Rashmi Talwar

BSF ups ante against drones in anticipation of Republic Day 

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Amritsar: In anticipation of the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations on January 26, the Border Security Force -BSF is on high alert.

The killing of Hindus in Kashmir yesterday and today barely two days into the new year 2023, has rung alarm bells in Punjab when the month of January celebrates India turning into a Republic.

As per last year’s track-record massive drone activity replacing human couriers and traditional systems, has become the new-age challenge for Border forces in Punjab. Increasingly drones are being used for cross-border smuggling of arms, and ammunition, contraband, proving the greatest challenge to forces and increasing threat perception manifold with a deadly combination of Narco-Terrorism.

In the past year, the Indian Punjab Frontier manned by BSF, captured 22 drones, besides which, it seized a whopping cache of contraband including 316.988 kg of heroin in various incidents. In smuggling of weapons via drones, the BSF seized 67 weapons including Chinese and Turkish marked guns, with about 850 rounds of ammunition.

Along with drones and drugs, in cross-border vigilance, two Pakistani intruders in the year past were shot dead. BSF officials apprehended 23 Pakistani nationals, out of which nine Pakistani nationals, who had inadvertently crossed the International Border, were handed over to Pakistan Rangers, and returned to their home country.

Republic Day celebrations on January 26th morning in the throes of winter and the harshest Chillai Kalan, chilly conditions is always under threat, especially in four districts of Punjab bordering Pakistan.

According to records in the last three years from 2020 to 2022, Covid-19 on one hand, plus drone incursions from across the Pakistani border, on the other hand, raged furiously and unabated.

As many as 369 drone sightings were recorded in Punjab. In the year 2020, about 47 drones were sighted; they rose to 64 in the year 2021 even though countries reeled under waves and waves of Covid-19 and borders on both sides remained completely sealed owing to the pandemic. In the past year-2022, the number of drones that crossed the International border rose to a whopping 259, from the previous years, as per BSF data.

On conditions of anonymity, senior BSF officials said “Anti-drone drills are being carried out vigorously, especially near the cities on the international border with Pakistan in Punjab, to thwart any attempt at attack or sabotage, of Republic Day Celebrations. In addition to this, other modes of BSF border vigil including physical patrolling, and mechanical and technological vigil continue. BSF has identified Amritsar, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, and Fazilka on the International Border as ultra-sensitive, as more than 85% of payload, originating from across the border, was dropped in these parts.

Meantime, sources in defense said, “Anti-drone systems like drone hunters, at checkpoints, border movement, and ground patrol; jammers, electromagnetic Technology, chambers, EMP Protection are being fine-tuned for the vigil.”

The BSF’s Punjab Frontier responsible for guarding the 553-km-long border meets tough challenges along the Indo-Pakistan International dividing line. Several stretches of the border are vulnerable to smuggling, infiltration, and inclement weather conditions- “Fog conditions are the most dangerous near water bodies on Indo Pak border and is a covert cover for illegal and damaging activities”, the officer further added: “Forces have kept strict vigil on villagers along the international border”.

Incidentally, last year the holy city of Amritsar, Punjab became the second distinguished border city, as the destination for the celebration of the 58th Raising day of the BSF, for the first time in the force’s history since its inception in 1965.

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