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A front-line task force defends the Indian border

The SSF task force participated in many important campaigns on the Indo-China border, but their activities were not widely publicized.

When Tenzin Thardoe, a former member of India’s Forward Special Forces (SFF), started his daily routine last week when he heard about the team clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers near Pangong Tso Lake. in the Ladakh region. Indian media citing unnamed police sources said the brawl lasted three hours on the night of August 29, but did not reveal the casualties of the two sides.

On September 2, three Indian officials confirmed that special operative soldier Tenzin Nyima, 53, had died near Lake Pangong Tso, another SSF was injured by landmine, but the cause and details have not been detailed. to be announced.

Thardoe is located in the Norgyeling settlement in Maharashtra state, central India, more than 2,000 km from Pangong Tso. News of the clash near Lake Pangong Tso reminded the 33-year-old SFF veteran of his time serving in this mysterious Indian task force.

The SFF, also known as the Vikas Battalion, is believed to have played an important role in the campaign launched by India on the night of August 29 to “discourage China’s intent to change the status quo”. The Indian army accused about 500 Chinese soldiers at the time trying to cross the border trying to enter the narrow valley of Spanggur, near the village of Chushul in eastern Ladakh, but the Chinese denied this information.

Indian soldiers guard on a high spot near the town of Leh, in the Ladakh region, on the border with China, on June 17. Photo: AFP.

Over the past four months, India and China have deployed thousands of troops around the Actual Control Line (LAC), the demarcated border between the two countries. Indian military sources said the country urgently sent reinforcements to hold high points and important positions in East Ladakh when Chinese soldiers and artillery were gathered near the LAC.

Indian analysts say this campaign gives the Indian military the upper hand in efforts to defend the territory. However, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs declares that the Indian army is the force that is occupying their territory.

Thardoe expressed his excitement when he heard that SFF has been deployed in the border area. “I got goosebumps to hear what the SFF has done,” Thardoe said, and said he quickly called his brother who was serving in an SFF unit in northeast India. “My brother said everyone was in a state of excitement”.

The Indian military has not disclosed the SFF for decades. Experts said that SFF’s campaigns are often not published to keep secrets, but the August 30 night clash made this force the focus of public opinion.

The SFF was most likely formed after the 1962 Indo-China War, a massive military conflict between the world’s two most populous nations. This force is believed to mainly recruit personnel from hundreds of thousands of Tibetans residing in India, the rest being Indian citizens.

An expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi said India established the SFF for many purposes. “The massive defeat in the 1962 war made the Indian government realize that they lacked in-depth knowledge of the hilly terrain in areas along China’s Tibet, and at the same time lacked a seasoned force. experience in the mountain war warfare “, this scholar said.

Much of the Ladakh area is located at an altitude of 4,500 m or more. This area was the main battlefield during the 1962 Indo-China War and was also the site of many fights between soldiers of the two countries in recent years.

The location of the clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in June. Graphics: Telegraph.

Nearly 80,000 Tibetans walked thousands of kilometers and crossed the Himalayas to settle in India in the late 1950s, many of whom later joined the SFF. SFF veterans say the size of the task force has grown from one to seven battalions with nearly 5,000 soldiers. However, in the first phase, they are almost not deployed along the LAC.

Instead, SFF participated in other campaigns such as the 1971 India-Pakistan War, after India supported the establishment of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh from Pakistan. The war ended 13 days after the birth of Bangladesh. During the 1999 clash between two South Asian states in the Kashmir region, this task force also played a significant role.

The SFF also participated in activities to ensure domestic security of India such as the campaign against Sikh rebels in the state of Punjab in 1981-1995.

“51 soldiers of Tibetan origin were killed in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, but no one is awarded medals and their relatives receive cash only,” said Kalsang Rinchen, director of the 2008 SFF documentary. said. “The highest medal that a soldier of Tibetan descent has ever received is the Shaurya Chakra”.

The Shaurya Chakra Medal is given to Indian soldiers and citizens for acting bravely or sacrificing oneself in situations not directly fighting enemies. About 627 people have been awarded the Shaurya Chakra Medal by India since 1952.

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