India Pakistan Borders: Cartography without Geographical Frontiers

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The first comprehensive frontier concept was explicitly expressed by Lord Curzon in his Romanes lectures at Oxford in 1907. The deciding factor in carving geographical boundaries in Indian subcontinent was the outcome of rivalry between Great Britain and Russia, the boundaries of North Western frontiers in South Asia is British creation. The boundary line between India and erstwhile Pakistan were based of concentration of ethnic population and not marked prominently by geographical features. The western border of India though was divided on ethnic basis but it in states like Punjab the division was actually of culturally similar population. Almost all the rivers are flowing from North East to South West i.e, from India to Pakistan. The Thar Desert is also extended in Pakistan territory and even in case of creeks in Gujrat the disputes on territories are due to any prominent geographical feature. The case of western border of India is an interesting case study not only in terms of geographical similarity but also the security challenges that it has created for India, as far as border security is concerned.

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The border of Punjab state where rivers like Ravi are flowing from India to Pakistan not once but several times the rivers is criss-crossing into the two countries, the gaps that are being created by rivers and their tributaries are being exploited by terrorists and smugglers. During the monsoon season the when the rivers are flooded smugglers use methods like snorkeling, hiding narcotics in hyacinths bunches, and even use of animal carcasses for hiding consignments through water channels. The homogeneity of terrain has helped Punjab to become part of ‘Golden Crescent’ of narcotics trade in South Asia.  The shifting sand dunes of Rajasthan extends to both India and Pakistan and sometimes even the boundary pillars are lost under these sand dunes, even though the India has constructed border fencing in the desert but maintenance of this fencing is very difficult. Coming to state of Gujarat India and Pakistan border merge with the creeks and the area is marshy where even deployment of guarding forces is very difficult. Large part of border of Rann of Kutch remains inundated making navigation very difficult. All these instances are quoted in context to assert that the demarcation of two countries have not made on basis of any geographical frontiers and till date it is posing challenges for security but also inconveniences to local population.

For securing borders India has to deploy its border guarding force in comparative large number to Pakistan supplemented by physical security infrastructure like border fencing. The over-securitization invariably causes inconveniences to local population but due to security condition India has left with no choice but to continue with present system. Various studies have been conducted by Indian Universities like in Amritsar about the impact assessment considering the social and economic impact and have produced interesting data such as loss of man hours due to security procedures to be followed by farmers whose land is ahead of security fence and loss in term of capital value of land. On Indian side of border villages due to night curfew notification which is done concerned District Magistrates/Commissioners severely impacts the freedom of movement during night time. Even the physical infrastructure is also less developed in comparison to hinterland due to neglect and strategic reasons due to which at times these areas are sometimes called degradingly as ‘border areas’ by locals.

The main reason for these border areas to remains stigmatic is due to division of India and Pakistan which is not strictly based on geographical frontiers very similar to “Westaphalian model” of Europe in year 1648, but that arrangement was made by local rulers as per their conveniences but in case of these two South Asian states that arrangement was made by colonial powers though Cyril Radcliffe was assisted by Jurists of different Princely states. The process is impossible to undo and there is no denial of the fact that it caused misery to population not only at the time of partition but it is continuing till present day though the nature of suffering has changed. The amicability of statesman and politicians of these countries may be to appreciate the perils of such border and can try to ameliorate the status of life at border population centers.