NEW DELHI - India has drawn inspiration from the wall coming up on the West Bank and the Berlin Wall that symbolised Cold War to plan a 10-metre high embankment along the 198-km stretch of international border that separates Jammu from Pakistan, reported Indian media on Saturday.
The security wall is being erected to keep ‘infiltrators’ out, claimed the media. The wall will be higher and wider than both the Berlin Wall and the serpentine barrier that Tel Aviv is creating. It will be 135 feet wide and pass through 118 villages in the districts of Jammu (72), Kathua (17) and Samba (29).
Although there is no official estimate yet on the total cost, the Indian home ministry will fund the project, which will be handled by the Indian Border Security Force. The project spells revival of an idea mooted a few years ago after an attack on the police and army by two armed men.
Instead of brick and mortar that went into the making of the walls in Berlin and Israel, the proposed embankment will use earth excavations to create a parallel trench, making movement almost impossible.
Yet, not everyone is convinced that the wall will fulfil its purpose and keep the so called intruders out. “We have to be alive to what’s happening. The wall will not deter those ‘attempting intrusion’ from across the border. We have to reciprocate strongly whenever our troops are attacked,” said deputy National Security Adviser Satish Chandra. Indian security expert Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal agreed with this assessment, advocating a tough response. “The time, effort and cost involved in erecting this wall is not worth the effort. The best answer to deal with ‘crossborder activities’ is to launch strikes in Azad Kashmir,” he said.
Work has begun on the security wall. Revenue papers for designated land in 86 villages have been processed for a formal no-objection certificate (NoC) from the state government and a joint demarcation for land falling in 44 villages is likely to start shortly. Once the land is demarcated, BSF will pay the compensation and take it over.
The plan is to create a safety corridor between the floodlit fence, already in place, and the hinterland by creating yet another barrier in between so that if the first line of defence fails, the second will make movement impossible.
This area is more popular among spies and smugglers from both sides. At the peak of freedom movement and when shelling at LoC from both sides was a routine, BSF decided to erect a fence and the work started formally in 2000 after the Kargil war. The contract for creating the double-layer fence deep inside the Indian side was given to the CPWD.
But enthusiasm waned after the Pakistani Rangers ‘started targeting’ the men and machines at work. As the number of injured CPWD workers rose, work stopped, claimed the media report.
The BSF is more confident this time, a person familiar with the matter said, arguing that since the embankment is being raised well inside Indian territory work should be safe from the Rangers. But there are plans to inform the Rangers before work starts and once the land issue is settled.
There are 12-feet high twin fences running parallel to each other with an eight-foot gap in the middle filled with coils of razor-sharp concertina wire. Besides, there are thermal imagers to make the fence almost impregnable.
The entire fence is floodlit. On August 21, 2011, NASA’s earth observatory detected this “line of lights with a distinctly orange hue” suggesting it was “more continuous and brighter than most highways” in India and Pakistan.Most of the fencing was completed after the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan in 2003. By then, six BSF men had lost their lives and 60 had been injured. But this time experts are less worried about manmade obstacles.
The fence laid inside the territory, somewhere between 1.5 km and 5 km from the actual border, could prove to be a deterrent if not an impregnable structure, they say.
The media report claimed that nature was proving to be a much bigger challenge. Heavy snow decimates the LoC fencing year after year and now floods could be a new threat. This August, about 800 metre of the fence was washed away.
The BSF is confronting two immediate challenges. First, it needs to find an agency that can execute the project. And second, it is looking for a technological solution to the marshy 10 km stretch.
PAK ENVOY CALLS ON INDIAN PM
Outgoing Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir Saturday called on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his official residence for a farewell call.
Bashir thanked the prime minister for the courtesies and all the cooperation that he received from the Indian government during his stint.
The high commissioner also conveyed warm sentiments and sincere desire of the leadership and people of Pakistan for better relations between the two countries, said an official statement from the Pakistan High Commission. Singh reciprocated the sentiments, the statement said.
Bashir is being replaced by veteran diplomat Syed Ibne Abbas, who has earlier served in India as counsellor (political).