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Opinion DC Comment 10 Oct 2016 Politics of sealing ...

Politics of sealing the border

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Oct 10, 2016, 12:35 am IST
Updated Oct 10, 2016, 6:53 am IST
Points of infiltration by ultras sent across from Pakistan must be carefully guarded.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh after a Cabinet meeting at South Block in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
 Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh after a Cabinet meeting at South Block in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

In a high-profile announcement on Friday, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said that it was his target to seal the India-Pakistan border by 2018. It is hard to make any sense of this. The home minister’s announcement came at the end of a meeting in Jaipur of CMs and officials from J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat, the four states that have sections of the nearly nearly 2,300 kilometres long international boundary (IB) that separates India and Pakistan. Border management is tasked to the Union home ministry. However, the project that Mr Singh refers to is not new. In fact, more than 90 per cent of the IB is already “sealed,” and the process has been going on for years. A fencing already exists across large stretches. Where this is not feasible, as in the marshes of the Rann of Kutch or in the shifting sand dunes of Rajasthan, technology is being brought in.

Perhaps the Union home ministry under Mr Singh can help expedite this process so that the entire IB is covered through lasers, sensor, and high-performance cameras. Physical and security infrastructure such as road networks in the border areas, well-maintained intelligence networks, and effective policing are also crucial to sound border management. Improving the set-up is what’s needed. It may be noted that the IB is separate from the Line of Control, the notional boundary between the two countries that runs through Ladakh, Kashmir Valley and parts of the Jammu region that abut the Valley. It is the defence ministry which is charged with ensuring peace on the LoC, and Mr Singh has no role here.

 

Given the hostile mountainous terrain which is snow-bound for parts of the year, “sealing” the LoC is not feasible. But even if it were, politically this may not be a sound idea. Across the LoC is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is claimed by India and was endorsed by a parliamentary resolution of 1993. How can we then “seal” the LoC? Doing so would amount to rescinding our claim on PoK. Nevertheless, points of infiltration by terrorists sent across from Pakistan must be carefully guarded. This could always be improved, of course. It is the Uttar Pradesh politician in Mr Singh that is perhaps speaking when he speaks of sealing the border. After the “surgical strike”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar have featured on BJP’s hoardings across UP. Perhaps the home minister would also like a mention as a no-nonsense guardian of India’s security.

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