There has been a threefold increase in drone sighting incidents along the India-Pakistan border, with 311 observations of such Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs) till December 23 this year compared to 104 in 2021.
Besides this data collated by the Border Security Force (BSF), which is mandated to guard the 3,323 km India-Pakistan border, the drone sighting incidents have quadrupled as compared to 2020 when 77 UAVs — a major source of smuggling arms and ammunition, as well as drugs into India — were observed along the Pakistan border.
The drone sightings, which were majorly observed in different areas in Punjab, were within a range of 2-10 km of the International Border.
However, alert BSF personnel shot down over 22 such drones and seized nearly 45 kg of heroin and a cache of arms and ammunition — including seven grenades, two magazines, 60 ammunition and other arms.
Out of a total of 492 UAVs or drones observed on the India-Pakistan border from January 1, 2020 to December 23, this year, 311 were sighted this year, 104 in 2021 and 77 in 2020, reveals the data accessed by ANI.
Of the total drone sightings, 369 UAVs were observed in Punjab, 75 in Jammu, 40 in Rajasthan, and 8 in Gujarat.
In Punjab, a maximum of 164 drones were observed in Amritsar, 96 in Gurdaspur, 84 in Ferozpur and 25 in Abohar districts. Under the Jammu frontier, a total of 35 drones were observed in Indreshwar Nagar, 29 in Jammu and 11 in Sunderbani. In Rajasthan, 32 drones were observed in Sri Ganganagar, seven in Barmer, three each in Bikaner and Jaisalmer North, two in Jaisalmer South and one in Bhuj.
The data further revealed that a total of 206 drones were observed between July 1 and December 23 this year. Of them, a maximum of 45 drones were observed in August, followed by 44 in September, 38 in October, 36 in November, and 24 in December. July saw the fewest drone sightings at 19.
Among these sightings, 60 were in Amritsar, 55 in Ferozepur, 39 in Gurdaspur, 23 in Abohar, 10 in Sri Ganganagar, 6 in Indreshwar Nagar, 5 in Jammu, 3 in Barmer, 2 in Jaisalmer North and one in Bikaner.
Officials in the BSF told ANI that drones are being used by Pakistan to smuggle weapons, explosives and narcotics across the border from Pakistan.
The increased drone activity across the border was brought to the notice of Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a security review meeting in Srinagar in October, with top security and intelligence chiefs in attendance. While the BSF, which mans the international border with Pakistan in the Jammu sector, believes that it has been able to repel drones carrying arms, ammunition and explosives from Pakistan, the state police and the intelligence agencies differ with this assessment.
The security forces have seized various AK series assault rifles, pistols, MP4 carbines, carbine magazines and high explosive grenades as well as narcotics, which were transported into Indian territory from Pakistan from the drones shot down so far.
According to security agencies, BSF intelligence inputs and Jammu and Kashmir Police officers, the drones are also used to drop packets of Afghan heroin for financing terror operations in the Valley and Punjab.
It is learnt that the group behind the transportation of weapons, explosives and drugs is Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror outfits, which have camps across the International Boundary and is backed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Home ministry is learnt to have directed all agencies concerned to find solutions to drone activities from across the border. Security agencies and law enforcement forces have also been asked to keep a special watch on such movements.