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Some Challenges Ahead

Management of India's International Borders

It is imperative that the challenges facing the coutnry in the management of its international borders are properly understood and widely debated so that pressure is brought on all political parties not to take actions which would compromise national security.

The terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 and the Afghanistan war thereafter have radically changed the security environment facing the country. This would call for a reassessment of our policies on a number of issues. Several of these pertain to the management of India’s international borders. But it must be stated at the outset that a number of these problems have been with us for the last several years. Unfortunately, we have turned a blind eye to a number of these issues to pander to the votebanks and shortsighted, partisan party politics. It is unfortunate that the same tendencies are again in the forefront, in the current context, in the dialogue among political parties at the national level on a number of these issues. It is proposed to deal with only a few of these issues in this article to underline the importance of developing and nurturing a new national consensus on them.

The intrusions by Pakistan in Kargil and the conflict which followed amply highlighted the neglect of the country’s security and the constant danger it faces from across the border from Pakistan. The Kargil Review Committee, which was appointed by the central government, had suggested an in-depth review of a number of areas which were critical for India’s long-term security interests.1  As a follow up, for the first time since independence, the government of India appointed, in May 2000, four task forces to look into the intelligence apparatus, internal security, border management and management of defence. This writer was the chairman of the task force on border management. The task forces submitted their reports to the Group of Ministers specially constituted for the purpose in August-September 2000.2  Based on these reports and the intensive discussions which followed thereafter, the Group of Ministers submitted their recommendations to the government.3  It is a good augury that these recommendations have been published. Wider dissemination of such information and its critical appreciation by the people at large would go a long way to prepare the country for the dangers facing its security. It is only by creating a proper public climate that the political parties can be expected to take more mature and responsible positions on these issues. After 50 years of independence, it is time the people are taken into confidence on matters which pertain not just to the unity and integrity but the very survival of the country.

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