OPINION | Pathankot Air Base Attack: India Urgently Needs a Hybrid Border Surveillance System

OPINION | Pathankot Air Base Attack: India Urgently Needs a Hybrid Border Surveillance System

By IndraStra Global Editorial Team

The latest “fidayeen” terror strike on the front line Indian Air Force base at Pathankot early on Saturday early morning (Jan 02, 2016) is the second major “Cross-Border Infiltration-cum-Attack” to take place in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur-Pathankot belt in the last six months.

 Image Attribute: An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier patrols near the fenced border with Pakistan amid fog in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu, Jan 10, 2013. / Source: Dawn.com

Image Attribute: An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier patrols near the fenced border with Pakistan amid fog in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu, Jan 10, 2013. / Source: Dawn.com

Though a large portion of the India-Pakistan border on the 553-km Gurdaspur-Jammu sector is fenced, there are several gaps caused by the Ravi river and season rivulets that cut into the international boundary. Former General V.K Singh has clearly mentioned in is his book “Courage and Conviction” about the Basantar-Devak River which is the most vulnerable stretch of Indo-Pakistan Border, situated within the proximity of Samba, roughly between Mammun and Pathankot. It’s easy to infiltrate from this stretch as compared to the heavily-mined and guarded Line of Control as well as the international border in neighboring Jammu and Kashmir state. 

Currently, the Gurdaspur-Pathankot-Samba sector is complying with "Ditch-cum-Bunker / Ditch-cum-Bund" defence concept. Jointly manned by Indian Army and Border Security Force (BSF), the whole system consists of Liner defence elements, built to create tactical obstacles in a terrain which was all flat ground [1]. These defences, combined with the existing natural ground features make large-scale mechanized operations virtually impossible.

The primary objective to have such system at place to impose time penalty on any ground attacking force including tanks and armored vehicles. However, the system itself doesn't provide a fool-proof border security. However, in case of an emergency; this kind of system will affect defending army’s operations and pose hurdles for their forward movement.

Since couple of years, India was trying to formulate a high-octane "Border Space Command Plan" which primarily includes the construction of more than 500 border posts along the frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The government also intend to purchase electronic surveillance equipment, such as night-vision devices, hand-held  IR thermal imagery devices, battlefield surveillance radars, direction finders, unattended ground sensors and high-powered telescopes.

Currently, India's border management system is excessively manpower intensive and mainly uses fences along with unattended ground sensors across the sections of the 15,000-kilometer border. However, the fences are not foolproof, and the sensors have not responded on several occasions, said a source in the border paramilitary force.

On October 2015, Indian Army has objected to the government’s plan to build an embankment along the 179-km stretch of the International Border in Jammu district [2]. The plan to build the another embankment (better known as ditch-cum-bund) was cleared in 2013 by the then UPA government after the twin terror attacks in Hiranagar/Samba sector the same year, and around 20 per cent of the required land has been acquired for the project. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is implementing the project and the embankment will be constructed under the supervision of the Border Security Force (BSF). The Army already mans another embankment, a few kilometers behind the international border. Their main contention is that if at all there is a war-like situation, they will not be able to handle the situation. It is the BSF that is deployed on this 179-km-long stretch, and the Army provides back-up in an emergency.

Need for Hybrid Wireless Sensor Network
Multimedia, Ground, Mobile, and Underground Sensors for Effective Border Patrol.

One of the key advantages of deploying an integrated wireless sensor networks (WSN) is their ability to bridge the gap between the physical and logical worlds, by gathering certain useful information from the physical world and communicating that information to more powerful logical devices that can process it. WSN will eventually eliminate the need for human intervention in many information gathering and monitoring applications, especially in confined or dangerous spaces.

The low-cost and small size features of WSN will enable the deployment of hundreds of nodes in any field of interest. Such huge density allows more dense collection of data in spatial and temporal domains. Sensor nodes contains of three main parts:

1) Processing unit;
2) RF transceiver; and
3) Energy source.

Multiple sensor nodes self-form themselves to form a network to exchange information and deliver data to a common node called the sink node. 

Figure 1.  FleGSens - Hybrid combination of multimedia, ground, mobile, 
and underground sensors for border patrol.

FleGSens is a wireless sensor network for the surveillance of critical areas [3], funded by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). The FleGSens application provides several protocols that ensure the secure detection of trespassers even if an attacker compromises a limited number of sensor nodes. Protocol performance was investigated first by an extensive set of simulations in different scenarios and then by application in a test bed. 

In general, the results of the simulations and the real-world experiments closely resemble each other. The trespass detection protocol shows the location of all trespassers independent of their paths as soon as the duty cycle allows for sending messages. The node failure detection protocol assures that all nodes monitor a subset of neighbours and detects all node failures once the threshold of missed messages is exceeded. The parameters are adjustable to the requirements of the application to achieve lower detection durations, lower false positive rates and support the use of duty cycling. Attacks are either detected by non-compromised nodes or they have no effect on the employed protocols.

Eventually, Providing a full coverage while minimizing the cost has been an active area of research in the operational research field. In order to reduce coverage overlap between sensors, optimization methods should be used to select the best placement of the sensor nodes in the field [4-6]. J. He and H. Shi [7] developed a distributed algorithm to optimize the location of sensor nodes along a barrier to minimize the cost of the full coverage. In [8], the authors examined how to reposition a mobile sensor network efficiently within a specified region to recover a security hole and prevent intruders from exploiting this hole. Yang and Qiao proposed a multi-round approach to deploy sensor nodes to guarantee barrier coverage [9].


Managing the border is important for not only maintaining the security of the India, but also reducing the workload of the Indian Army, which is fighting a low-intensity war with terrorists and insurgents across all the fonts. In such scenario, a Hybrid Combination of Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) can be an optimum solution with two of the promising application includes border surveillance and intrusion detection applications. The main advantage of using WSN in such applications is the high spatial and temporal data resolution results from deploying hundreds of low-cost networked sensor nodes along borders. The importance of providing integrity and security service for the border monitoring network has been firstly introduced in [11]. However, more research should be done to tackle many issues, such as providing security for different topologies and different kinds of sensor networks.

AIDN0020120160004/ INDRASTRA / ISSN 2381-3652

[1] General V.K Singh “Courage and Conviction”

[2] The Hindu, October 7, 2015 “Army opposes Home Ministry’s border embankment plan”

[3] Peter Rothenpieler, Daniela Kruger, Dennis Pfisterer, Stefan Fischer “FleGSens — Secure Area Monitoring Using Wireless Sensor Networks” World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology International Journal of Electrical, Computer, Energetic, Electronic and Communication Engineering Vol:3, No:8, 2009 

[4] Luo, et al., “Ship Detection with Wireless Sensor Networks,” IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, Vol. 23, No. 7, 2012, pp. 1336-1343.doi:10.1109/TPDS.2011.274

[5] A. Mishra, K. Sudan and H. Soliman, “Detecting Border Intrusion Using Wireless Sensor Network and Artificial Neural Network,” IEEE DCOSS 2010, Santa Barbara, 21- 23 June 2010.

[6] P. Rothenpieler, D. Kruger, D. Pfisterer, S. Fischer, D. Dudek, C. Haas, A. Kuntz and M. Zitterbart, “Flegsens: Secure Area Monitoring Using Wireless Sensor Networks,” Proceedings of the 4th Safety and Security Systems in Europe, 2009.

[7] J. He, R. A. Norwood, M. Fallahi and N. Peyghambarian, “Solar-Powered Ad-Hoc Wireless Sensor Network for Border Surveillance,” SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing, 2012.

[8] J. He and H. Shi, “Constructing Sensor Barriers with Minimum Cost in Wireless Sensor Networks,” Journal of Parallel Distributed Computing, Vol. 72, No. 12, 2012, pp. 1654-1663. doi:10.1016/j.jpdc.2012.07.004

[9] G. Yang and D. Qiao “Multi-Round Sensor Deployment for Guranteed Barrier Coverage,” IEEE INFOCOM 2010.

[10] E. Felemban, S. Vural, et al., “SAMAC: A Cross-Layer Communication Protocol for Sensor Networks with Sectored Antennas,” IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, Vol. 9, No. 8, 2010, pp. 1072-1088. doi:10.1109/TMC.2010.61
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