-Spiti region and will also simultaneously create more employment opportunities for locals in the area.
  8. The tunnel also provides a telephone facility on every 150 meters, a fire hydrant on every 60 meters, an emergency exit on every 500 meters, a turning cavern on every 2.2 km, an air quality monitoring on every 1 km, a broadcasting system, and an automatic incident detection system with CCTV cameras on every 250 meters.
  9. The construction of this tunnel consumed 14,508 metric tonnes of steel, 2,37,596 metric tonnes of cement, and 14 lakh cubic meters of soil and rocks.
  10. This tunnel is unique in its own way as it is India’s first tunnel to have an escape tunnel within the main tunnel due to the topography. It is also the first tunnel to deploy the Rowa flyer technology, which allows engineers to work at inverted levels.
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DEFENCE-SECURITY

India Successfully Test-Fires BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile

The BrahMos Land-Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) was cruising at a top speed of Mach 2.8.

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BALASORE (Odisha): India today successfully test-fired BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with several indigenous features. The test-firing of the missile was carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO from Balasore in Odisha.

BrahMos missile was launched from a land-based mobile launcher at 10.30 am on Wednesday. The first version of Brahmos is having a range of 290-km.

The original version has already been deployed in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh due to the ongoing border tension with China at LAC.


BrahMos surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile features indigenous Booster and Airframe Section along with many other ‘Made in India’ sub-systems.

Defence Ministry said that the BrahMos Land-Attack Cruise Missile was cruising at a top speed of Mach 2.8. It is one more major step in enhancing the indigenous content.

Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh has congratulated all the personnel of DRDO and team BrahMos for the spectacular mission.


RM Singh said that today’s successful launch has paved the way for the serial production of the indigenous booster and other indigenous components of the powerful BrahMos Weapon System realizing Atmanirbhar Bharat pledge.

India’s High Energy Materials Research Laboratory developed the solid propellant booster for the BrahMos missiles. The propellant is ignited and spews out from the opposite side of the missile’s flight path, thus giving it the thrust to move forward.

The propulsion system and airframe for the missile are being imported from Russia, and Indian defence scientists expect that using domestic propulsion will save on the cost of the missile.

The supersonic missile is being hailed as an important milestone in the Indo-Russian military partnership since DRDO developed it in collaboration with Russian military technology firm NPOM.

The Indian military deployed a BrahMos air-to-air missile in the contested Ladakh region mirroring the People’s Liberation Army’s long-range surface-to-air missiles in Tibet and Xinjiang region.


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