Ever since the stand-off between Kathmandu and New Delhi erupted, the question of border security management in Nepal took an alter and steered debates ranging from sealing the border with a physical fence to lock horns deploying soldiers eyeball to eyeball. Today, border management expands from physical security to the cyberspace where the demarcation of digital borders in cyberspace is nonexistent and global rules of engagement are yet to be written. The hacking of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal website and a couple of educational institutions by an alleged Indian hacker in the last week of May 2020 is an example of how the border crisis escalates to cyberspace and information warfare in the social media. The presence of Rohingya, Afghan and Bhutanese refugees is an example of how borders may be compromised without any clue offering to border security agencies guarding borders. Locking horns or closing borders may not be a strategic or tactical move. As technology becomes more sophisticated, pervasive and invasive, traditional border security policies and tactics require massive overhaul. However, physical border being the first line of defense-- a deterrence factor to protect territorial integrity and sovereignty-- remains prima facie. Even the UN Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) calls the border as the first line of defense against the movement of terrorists across borders and illegal cross-border movement of goods and cargo. The global digital economy allows countries, businesses, organisations, and people to interact seamlessly with an incontestable advantage in commerce and trade by passing the physical and digital borders. Thinking border security in a conventional paradigm of physical security is no longer relevant today. The guarding, patrolling to monitor borders and boundaries by human eyes alone has operational, tactical and geographic limitations. Also, border management in many jurisdictions have both legal and ethical ramifications. Nepal’s geography and topography is a challenge for physical security but has an opportunity to be a test bed for the state of art border technologies. The Government of Nepal should develop a unified national security policy incorporating all law enforcement agencies to build a national intelligence information system (NIIS) using a state of art next generation information and communication technologies. Next generation border management system is all about people, processes and technologies. It should be the part of the national intelligence information system that consists of a geographic information system (GIS), cross border information system (CBIS) and Interpol database. The system should monitor movement of both data and physical resources on cyberspace and the physical borders. The technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned autonomous systems and predictive analytics will take border management to the next level of national security. It should also justify the limitation of physical geography and the financing for armed forces. Virtual monitoring of borders using unmanned autonomous systems provides real time monitoring of the activities across the borders. The scale of technologies are unparalleled with security forces. The real time monitoring of border data will be automatically fed to the predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop actionable alerts that security forces can intervene. Such alerts can be triggered for the movement of physical objects as well as the data in the internet. Further, development of cyber security forces is required to secure the critical national security infrastructure such as next generation border management systems. A unified next generation border management system will consolidate the scattered information systems and processes across the Nepali Army, Armed Police Force, National Investigation Department and Nepal Police, thus reducing the financial burden to the government of Nepal and increasing the operational rigour of law enforcement agencies. This kind of unified approach to build a next generation information system will provide real time border and intelligence information to the central government. On the basis of this data, the central government can make informed security and diplomatic interventions. Next generation border management system helps proactively engage in diplomacy, build the continuous border monitoring and alerting systems for both physical and cyber spaces. It mitigates the risks of security escalation, addresses regional and global security and dominates the cyber space. As the world becomes more connected with ubiquitous computing, technology becomes a critical part to alleviate entire border issues, it will improve border security, intelligence and enhance national security. Financing and developing the next generation unified border security management policies is the need of the hour to address the current border management issues.
(Kunwar is a former DIG of APF currently pursuing Masters Degree in Public Policy from George Mason University, Virginia. Dhungel is a former Major of Nepal Army and a practitioner of cyber security based in San Diego, USA)