Monday, 24 January, 2022
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OPINION

Ensuring Effective Border Management



Ensuring Effective Border Management

Shyam Prasad Mainali

It is paramount importance for all nation states to guard borders and their people. Border security has been the integral part of national security with a major focus on territorial integrity. Border management is a state's primary responsibility and failing to protect this boundary can be regarded as a national security failure. Contemporary understanding of national security has evolved and become more complicated due to transnational threats such as terrorism, human trafficking, cybercrimes, climate change, pandemics and organised crimes. To meet the demands of contemporary border issue is a novel approach that requires robust strategies.

Nepal is facing new challenges in terms of border management as it has limited military and economic capacity. Its vulnerability has been further worsened by its status as a landlocked country between the two rival powers India and China. Nepal’s southern region that borders India faces many socio-economic difficulties as a lack of education and ubiquity of poverty is a main feature of Terai. These reasons along with high unemployment rates mean that Terai has been a fertile region for cross-border crime such as smuggling.

Traditional notion
The traditional notion of border security has always been a challenge to Nepal. The open and porous border to the south is unregulated, and the undocumented movement of people has always posed a serious challenge to the integrity of national borders. Not only does this open border facilitate cross-border crime, but it has also resulted in a loss of large sums of customs revenue. Likewise, the free movement has allowed people from across the border to indulge in activities that disturb social harmony.

In comparison to India, Nepal has limited border issues with its northern neighbour China. Cross-border activities are heavily regulated not just by security forces but also by the Himalayan Mountains which make cross-border activities incredibly challenging. However, the inconspicuous presence of security infrastructure in the northern border leaves it susceptible to possible infiltration by detrimental elements.
The borders of Nepal have been ill-equipped and under-resourced in meeting the contemporary challenges of border security. Inadequate efforts have been made by the federal government to develop infrastructure facilities. The role of the security forces is to prevent the smuggling of arms, narcotics, counterfeit currency as well as the trafficking of human beings. Inadequate measures in policy, ineffective coordination as well as the overlapping jurisdictions among security agencies have created a vacuum in security delivery and border management. Additionally, what little security does exist at the border is plagued by corruption as the security forces are alleged to be part of a nexus with smugglers.

Recent border disputes between India and Nepal, particularly regarding the Kalapani region, and Susta territory have also led to more complications in border issues. This has led to an atmosphere of insecurity in border regions, and this is likely to remain consistent due a lack of border policy. It is not as simple as closing the open border as the situation is far more complex. The mutual dependence of the inhabitants of southern Nepal and northern India has deep historical, social, cultural and religious roots. Issues of border security cannot be viewed in isolation and must be investigated in tandem with other security imperatives. Thus, a multi-pronged approach is called for, involving the collaborative engagement of all concerned stakeholders.

First and foremost, all concerned authorities must realise the need for investment to bring our security infrastructures at least on a par with international standards. Advanced technology, well-equipped and trained human resources are conducive to effective border security. There is also a dire need of policy engagements with regional and international partners, inter- and intra-governmental sharing of information and capacity enhancement opportunities. A sound mechanism should be devised for cultivating cooperation between the various government agencies involved in border security management. All government offices related to border security should be always manned.

The government has already initiated the process to establish 63 border observer posts along the Indian and Chinese borders under the command of the Armed Police Force which is highly appreciable in this regard. The country should build upon this momentum to enhance border security provisions.

Mutual co-operation
Despite above and constitutional provisions of Nepal for the border management, some special efforts should be done such as keeping the personal details and photographs of casual visitors. Frequent visitors should be issued a separate identity card by a concerned authority. Bi-lateral responsibility needs to be maintained for border safety and mutual co-operation in desired areas should be increased in order to strengthen bilateral relations and communal harmony.

To ensure peace, security, and prosperity in Nepal, the security forces of the nation must be strengthened. Insufficient resources of both human and capital, lack of morale and motivation, incentives and unclear plan and policy are a hindrance for border security in Nepal. The government needs to take necessary steps in the proliferation of border security which require policy formation, diplomatic collaborative plans, technological adaptation, operational cooperation, human resources inventory, collaborative engagement, and institutional reforms. The poverty, unemployment, population growth, technological advancement, and capital market are encouraging border crimes. All these phenomena need to be addressed in the process of managing border efficiently.

-- (Mainali is former secretary.)