Reports of frequent infiltration incorrect: BSF to inform Centre

The Border Security Force (BSF) is set to inform the Centre that “reports of frequent infiltration” through the 1,200-km stretch of the International Border (IB) are “incorrect”, according to senior officials who did not wish to be named.

The report has been drawn up after a seven-day exercise (July 1-8) along the IB – the settled border with Pakistan running through Jammu and Punjab – involving 30,000 BSF troops.

During the exercise, commanders of nearly 40 BSF battalions – from the rank of commandant to that of inspector general of police – camped in the forward areas of Jammu and Punjab to supervise and verify “every step” of the operation.

The main objective was to check for “breaches, gaps in the counter-infiltration grid”, re-examine the operational and logistical arrangements and “detect underground and cross-border tunnels”, one of the senior officials cited above said.

In a review meeting chaired by Union home minister Amit Shah in Jammu and Kashmir in the last week of June, the Indian Army, in particular the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, had pointed to the IB as the most likely place for infiltration of Pakistan-based terrorists.

Separately, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) had in a report to the government identified Bei Nullah in the Samba sector and Jhajjar Kotli area in Jammu as major areas of infiltration after examining over ground workers (OGW), or civilians who help and provide logistics support to militants. Subsequently, Shah asked for a thorough review of the border security and counter-insurgency grid.

During the July 1-8 exercise, the entire border was “physically screened” by BSF units with “special focus” on the “vulnerability” to infiltration and “tunnelling” underneath the IB and the fence. “No loophole was detected in the exercise in which the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and intelligence agencies participated,” a second senior official aware of details said.

He added that “the BSF, however, has adjusted the deployment in some sectors and asked for some surveillance equipment to strengthen some areas”.

The second official said almost all border out posts (BOP) along the IB were equipped with night vision-capable surveillance equipment. In addition, the “floodlighting” of the IB and the fence was being “enhanced” in some places.

“We are very satisfied with the exercise; importantly, since the Indian Army, police and the intelligence agencies were part of the exercise, everyone should be on the same page,” a third official, who is with the Union home ministry, said.

Interestingly, in response to the week-long exercise by the BSF, the Pakistan Rangers too conducted a similar exercise, “checking their defences” along the IB, the third official added. “The exercise not only helped us, but appears to have got Pakistan worried too.”

But the Rangers, Pakistan’s border guarding force, “did not create additional difficulties” for the BSF, he added.

Asked about the results of the BSF exercise, senior army officials pointed to the general decline in infiltration along the border. “As per our records, there was only one infiltration attempt this year,” a senior army official said.

On July 9, the government had told Parliament that cross-border infiltration in 2019 was down by 43% compared to the same period last year.