A drone shot down by the BSF in the Ferozpur sector in Punjab

NEW DELHI: The decades-old concern of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of focusing on improving counter-infiltration measures in the Jammu and Kashmir region is now moving towards the Punjab region due to Pakistan-based terror groups trying to infiltrate men and machine into India through the Punjab border. The phenomenal rise in the number of drone sightings over the last one year along the India-Pak border in the Punjab region is a testimony to the fact that Pakistan is shifting its focus to this region and using the “loopholes” in the security measures in Punjab to infiltrate into Indian territory.

According to data from the Border Security Force (BSF) accessed by The Sunday Guardian, India has witnessed an increase of more than 100% in the number of drone sightings along the India-Pak border in Punjab—drones that tried to enter/entered Indian airspace to drop narcotics, arms and ammunitions, compared to last year. Between January and November this year, the BSF witnessed 215 incidents of drone sightings along the India-Pak border in Punjab, which translate to a figure of around 20 drones being cited every month.

This, according to the data, is a three times increase compared to the earlier years of 2020 or 2021. While in 2020, the Punjab region witnessed just 40 incidents of drone sightings, this increased to 64 in 2021 and to 215 in 2022.

Out of these 215, the BSF, responsible for guarding the borders, has been able to shoot down 11 of these drones. According to the BSF, seven of these were shot down in the Amritsar sector, two in the Ferozpur sector and one each in the Abohar and Gurdaspur sectors.

In the latest incident reported from the Ferozpur sector on 8 November, a Hexa Copter drone, which was trying to infiltrate into India from Pakistan was shot down by the BSF. According to BSF sources, this drone was sent by Pakistan-based terror groups to conduct a recce in the border areas.

A BSF officer told The Sunday Guardian, “There has been a number of drone sightings by BSF officers guarding the borders; the figures are recorded sightings and there could be more since some must have missed our eyes.”

Another BSF officer from the Punjab region told this newspaper that Pakistan is carefully using the Punjab route to send arms and ammunitions as well as narcotics into India using the Punjab border since the Kashmir region is very strongly guarded by the Army and the Central security apparatus. “The Jammu and Kashmir region is heavily guarded with all the latest technology in place since the Central government for years have been focusing on that sector and all the Central agencies are put into that region to ensure that nothing like this takes place, unlike in the Punjab sector. This strategy has been realised by Pakistan-based terror groups and smugglers and, therefore, over the last couple of years, they have changed their strategy and are using the Punjab border to achieve their goals,” the BSF officer from Punjab told The Sunday Guardian.

The data also shows that there has been a significant drop in the number of infiltration activities along the India-Pak border in the Jammu and Kashmir region and especially along the Line of Control. According to the data, the Jammu sector has recorded 21 drone sightings in 2022, while Kashmir and the Line of Control have witnessed just two such incidents. This, officials say, is because of enhanced security measures in that region, with both the Army as well as the central security forces operating with heightened security technologies including anti-drone technologies.

The onslaught of drones along the western sector has forced the BSF to set up a Drone/UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and Cyber Forensic Laboratory in New Delhi earlier this month, which will study the flight paths, the address of the criminals that are sending these drones and the country of origin and manufacturing of these UAVs.

Pankaj Kumar Singh, BSF Director General, during the inauguration of the drone lab in Delhi said that the BSF for quite some time has been at the receiving end of the drone menace which is coming from the Pakistan side and that the drone laboratory would help the security agencies to decode messages encrypted with the drones, their GPS coordinates, launchpads and landing points, and that the analysis of these drones could provide the Indian agencies with an “information mine”.