In one of the most inhospitable terrains, the Border Security Force (BSF) has gained an upper hand in the tussle for border domination with Pakistan, using unique vehicles that help it monitor 4,000 sq.km. of creeks and marshy lands in Gujarat.
From unique All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) endowed with amphibious capabilities to speedboats, the BSF has it all in its armoury to tame the highly salty and swampy Rann of Kutch, where daytime temperature soars to 50 degrees Celsius and a vast terrain is inundated by high tides at least twice a day. To add more punch to its arsenal, the BSF plans to acquire at least 10 more ATVs and fast attack craft and two hovercraft to better protect the entire Rann area adjoining Pakistan.
“So far, we have not encountered Pakistani forces trying to create trouble in the Rann area; but fishermen from the neighbouring country who often sneak into our waters in the creek are a big source of concern. After the Mumbai attacks, we have to mount extra vigil to ensure that no terrorist enters India. Though it is very difficult to cross the Rann or its creeks, we never take chances… We now have vehicles that make manning the borders more efficient,” BSF Deputy Inspector-General (Bhuj sector) A.S. Rathore told The Hindu.
Undeterred by hurdles, BSF personnel monitor three major creeks — the disputed Sir Creek, Kori Creek and Padala Creek — from three floating border outposts (BOPs) equipped with 12 speedboats deployed in each creek area and supported by 10 BOPs on the ground. “We are now planning to acquire from the U.S. at least four fast attack boats, which can carry 15 personnel and are suitable for operations in the creek area,” Mr. Rathore said.
But one vehicle that has made a big difference is the Italian-made ATV. “Thanks to these ATVs, our men can now patrol the vast terrain. We have created a BOP right in the middle of the Rann to monitor the Harami Nala area from where Pakistani fishermen sneak into India… Accessing this BOP has become easier with the four ATVs we have. We plan to add 10 more ATVs to our fleet so that we can cover a larger area,” Mr. Rathore said.
India is probably the only country where these ATVs are being used in deserts. The design of this vehicle factored in European weather conditions, mainly to clear snow. But, in the past couple of years, the Italian firm has made certain changes to the vehicle to make it more suitable and durable for tougher conditions, similar to those in the Rann of Kutch. Significantly, even Pakistan Rangers who man the international border are planning to buy these ATVs.
However, Pakistan has taken a lead over India, acquiring hovercrafts which operate smoothly in marshy conditions with greater speeds than the ATVs. The BSF has also decided to buy at least two hovercraft that will enhance its capabilities. “The proposal has already been sent to higher authorities… We hope to get these hovercraft soon. It will give us greater operational advantage over our adversaries in the Rann…,” Mr. Rathore said.