Overblowing Border Security Threats – OpEd


A recent op-ed published at Carnegie India’s website alleged drone intrusions on India-Pakistan border as a grave security concern. Border threats are felt and securitized across the globe, for example the US-Mexico border, Greece-Turkey border, or even the Israel-Palestine borders at Gaza. 

However, the way authors overblow the border security issues and supposed intrusions at Indo-Pak border reflected a deep-seated paranoia. The article made farfetched claims based on unverifiable data in order to project threats that are unrealistic. Misconstruing threats at a time when elections are nearing in India is not something new. It may, however, adversely affect the relative ease of tensions both countries have enjoyed for the past two years along the Line of Control (LOC). 

It may be observed upon a simple glance that the article in question has many discrepancies that raise doubt about its veracity. First and foremost is the issue of verifying the data quoted in this piece. The entire argument is based upon a set of questionable data quoted from ANI which had been provided to the news agency by Indian Border Security Force (BSF). However, it is not possible to verify whether BSF’s numbers are cross-checked by any reliable third party to be true or just came out of the blue. Another source quoted in the article, published in November, 2022, claimed that “authorities” detected a different number of drones. How the authoritative figures changed in one month is a question worth pondering upon.

When it comes to naming the culprit, the authors are again confused as they blame numerous actors: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), smugglers, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and even China in the same breath. The ANI report that the authors refer claims that LeT is being supported by the ISI, while the Carnegie article states that smugglers are being facilitated. The drones are said to be of Chinese origin, which should not be a surprise as the country controls around 70% of commercial drone market. There is no evidence to verify whether the drones claimed to be spotted belong to the local enthusiasts or smugglers. Blaming the other actors mentioned is unrealistic altogether.

To say that ISI operates six drone centers along the border is hugely exaggerated. ISI is an intelligence/information gathering agency, not a border security agency. There is no rationale for their physical presence along borders. As far as LeT is concerned, the organization has gone almost defunct in recent years. Most of the leadership of the organization including Hafiz Saeed are convicted under various charges. The group remains banned, and even its political wing was barred from participating in elections. To say that LeT started operating along the border out of the blue again reflects the paranoia to unrealistic extent that India has for non-state actors.

In the end, raising the issue of drone intrusions at a visible research platform in India almost seven months after the ANI reported annual figures of BSF must be seen with a pint of salt (not merely a pinch). It must be remembered that it is coming from the same side that has overblown spy pigeons and balloons in the past as existential issues of border security. Now at a time when border tensions are historical low, raising an issue of border intrusion might only be a prep for the anti-Pakistan hysteria that culminates in India around each election season.

If anything, the provided date and graphs seem arbitrary and manipulated at best, as they lack any detailed breakdown of the alleged events. It is high time now that responsible circles in India must stop with hysteria of insecurity and war mongering vis-à-vis Pakistan especially after the fact that the border between both countries has been relatively peaceful for a protracted period now.

Muneeb Salman

Muneeb Salman is an Islamabad-based researcher. He can be reached on X at @SalmanMMS.

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