New Delhi: The government is mulling a proposal to "thin out" presence of BSF personnel on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and deploy them along the International Border (IB) in Punjab and Jammu regions in the wake of the Pathankot airbase terrorist attack.
Officials said a proposal to de-induct at least four out of the dozen-odd battalions of Border Security Force (BSF) from LoC has already been sent to the Union Home Ministry and a note for taking a final decision in this regard by the Cabinet Committee on Security will be prepared soon after deliberations with the Ministry of Defence and Army.
Top sources in the security establishment said National Security Council, headed by NSA Ajit Doval, is considering whether all 12 BSF battalions can be removed from LoC and deployed as the 'second tier' of defence, behind existing BSF positions, along IB which witnessed incidents of terrorists crossing over the border to attack vital military, police and civilian establishments in Jammu and Punjab.
The move, however, is being strongly opposed by senior BSF commanders as they feel that its removal from LoC where its men are deployed under the operational command of the Army will take away vital exposure of the personnel who have been performing 'war time'-like duties on this frontier with Pakistan since 1965.
"A proposal in this regard is being discussed at present. The proposal entails that a good number of BSF battalions should be withdrawn from LoC and re-deployed as the second tier of security along IB which is prone to infiltration attempts," a senior official said.
He, however, said no ground assessment of forward areas along the Pakistani frontier has been done in this regard.
The official, quoting the proposal prepared in this regard, said the decision was taken as the force requires more men to secure IB and it could only be done by de-inducting units from other places as there is a dearth of reserve battalions in BSF and technological solutions being deployed to plug border gaps and breaches along IB will take some more time.
The Home Ministry also recently constituted a team under former Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta to suggest measures to further fortify defence mechanisms along IB, especially against infiltration.
It is widely understood that the terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot early this year had infiltrated through the IB, possibly in Bamial area in Punjab.
The BSF has been deployed along LoC since 1965 under the command of the Army while it works independently at IB running across Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan and Punjab as the 'First Line of Defence'.
Officials said a proposal is also being prepared to deploy Assam Rifles personnel at LoC posts which will be vacated by BSF as they will no longer be tasked with the security of the Indo-Myanmar border, a task expected to go to another border guarding force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
"As ITBP does not have adequate number of battalions at present to effectively guard the new task at Myanmar border, its units from Ladakh deployed along the 3,488-km China border could be thinned out and replaced by Assam Rifles," a senior paramilitary official said.