After camel back, drones used for cross-border smuggling

Security agencies exploring viable options for surveillance and detection

July 10, 2020 08:30 pm | Updated July 11, 2020 01:56 am IST - NEW DELHI

BSF personnel carry a drone shot down along the border in J&K’s Kathua on June 20, 2020.

BSF personnel carry a drone shot down along the border in J&K’s Kathua on June 20, 2020.

Not long ago, Pakistan-based criminal syndicates and terror outfits smuggled drugs, weapons and other illegal goods on camel back across the vast Thar desert in Rajasthan and through well-trained foot couriers. Now, they are taking to drones.

The increasing use of drones for cross-border smuggling has led the Indian security agencies to look for various ways to put in place reliable systems as part of a smart border management mechanism for deterrence. In terms of border security, drone jammers may not prove to be more effective and, therefore, other viable options for surveillance and detection are being explored.

The latest case of arms dropping through a Pakistani drone was detected when the Border Security Force shot down the UAV near Rathua village in the Hira Nagar sector of Jammu on June 20. It was loaded with a M4 rifle of the U.S. make, two magazines, 60 live rounds and seven grenades.

This was the first time a drone dropping was noticed in the Hira Nagar sector along the International Borderwith Pakistan. The enforcement agencies are yet to identify the intended recipients of the consignment. No arrests have been made so far.

Another case was reported in the intervening night of June 3 and 4 when a weapon consignment was dropped through three drone sorties on the outskirts of Dharamkot Randhawa village in the Dera Baba Nanak area of Punjab’s Gurdaspur.

According to a security agency official, the consignment included two MP-9 guns, six pistols and ₹4 lakh in counterfeit currency. Preliminary investigation revealed that it had been sent at the instance of Ranjeet Singh Neeta, chief of Pakistan-based Khalistan Zindabad Force, who was recently designated by the Central government as a terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Neeta’s accomplice was identified as Germany-based Gurmeet Singh Bagga, who has also been designated as a terrorist. “Such an operation cannot be carried out without the knowledge of Pakistani agencies. Efforts are being made to identify all those involved,” said the official.

Pro-Khalistan terror module busted

On September 21, 2019, the Punjab police busted an alleged pro-Khalistan terror module and seized a cache of weapons, including five AK-47 assault rifles with 16 magazines, four pistols of China make with 8 magazines, nine grenades, 472 cartridges, ₹10 lakh in fake Indian currency and five satellite phones.

The consignment had also been dropped using “Pak-controlled” drones at the pre-decided locations in Punjab. Alleged module leader Akashdeep Singh was arrested along with Balwant Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Balbir Singh. Investigation indicated that the consignment was also sent at the behest of Neeta and Gurmeet Singh Bagga was a co-conspirator, as alleged.

“A drone with payload capability is available in the market for Rs.40,000 to Rs.2 lakh. Quadcopters are also being deployed by Pakistani agencies for spying activities in the border areas,” the official said.

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