India to deploy desi anti-drone system along Pakistan border to stop smuggling

A fully-indigenous anti-drone system is set to be installed across the country’s western border in six months to block drones being used by elements in Pakistan to smuggle arms and narcotics into India, particularly Punjab.

A senior government functionary said trials of the anti-drone technology were going on, with three options being tested. “The anti-drone system to be put in place across the entire western border will either be one of the three systems or a combination of two or more technologies,” the functionary said.

On the eastern border, the functionary said the free movement regime (FMR) along the India-Myanmar border would soon be discontinued to arrest the influx of illegal migrants.

FMR allows tribes living along the India-Myanmar border on either side visa-free travel up to 16 km inside the neighbouring country.

However, with the ethnic violence in Manipur blamed to an extent on FMR facilitating illegal immigration and trafficking of narcotics and arms, the government, as part of a rethink, is planning to discontinue the arrangement and make visa mandatory for entry of Myanmar nationals through the land border.

Dropping of arms, ammunition and narcotics from Pakistan by using drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir has been a major problem for security agencies for several years now.

BSF DG Nitin Agrawal had earlier told TOI that 90 drones, including 81 in Punjab and nine in Rajasthan, were recovered by the force between November 1, 2022, and October 31, 2023.

Drone sightings have gone up to 300-400 in the past year, as per BSF sources.

However, an officer said that with heightened surveillance using handheld static and vehicle-mounted anti-drone systems, smugglers transporting drug consignments from Pakistan are lately finding it difficult to give the slip to BSF.

They are forced to revise tactics, like using the Rajasthan route in the face of surveillance in Punjab but giving up after an intelligence leak led to seizure of four consignments in Rajasthan.

The traffickers even tried to send the drones at a height but BSF surveillance systems were updated to catch them.

Of late, a source said, smugglers were flying smaller drones with a lighter payload, of say 750 gm.

Most drones flown from Pakistan are of Chinese make, as they are easily available and are cheaper compared to those from Turkey or Iran.