While international borders have supposedly transformed into symbols of cooperation and collective security, influencing various aspects such as trade, security, economics, social interactions, and cultural exchange between neighbouring countries,[1] it cannot, however, be denied that centralised border management strategies still prioritise national gains over individual gains of borderland residents[2] and often overlook local realities.[3] Despite serving as a means for the state to control informal cross-border activities,[4] heightened border surveillance significantly affects the livelihoods of residents in border regions.

The border between Nepal and India despite it holds a greater prospect for prominent bilateral ties, mutual cooperation, and collective prosperity facilitating free movement, trade, and cross-border transactions and provide extensive livelihood opportunities for people living in bordering regions. Nonetheless, the border interactions between the two countries have also experienced economic, political, and social complexities, as well as security tensions occasionally leading to further securitisation of the border. This study thus centres on comprehending the impacts of heightened border security and surveillance on the lives of individuals, particularly in one of the highly disputed border regions between Nepal and India, namely Susta in Nawalparasi. Tensions concerning international borders between Nepal and India occasionally intensify in Susta over territorial disputes and jurisdictional claims between the two nations.[5] The area remains subject to rigorous state scrutiny, including intensive monitoring by security forces, creating formidable barriers to unrestricted cross-border movement.

While open borders contribute to increase in employment and income generation opportunities for border residents, arbitrary regulations governing cross-border movement sometimes fail to account for the extent to which such restrictions impact individuals crossing borders for employment and sustenance.[6] Borrowing from Ole Wæver’s concept of securitisation,[7] this study tries to analyse how the cross-border movement of people along the disputed India-Nepal border in Susta is transformed into security concerns ultimately impacting the livelihoods, mainly income opportunities and economic well-being of borderland residents.

The study employs a mixed-methods approach, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research tools. An in-person survey will be conducted among local residents in the Susta border region, with subsequent in-depth interviews with select participants. Emphasis will be placed on households representing diverse income quartiles and individuals from various castes and ethnic groups. Preliminary analysis of the survey data and comprehensive interviews will provide insights into the complex interplay between heightened border security and the socio-economic well-being of the borderland inhabitants. Thus, the paper is intended to contribute to the broader discourse focusing on the impact of securitisation on income opportunities for residents in border regions while also shedding light on the nuanced dynamics of livelihoods as well as the well-being of these borderlanders, where rigorous state scrutiny is the norm.

[1] Harvey Starr, ‘International Borders: What They Are, What They Mean, and Why We Should Care’, The SAIS Review of International Affairs 26, No.1 (2006): 3-10.

[2] Joan Anderson & Egbert Wever, ‘Borders, border regions and economic integration: One world, ready or not’, Journal of Borderlands Studies 18, No.1 (2003): 27-38.

[3] Olukayode A. Faleye, ‘Border Securitisation and Politics of State Policy in Nigeria, 2014–2017’, Insight on Africa 11, No.1 (2019): 78–93.

[4] Beauty Dzawanda, M.D. Nicolau, Mark Matsa & W. Kusena, ‘Livelihood outcomes of informal cross border traders prior to the rise of the virtual cash economy in Gweru, Zimbabwe’, Journal of Borderlands Studies 38, No.1 (2023): 75-94.

[5] Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, International Boundaries of Nepal (Saaland: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2019).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ole Wæver, ‘Securitization and Desecuritization’, In On Security, edited by Ronnie D. Lipschutz, 46–86. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).