Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will operationalise the SSB’s first ever intelligence wing tomorrow, a home ministry official said. The paramilitary force guards India’s borders with Bhutan and Nepal, which are often used by criminals and Kashmiri militants returning from Pakistan. The intelligence wing will have 650 field and staff agents to gather actionable information.
Due to the visa-free regime India has with Nepal and Bhutan, there is a trans-border movement of criminals and anti-national elements which pose a major challenge, the home ministry official said. As many as 230 former Kashmiri militants, based in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, have returned home through the Indo-Nepal border since 2010. Also, their spouses and 88 children have come along with them.
The former militants, their spouses and children did not have travel documents while entering India. Security agencies detained them upon ascertaining their real identities, another official said requesting anonymity. They were released only after a vigorous checking of their backgrounds, past activities and following judicial process. The Indo-Bhutan border is known to be frequented by the Assam-based insurgent group NDFB, which has even attacked Bhutanese nationals in the past.
India shares a 1,751-km-long border with Nepal and a 699 -km-long border with Bhutan. The SSB has also been declared as the lead intelligence agency for both the borders. Thus, the central government felt that a well-knit intelligence network of the highest capability that can function and deliver would be the prime requirement for comprehensive border management. This was essential as the SSB’s operations are based on intelligence to prevent criminals and smugglers from taking advantage of the friendly borders with Nepal and Bhutan, the official said.
The SSB has been mandated to guard the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders where there are no restrictions on the movement of people on either side. The border population on both the sides has strong regional, cultural and economic ties. The SSB has 474 Border Out Posts (BOPs) on the Nepal border and 131 on the Bhutan border. The border with Nepal touches Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim and the border with Bhutan touches Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.