There was a time when the response to any challenges faced at borders was to deploy more personnel. For years on end, New Delhi responded to pressure on the western border by increasing the number of outposts. But with Pakistan-based terrorists becoming more aggressive and tech savvy, the paradigm for border magement practices has been upgraded with the Indian leadership now talking about smart, if virtual, walls at the intertiol borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The buzzword is Comprehensive Integrated Border Magement System (CIBMS), where the focus will shift from patrolling by regular troops to quick reaction teams striking once they are alerted of infiltration bids that show up as blips on their surveillance system. Erecting smart walls on borders marked by treacherous or marshy riverine topography was one of the major suggestions given by the Union Home Ministry-appointed Madhukar Gupta committee, set up following the terror attack on Pathankot air base. If neighbouring countries have cordial relations, a ‘smart’ border between them will basically call for information sharing and law enforcement cooperation to ensure security to people and goods moving across borders. But that is not the case with Pakistan as far as India is concerned — so smart borders for New Delhi means technology-driven solutions for border security. With jehadis breaching the western border repeatedly with the help of Pakistani soldiers, ‘zero infiltration’ has become a top priority for Union Home Minister Rajth Singh and tiol Security Adviser Ajit Doval. During a visit to Israel in 2014, Singh reportedly discussed at length with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the prospects of cooperating on technology for border protection. Israel is known for investing much effort and ingenuity in its border fencing along West Bank, Gaza and Egypt, using a formidable combition of latticed steel, topped and edged with razor wire and extending some distance below ground. This physical barrier is supplemented by electronic pulses running through the fence, long-range day cameras as well as night observation systems using thermal imagers, radars and electronic sensors to detect any motion, contact and even tunnelling attempts. Where fencing is not possible, Israeli forces use drones and unmanned armed vehicles (UAVs) for security coverage. Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had spoken about the government’s decision to install ‘laser walls’ at the India-Pak border, where laser beams will detect movement to be monitored through an advanced satellite-based sigl command system equipped with night and fog visibility tools. The exact location of the infiltration attempt will be beamed to BSF personnel at the nearest post, who will use battlefield surveillance radar, handheld thermal imagers and other devices. Though the decision to install such laser walls was taken by the BSF in 2014 itself, its implementation has gained urgency after the Uri and Jammu attacks. The deadline to have a patrol-free, multi-layered smart fence along Pakistan and Bangladesh borders has been set by the end of 2017, while around 20 global firms are involved in technical evaluation for the massive project. The BSF already has a few pilot projects running in Jammu, Punjab and Gujarat, with one project also planned for Dhubri in Assam. But the idea is to catch infiltrators on the move even before they reach the border, for which reason Indian defence scientists are planning to look beyond the intertiol border by drawing up a ‘virtual border’ inside Pakistan territory with satellite, UAVs and powerful radars. This will give BSF quick reation teams enough time to intercept and neutralize infiltrators before they do any harm. It remains to be seen whether Assam chief minister Sarbanda Sonowal prevails upon New Delhi to take the unfenced, 42-km stretch riverine portion of the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Dhubri sector seriously. He has called for ‘smart technological solutions’ with laser walls and surveillance gadgets to guard this stretch, but when it will come about is anybody’s guess — considering that diesel-run generators are still used to intermittently light up the India-Bangladesh border.