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India\’s battle in the Skies: The Fight Against Pakistan\’s Terror Drones

RahulPAWA | @imrahulpawa

Recently, skies over India have become a battleground for an insidious new threat – terror drones. The severity of this menace was laid bare once again yesterday when Indian security forces detected a drone that had violated Indian airspace and was flying in from Pakistan near the international border in Gurdaspur district of the north Indian state of Punjab. In a swift retaliatory response, the Indian security forces fired upon the drone, causing it to retreat towards Pakistan. This incident follows a similar pattern from the previous month, where Indian security forces discovered a high-end Chinese-made DJI Matrice 300 RTK quadcopter in Gurdaspur that had infiltrated from Pakistan. The discovery of this sophisticated drone, valued at a staggering USD $13,700, is a sobering reminder of the growing use of advanced aerial technology by malevolent actors across borders.


Moreover, not only Punjab has seen Pakistan-operated terror drones in violation of Indian airspace. Earlier this year, a drone was shot down in Rajasthan\’s Sriganganagar sector. Indian security forces recovered five packages of narcotics from the wreckage of that drone. In another incident of illegal cross-border drone droppings from November last year in Jammu and Kashmir\’s (J&K) Samba district. The police recovered two unassembled improvised explosive devices with detonators, two Chinese-made pistols, four magazines loaded with 60 rounds, and half a million Indian rupees that were dropped by a terror drone controlled from Pakistan.

With this recent uptick in Pakistan\’s unmanned aerial vehicle activity, it is becoming incessantly clear that the incidents involving their terror drones in India are not isolated occurrences; rather, they represent a calculated and deliberate escalation of modern-day asymmetrical warfare aimed at undermining India\’s security. The usage of such drones by Pakistan for activities like hostile reconnaissance, drug and weapon trafficking, and transporting explosives and ammunition into India has increased four times in Punjab alone since the beginning of this year. As a countermeasure, Indian security forces stationed along the international border states have ramped up their vigilance and intercepted more than a dozen terror drones from Pakistan in the past few weeks alone.

It is no secret that Pakistan is deeply involved in the insidious practice of narco-terrorism. This is not mere hearsay but a widely acknowledged fact, confirmed by international organisations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL), and prominent forums such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the EU\’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+). The FATF\’s demand last year for Pakistan to demonstrate concrete action against terrorism was a reminder of its precarious position on the FATF grey list. Recent scrutiny of Pakistan\’s government-sponsored terrorism has also been directed towards its bid to revive a 2019 bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). There were serious concerns over using bailout funds, given Pakistan\’s history of fostering secessionism and terrorism in India. Pakistan\’s tumultuous past has been characterised by widespread criticism of its army\’s rampant corruption, the government\’s lack of developmental policies, and a blatant disregard for its citizen\’s welfare. The country has been notorious for its efforts to cultivate jihadist extremism and sponsor terrorism against India, which has ultimately resulted in its downfall. Subsequently, a classic case study for the world to see as an example of how states that harbour and endorse extremism, sponsor terrorism, and lack coherent plans for their people\’s growth and development are bound to fail.

Concerningly, the increasing and escalating use of terror drones launched from Pakistan against India epitomises the mindset of the country\’s deep state and army. Alarmingly, Pakistan seems to have decided to persist in diverting its valuable resources towards supporting terror, thereby continuing to nurture the monster of terrorism that it created, even though it has already bankrupted the country. By resorting to narco-terrorism, small arms smuggling and financing of terrorism by the use of terror drones with an aspiration to destabilise India, especially its youth. Pakistan is exposing itself to further repercussions at the hands of an able Indian national security apparatus and extreme scrutiny from its financial backers, organisations, unions and nations that greatly benefit it. Pakistan has active loans from international lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), among others. It is also a partner in the Paris Pact Initiative, which seeks to combat opiate trafficking, consumption and related issues along the Afghan trafficking routes. Pakistan benefits from Europe\’s preferential tariff programmes, including the GSP+. However, Pakistan\’s blatant support for organised crime, extremism and terrorism has seriously undermined its credibility. As a result, these agencies and entities have imposed new stringent rectification requirements on Pakistan\’s support for terrorism and extremism to maintain their support.


The country\’s unwavering commitment to pursuing this treacherous path endangers regional stability and poses a significant threat to global peace and security. At this crucial juncture, the international community must recognise the gravity and implications of Pakistan\’s \”terror drones\” deployment against India. Moreover, global leaders must take note of the nations that endorse and enable Pakistan\’s actions. Pakistan\’s long-standing ally, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) led China, which boasts an unbreakable friendship with Pakistan, has become a source of concern. Recent findings of Pakistan-operated terror drones and weaponry recovered in Indian territory offer tangible evidence of Chinese technology, equipment, and weaponry being used for narco-terror and related terrorist activities in India. A considerable proportion of the drones used by Pakistan in cross-border operations in India are supplied by the Chinese firm SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. In December 2020, the US government listed DJI on a trade-restricted list due to concerns about its connections to the CPC government. Notably, some of the batteries that power these drones are manufactured by a company based in Karachi, Pakistan. Despite the CPC\’s repeated claims of a firm commitment to combat international terrorism, doubts have arisen due to its continued support for Pakistan\’s backed and based terrorists at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and its appalling treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

Nonetheless, CPC-led China has ratified and played an active role in several international counter-terrorism treaties, including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), the Terrorist Financing Convention (formally the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism), and relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Terrorism is a global threat that transcends borders, cultures, and ideologies and jeopardises the security and stability of all nations. If the CPC aims to be perceived as a global leader, it must honour its commitment and participate in eradicating cross-border terrorism in India, which Pakistan perpetrates. Therefore, a cohesive and genuine worldwide response is essential to combat terrorism and maintain international peace and security effectively.

Having been a victim of terrorism for decades, India has learnt from its experiences and developed effective strategies to prevent and respond to terrorist threats. Undoubtedly in recent times, India has emerged as a global leader in her proactive and comprehensive approach towards combating terrorism and terrorism-related crimes. In addition to being a leading advocate for international cooperation in counter-terrorism, it actively engages with other nations and international organisations to promote global peace and security. With the current threat of terror drones being used by Pakistan from across the border, India\’s security is at risk, making it imperative to evolve a holistic national security strategy to mitigate the threats and risks posed by terror drones from Pakistan.

In this crucial moment, a multifaceted national security approach is imperative, incorporating both advanced technological measures and diplomatic interventions.

A range of advanced technologies, such as radar systems, jammers, interceptors and satellite imaging, must be incorporated with a long-term threat mitigation approach. The Indian security forces have already paved the way by successfully installing anti-drone jammers along the line of control and international border in Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab to counter Pakistan\’s terror drones. These measures have proven effective in intercepting and neutralising terror drones before they can cause any damage or harm. Building on this success, it is imperative that India continues to invest in and develop its technological capabilities to address the evolving threat of terrorism, including the use of advanced drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles for terrorism and terrorism-related crimes.

In the realm of foreign policy and diplomacy, further concerted efforts should be made to discourage countries like Pakistan, or those supporting it, by making it difficult to finance, use, sell, or transfer technology that aids in the use of terror drones against other nations. A global response strategy may involve transnational organisations like the UN, EU, IMF, AIIB, ADB, and international forums like Group of 20 (G20), Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) to explore possibilities of technology restrictions and other related measures against nations that provide safe havens to terror groups using drones for terrorism purposes. More so, effective information sharing and coordination among security agencies and across nations can significantly enhance efforts to combat the illicit trade of small arms and narcotics, which pose a grave threat to India and other countries worldwide. By adopting such an approach, nations can work together to intercept and deter such illicit activities effectively, thereby strengthening regional and global security.

In conclusion, a multifaceted approach incorporating advanced technology and diplomatic measures is imperative to effectively counter the threat posed by terror drones from Pakistan and safeguard regional and global security. Continued cooperation and collaboration among nations will be essential in addressing this evolving security challenge.

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Rahul Pawa is an international criminal lawyer and director of research at New Delhi based think tank Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies (CIHS)

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