India is going to use sensors to protect its borders where it can’t put up fences

Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, along with Assam Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, and BSF Director, General Rajni Kant Mishra, unveil the plaque during the inauguration of the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) project on Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam's Dhubri region, on March 5, 2019IANS


  • India inaugurated the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) to monitor the India-Bangladesh border in the Dhubri region of Assam.
  • It uses sensors to monitor the one of the largest riverine borders of India.
  • While ambitious, the CIBMS project has its fair share of problems.
High-tech solutions, like India’s new ‘smart fence’ along the Assam-Bangladesh border that was inaugurated on Tuesday, aren’t something new. In fact, the same strategy is used along the Israel-Palestine border and the US-Mexico border.

"This project will help the BSF (Border Security Force) to detect any cross-border crimes and other illegal activities. It is a unique project taken by the Union government and hope it will implement other international borders also."

Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister at the inauguration of CIBMS in Dhubri, Assam

The 61-km stretch of the India-Bangladesh border in the Dhubri, Assam district in eastern India will now be under the watch of India’s Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) — a project that uses high-tech solutions to guard terrain and riverine borders round the clock.

So, it should also be pointed out that CIBMS is more than a ‘smart fence’. A smart fence is essentially a barbed fence with electronic systems to help detect movement. But, the CIBMS isn’t a physical fence at all — it’s only sensors that can detect movement in water, land or air.

The issue with Assam’s Dhubri region is that its a riverine — the longest riverine border in the country mostly made up of the Brahmaputra river but also a little bit of the Gadadhar river — so putting up a fence isn’t exactly an option. Currently, they’re only using reconnaissance boats in the area to protect the border. Hence ,the CIBMS solution.

Possible speedbumps

There are two issues with employing a project like the CIBMS.

One, is the dependency on vendors.

Whenever private vendors get involved in a project, transparency is key. But, with the CIBMS project there’s a lack of clarity as to how vendors are supplying the technology. TATA Power SED, on of the vendors, states that the technology for the CIBMS falls under the ‘Make in India’ program.

And, the second major issue is the upskilling of officers to actually run the system efficiently. Border guard forces are only posted to one location temporarily. So even if private firms are coming in to train the personel when the technology is deployed, the training won’t be useful when the existing officers get transferred and new ones come in.

There’s also India’s problems with maintaining and operating the existing equipment that’s in place. Their optimum use has been hindered by the lack of infrastructure to support more complicated and energy consuming surveillance systems. There have been questions around the challenges facing power back-up of gensets and three-phase power supply.

But, the upside is, the purpose of CIBMS is to eventually replace manual surveillance of international borders by electronic surveillance.

This is the third CIBMS project to be inaugurated in India. Two similar projects were launched along the India-Pakistan border. It will take time to seal the entire border, but this project should help the Border Security Force (BSF) deal with cross-border crimes and other illegal activities.

See also:
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India responds to China-Pakistan satellite launch with its own border surveillance satellites

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