Giving a ‘digital edge’ to Paramilitary forces

February 27, 2021 12:26 PM

We all enjoyed and experienced the excitement of India’s recent win against England in one of the most entertaining cricket matches from the comfort of our homes. Some of us even braved the pandemic, went to the stadium, and caught the live action.

Paramilitary forcesIndia’s homeland security has deployed Paramilitary forces towards developing a strong defence mechanism against external threats and maintaining national security and integrity. (Photo source: IE)

By KS Rao, 

We all enjoyed and experienced the excitement of India’s recent win against England in one of the most entertaining cricket matches from the comfort of our homes. Some of us even braved the pandemic, went to the stadium, and caught the live action. Indians have always been very passionate about cricket, but have we ever spared a thought. It’s because there are thousands of security personnel deployed at some of the most difficult terrains on our national borders. While we were enjoying this standoff between India and England on the cricket field, our forces on the borders were engaged in a different standoff, protecting our sovereignty. They remain alert and attentive 24×7, braving extreme weather conditions – only to make sure that the citizens of India remain safe.

Today, India is faced with varied threats emanating from cross-border terrorism, infiltration and changing nature of conflicts. India’s ~15k km of land border spans across some of the world’s most difficult terrains including mountains, tropical forests, deserts and densely populated areas. These diverse terrains form the playground of our revered Paramilitary forces where they have been executing their duties, flawlessly.

Paramilitary forces have enormous responsibilities

India’s homeland security has deployed Paramilitary forces towards developing a strong defence mechanism against external threats and maintaining national security and integrity. Additionally, these forces have also been entrusted with a huge responsibility for internal security, disaster management, and aiding other defence forces during wartime. Over 10 lakh personnel serve in eight paramilitary forces mitigating threats and protecting the nation against activities of intrusion, encroachment, and border violations. The Border Security Force (BSF) is tasked with guarding sensitive international borders with Pakistan (over 3,300 km) and Bangladesh (4,096 km). While the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) mans the 3,488- km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and the Sashastra Seema Bal(SSB) guards open Indian fronts with Nepal (1,751 km) and Bhutan (699 km). Owing to the vast territory and diverse terrains along these borders, 360o situational awareness becomes imperative for these forces.

The paramilitary forces have taken several initiatives to combat threats like 24×7 CCTV surveillance and deploying physical and non-physical barriers at borders. But with evolving times and challenges, limiting to only these won’t suffice. What required is to develop and effectively implement pragmatic counter-terrorism strategies, to combat insurgency, curb infiltration, and prevent other anti-national activities across the border.

And going forward, next-gen ICT technologies will provide key solutions in developing these strategies.

Developing strategic deterrence with technology at the forefront

Technology has always been at the forefront when it comes to solving critical problems. Next-gen digital and innovative ICT technologies are being leveraged globally by developed countries and their security forces to form a strong deterrence. For instance, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) uses Robot for Border Surveillance, replacing physical human surveillance with technology solutions; the US Dept of Homeland Security secures its borders through electro-optical cameras, chemical detectors, X-rays and sensors.

Network centricity has been transforming the Indian Paramilitary outlook since the last decade. The forces have been modernising processes and mission-critical operations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of border security. For example, they have been installing automated Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) on Indo-Pakistan and Indo-Bangladesh borders to improve situational awareness; Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) to bring all the regulatory agencies under one roof; and Long-range Reconnaissance and Observation Systems (LORROSs) further ramping up daytime and night-time surveillance. Though the Indian Paramilitary division is performing to the core to counter threats, they face several challenges. They lack real time insights into the nature and gravity of potential threats and a forward intelligence mechanism required to tackle such threats.

Instead of taking a disintegrated approach for modernising all the operations, the paramilitary division needs to opt for customised integrated solutions as per the requirements and goals of each force. Additionally, there is a need to address the gap in conventional capabilities vis-à-vis its immediate adversaries.

This gap could be filled by augmenting communication networks of the paramilitary forces with modern ICT technologies. We recommend taking the following technology-led solutions approach:

Technology-led Border & Base Management for Fortified and Smart borders and bases to optimise physical patrolling and ensure zero intrusions

Data Analytics and Databases for AI/ML-based predictive threat analysis with increased accuracy, intelligence inputs for real time analysis, auto detection and reporting

Robust surveillance ecosystems for 24×7 surveillance will lead to faster response time during an emergency and help in situational awareness through video analytics

Networks will serve as a backbone on which these next-gen technologies will ride. What the Indian Paramilitary needs to have are an intrusion-proof modernised network and a fully integrated ecosystem.

These recommendations, once implemented, will enable the paramilitary forces to develop strategic deterrence to combat all anti-national activities across the border. This will empower the forces to deliver on their key objectives of containing insurgency and militancy while reducing casualties and collateral damage.

Going forward, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) needs to drive agility by rethinking the operating model and opt for a more holistic approach to integrate technology elements in all its operations and tactics.

Rethinking Paramilitary operations – Taking a 360o approach

There is an urgent need for the Indian Paramilitary force to develop technical capabilities critical for border security. This will help visualise the nature of incoming threats and create situational awareness, enable action orchestration and on-ground operations according to the gravity of the threat.

A 360o approach is required to re-think paramilitary functions through the lens of technology and gradually incorporate these tech elements in the paramilitary roadmap.

Here is our recommended approach for Augmenting Paramilitary network with digital technologies:

 

The above-mentioned approach will set the foundation for bigger technology interventions in all the paramilitary strategy operations and tactics for the future.

These technology imperatives will require some policy interventions towards investment for developing these digital capabilities. This includes allocating a dedicated and non-lapsable ICT budget for augmenting the network with next-gen ICT capabilities. In line with the Atmanirbhar vision, domestic solutions providers should be leveraged for delivering these technical capabilities in a cost-effective manner.

These recommendations will strengthen the national security strategy and optimally equip and modernise paramilitary forces operationally across the spectrum of conflicts and threats.

(The author is CEO – Network Services and Software Business at Sterlite Technologies Limited. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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