In the wake of the escalating Indo-China border dispute, India has started mobilizing the Tibetan community along the border.
The Special Frontier Force (SFF) has been deployed along the Tibetan community in India. The force, which has been operating as a covert, has come out openly this time.
After rising tensions between India and China over the past five months, the Indian Army had announced it had ‘thwarted Chinese intentions to alter the ground situation’. The announcement has silently opened the involvement of SFF, in the operation south of Pangong Tso.
With the involvement of the SFF, known as the Development Regiment and directly under the Director General of the Indian intelligence agency ‘RAW’, its role is also emerging.
Not only that, the covert force this time has come into the ground. In the second week of September, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav attended the funeral of SFF personal Nyima Tenzin.
The 2020 China-India Skirmishes, ongoing military standoff; both the troops have engaged in aggressive moves in Sino-Indian Border including near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and Tibet Autonomous Region. Started from May this year; Chinese forces agitated to the construction of road in Galwan River Valley by Indian side.
In June 15, deadly clashes between two forces resulted the death of 20 Indian soldiers. In July 25, emerges of disengagement at Galwan, Hot Spring and Gogra. Indian Army deployed more forces to the area.
Though the talk between Beijing and Delhi in Moscow conclude with 5 points agreement stating that both side shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on China-India boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
But still the tension is still escalating. At the end of August, fired opened between once.
In the operation of August 29-31, the involvement of SFF has been reported. India has occupied previously unoccupied heights in Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh. Indian Army has so far maintained an official silent, but the death of SFF’s Nyima has opened the secrets of SFF involvement. However, Yeshi Tenzin, father of injured SFF’s personal Tenzin Londen has told the Indian Express that his son along with his unit was involved in an operation to occupy a hill, Black top, near the south bank of Pangong Tso. This is the first time the SFF, a secretive force, has been in public eye.
Although the Indian Army has not officially commented on the deaths, the presence of BJP leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close aid Ram Madhav in the funeral of Nyima has exposed the SFF’s presence in the Indo-China dispute. It is said that Nyima had caught on a landmine in rested from 1962.
After his death, huge crowd in present BJP leader had paid the honor to Nyima in Leh, Ladakh, Chanting slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Tibet Zindabad, Vikas Regiment Zindabad shows that SFF involvements in 2020 India-China Skirmishes. The rally played a role in stirring up anti-China sentiment by influencing the Tibetan community. Ram Madhav had reached Leh for the same purpose. Earlier, no such farewell was said in the death of any SFF soldiers, nor was the general public aware of the SFF’s presence. Why was it brought out this time?
Amid the border tensions, India sends strong message to China by giving fallen Tibetan soldier full military honors. SFF men have been told to fight for Tibet rather than for India.
‘Until now we were anonymous soldiers. But now people know us. We are proud that he sacrificed his life for his motherland, Tibet,’ the Indian media quoted a soldier as saying.
The incident has sent a clear message to Beijing from Delhi it will not stop playing ‘Tibet Card’. The image of Nyima’s coffin, which is covered by Indian flag and snow lion flag which is adopted by the Tibetan refugee community, is going viral on social media among the Tibetan community.
Using the Tibetan community against China, India has called on it to fight its ‘real enemy’ (China). Until now, India had not openly deployed the SFF on the front line against China.
What is SFF?
The Special Frontier Force (SFF), which is made up of the Tibetan community, is stationed at the border. The Indian Special Forces, formed after the Sino-Indian war on November 14, 1962, had initially been conducting covert operations on the Indo-China border. Now the force has a mixture of Tibetan and Gorkhas, (i.e. Nepali)
Since then, the force has been involved in the Indo-Pak war and the Bangladesh independent War. The SFF, which has been a part of Operation Blue Star, Kargil war, also had acted as Indira Gandhi’s personal force after the state of emergency.
Headquartered in Uttarakhand, the force is not the part of Indian Army but function under its operational control. It was initially placed under the Intelligence Bureau of India (IB). Later, India’s external intelligence mechanism was placed under the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). However, it has its own status and organizational structure and training structure. It is directly under the Directorate General of Security Affairs of the Cabinet. Force is led by the Inspector General (IG) who is selected from the Major General level of the Indian Army who reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Initially made up of Tibetan refugees, the development battalion later became the Special Frontier Force.
The organization was formed with 5,000 youths from the Khampa community in exile in India along with the Dalai Lama from Tibet. For that, the Indians had recruited the youth from the guerrilla group fighting with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also helped form the group.
The SFF had shut down most of its operations in China, in line with Deng Xiaoping’s open economy policy.
Since then, the SFF has fought the Indo-Pakistani war with the Indian Army. The SFF had fought a war against Pakistan in favor of Bangladesh in the Bangladesh Independence Campaign.
Along with Tibetans, Nepalese been used against China
Now India with SFF forces in Sino-Indian border; has opened ‘Tibet Card’. And is now threat to Beijing.
To fill the gap of the Tibetan community in the SSF, Youth from Gurkha Rifles are also being recruited. The SFF has a majority of Tibetan and Nepali communities who can work in brave in high mountain areas with similar physical constitution. The SFF, which is fighting against Pakistan, has now landed on the Chinese border. By which directly the Tibetan indirectly Nepali are been used against Northern friend.
(Dhakal is Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from Tribhuvan University and currently studying Master’s in Public Administration in University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) Chengdu. Diplomatic Correspondent at pahilopost Kathamandu.