Amid India - China standoff in eastern Ladakh a proposal is currently being examined by the Centre for giving a more active role to ITBP along LAC to avoid future conflicts between the Indian Army and PLA . This arrangement is to be proposed to Beijing once the disengagement process between Indian Army and PLA is completed.
The Trigger for the Responses was a Tweet by Gen VP Malik, former COAS that said "An illogical, dumb idea. When adversary looks to surprise us on LAC, we want to place Army behind ITBP in second tier. First tier controlled by MHA and second by MoD ! Have we forgotten how two years ago PLA was diverted from exercise deployment to intrude across LAC ? "
RESPONSES FROM FAUJI VETERANS
Responses from our Fauji Veterans to this recent development were sought by MVI and given below:
Col RS Sidhu
Guarding India’s borders during peacetime is a complex task along its land frontier of 15,200 kms, coastline of 7,516 kms and Exclusive Economic Zone area of 2 million square kilometres. India’s border with Afghanistan de facto doesn’t exist, owing to Pakistan and China’s occupation of large swathes of Jammu & Kashmir province of India. Nearly one third of the border with Pakistan is disputed, necessitating deployment of the regular army by the two sides along the Line of Control (LC) and Actual ground Position Line (AGPL). With China almost the entire length of borders is disputed leading to deployment of regular troops along the Line of Actual control (LAC). Nepal, hitherto a quiet border, is increasingly falling under the sway of Chinese influence. India’s most vulnerable 24 kms wide Siliguri corridor, flanked by Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, is merely 130 kms from Chumbi Valley in China and is a major strategic vulnerability. Bhutan, whose defence rests with India, is uncomfortable to confront China.
Guarding India’s border in peacetime is made more complex by the ad hoc division of responsibility between the Indian Army (IA) under Ministry of Defence (MOD) while the multifarious border guarding force are under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), leading to dichotomy in chain of command and control. Except for AR, which is under command of IA, all other Para Military Forces (PMF) are deployed under direct command of MHA during peacetime. Requirement of combating cross-border fuelled insurgencies in J&K, Ladakh and NE border states further compounds the issue. These PMF are neither equipped nor have adequate strength to replace the existing IA deployment along the borders during peacetime.
In January 2004 the MHA established a Department of Border Management, tasked with comprehensive management of border areas, including guarding and development of infrastructure. However, ad hocism continues to prevail in peacetime border guard responsibilities. While the IA is deployed on the disputed border sections with China and Pakistan, various paramilitary forces are deployed along the International Borders (IB) with different countries. In principle, the Border security Force (BSF) guards the IB with Pakistan and Bangladesh, Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is deployed on the borders with China, Special Services Bureau (SSB) secures the borders with Nepal, Assam Rifles (AR) covers the border with Myanmar, and Coast Guard (CG) polices the maritime boundary.
The complexities of the border guard during peacetime can be gauged from the ensuing data. Length of India’s border with Pakistan is 3323 kms, with Afghanistan 106 kms, with China is 3988 kms (including 500 kms between POJK and Xinjiang region of China), with Nepal 1715 kms, with Bhutan 699 kms, with Myanmar 1643 kms, and with Bangladesh 4097 kms. India and Pakistan share an International Border of 2300 kilometres, 776 kilometres of LC and 110 kilometres of AGPL. Length of various sections of LAC with China are notional 500 kms between POJK and Xinjiang region of China, 1600 kms between Ladakh and Tibet, 600 kms between Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand with Tibet, 200 kms between Sikkim and Tibet, 1100 kms from Bhutan to Talu Pass in Arunachal Pradesh opposite Tibet.
The principle of deploying ‘one border one force’ during peacetime is sound logic. It does away with existing anomalies. Accordingly, assigning the lead role to ITBP along LAC goes with this principle. Freeing the IA from active deployment along the borders during peacetime comes with concomitant advantages.
However, due cognisance needs to be given to the following factors. The threat from across the LAC is now of paramount concern to India vis a vis the threat from across the LC/AGPL. The LAC is also now having eyeball to eyeball deployment as along the LC/AGPL. Taking the logic of ITBP being deployed in the forward tier all along the LAC, it stands to logic that BSF assumes similar responsibility along the LC/AGPL. Currently neither the ITBP nor the BSF is having adequate force and major weapons and equipment to shoulder the new responsibility. Hopefully, the issues mentioned will be resolved prior to implementing the proposed change over of responsibilities between MOD and MHA.
Gp Capt. Johnson Chacko
Border management is supposed to be done by CAPFs like the BSF, may be ITBP etc. IS should be the concern of CRPF. Army should withdraw to the Cantts and train for War.
Policing and Military use of force are based on two different philosophies.
The IS situation started deteriorating from 1987. We can't accept the fact that 35 years is inadequate time to train our paramilitary forces, when an SM retires at that age!
Maj Gen. Rana Goswami
Ideally, what Chacko says is correct, but do they have the capability?
If yes, then test them, have the army run realistic war games for them, with the BSF being headed by their police hierarchy, with no assistance from the army. Let them prove their worth, but ten times out of ten, they will fail. Not because they can't, but because they're not trained for it. Their training is restricted to holding posts, patrolling and minor ambushes of smugglers, etc. The IPS hierarchy hasn't a clue on border management. Do they understand what it entails? I think not. Putting them in charge today will be the biggest risk to our country's security since 1947. There will be no comebacks, once territory is lost.
Is ITBP, at the LAC a good idea?
It is a decision yet to be implemented and I have no actual reason to comment.
Being an dispensable item in the food chain of conceptual thought and decision making, what I feel is immaterial.
- But personally my thoughts would fall in place simplistically by
running you through, asking few simple questions?
- Do you want a war with China?
- Will you win it? Skirmishes isn’t war.
- How far behind are you/ we in capability and infrastructure building?
- What interests does China have in you, beyond your perceived threat imagination?
The analogy of an expansionist regime? XI's failing popularity? Westernisation? Show of military might? That also to India? Divert attention? Nuclear powers?
- Do you have the endurance capability?
- Can you sustain a conventional conflict?
- Are the economics in place?
- Is the nation ready to go to war with you?
- Do you have that versatile decision making leadership?
Or the fear of cascading futility and inviting trouble when none in your sector prevail?
- After all they said maintain peace and tranquility at all costs. Valley based engagements?
Act only when sure. The dilemma of anxiety.
War avoidance Vs War execution.
- Will it be an integrated application of all three mediums - land, air and sea?
Will you take the war to the South China Seas? Or to Chinese international assets?
- Will you ever pre-empt any Chinese action? Or fall into a decision making quagmire.
Simple questions ?! We all know the answers ! The practical and logical thing to do is avoid war with China and solve all border disputes amicably. You don’t fight a dragon with a stick or even an air gun, like they say in Hindi - hawa mein.
We need to ensure the Chinese that Indian land, air space and shores will not be used against them. We will be neutral and choose national interests over geo dynamics.
If you think anyone will come to assist us, you just saw Ukraine. If you think Pakistan is not going to make Merry at an opportunity of a lifetime, than either you are foolish or a barking tele veteran.
What we need is a solution to unhindered capability building. Provide adequate deterrent. Train hard and seamlessly. If forced into war, then fight gloriously, therefore we need to preserve our resources, ensure mission reliability, sustainability, psychological and physical toughness and above all be hugely apolitical. Border management is politics and diplomacy, sadly we suck at it big time.
Will the military lose relevance? The military will lose relevance only when the nation turns renegade and is controlled by war mongerers and imbeciles. We aren’t, we have a dynamic democracy, a strong political and military leadership, we just need to evolve futuristically for decisive and successful application, in calculated time and spaces. Maybe even fight differently.
Lt Gen. DB Shekatkar
The incident at Galwan and intrusion by PLA was the Gift by ITBP local Commanders and the senior leadership of ITBP to the Indian Army and India as a nation.
We refuse to accept the truth and we refuse to learn from our mistakes.
No one wants to leave the empire.
Committee of experts on defence Re-organisation and re-orientation of India's defence and security mechanism, (Shekatkar Committee) has clearly and categorically recommended that along India China LAC, ITBP must be under operational control of the army.
Unfortunately, there has always been Resistance to Change.
The result is Indian Army Suffers Human Casualties. And Indian Govt, Leadership, Ruling Political Party Suffers Humiliation which is not desirable.
As a result there is a question mark on the the capability and ability of the Political Leadership and Governing Mechanism.
Armed Forces are from India and of India.
Should there be a doubt in their Mind?
A doubtful mind can never and will never perform well during any Crises or War.
It is high time that we see the writings on the wall.