Know Your Paramilitary | Part 2: Indo-Tibetan Border Police

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), with a total strength of over 90,000 jawans and officers, has mainly provided services to the nation by guarding the Himalayan borders in addition to doing other tasks like deployment in the areas affected by Naxal, law and order-related exercises, etc.

It is a unique and highly trained Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) specializing in border guarding in dangerous and inhospitable terrain and weather conditions in the high Himalayas at altitudes ranging mainly from 3,000 to 18 800 feet, where the temperature drops to -45 degrees. Celsius. Jawans are well trained to deal with any type of situation, even in harsh weather conditions. From responding to Chinese aggression to rescuing people from a tunnel in Chamoli, the ITBP can do it all.

The mission of the personnel of the force is to uphold the highest standards of human dignity and national integrity in accordance with its motto ‘Shaurya-Dridhata-Karmanishtha’ (Valour-Determination-Devotion to Duty) as its jawans act as ‘ Sentinels of the Himalayas’ .

Story

Following the “one border, one force” policy, the Indian government after the Chinese aggression in 1962 decided to raise a specialized force to guard the borders of the Himalayas. Finally, the ITBP was created on October 24, 1962, with four battalions and was named the Northern Frontier Rifles on the concept of an integrated guerrilla, intelligence and combat force completely self-sufficient in supply, communications and of logistics. The force was formed with a high-level ability to assimilate with the locals, gather intelligence and, in the event of enemy intrusion, hold them for a considerable period of time until reinforcements from the armed forces regular can take over. In any area occupied by the enemy, the force was supposed to work like guerrilla fighters to push the adversary out of the land.

Initially, the force had only 1,472 members from different units, organized into four battalions. The government decided to extend it and the recruitment was done preferably among the inhabitants of the hilly areas because they knew the terrain and the environment perfectly. Instructors have been handpicked to deliver the training. Finally, the force was used during the Indo-Pakistani conflicts of 1965 and 1971 apart from counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Later, with significant developments in the geostrategic scenarios, some changes in the initial role of the ITBP were considered. The government restructured the force in 1978 to have nine service battalions, four specialist battalions and two training centers. Under the recommendations of a group of ministers to stick to “one border, one force”, the entire 3,488 km stretch of the Indochina border from the Karakoram Pass in Jammu and Kashmir to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh, was awarded to the ITBP. The force now has 56 battalions and 176 border outposts.

Strength and structure

Currently, the ITBP has 56 service battalions, four specialist battalions, 17 training centers, 15 sector headquarters and seven logistics establishments with a total strength of approximately 90,000 personnel.

The force is headed by a Director General rank IPS officer who controls and commands three additional Director Generals (ADGs) and 23 Inspectors General (IGs) in addition to the Deputy Inspectors General (DIGs). At the ADG level, the force is divided into “commands”, and at the IG level, it is divided into borders. ADGs are divided into three departments: ADG Headquarters to deal with operations and intelligence apart from administrative work, ADG Western Command is responsible for Leh and Dehradun Sector, and eastern part of the ADG which deals with the borders of Bhopal, Itanagar and Lucknow.

The force has also deployed its female personnel to Border Outposts (BOPs) in the Himalayas. ITBP also has a K9 canine squad and an equestrian squad/animal transport wing. Force also has a water wing.

Stories of Valor

The ITBP played a vital role in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 where it eliminated Pakistani infiltrators and rescued the local population in several areas of Rajouri District (J&K). It was thanks to the efforts of the ITBP that the Gool Police Station did not fall into the hands of the Pak infiltrators. In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the ITBP was tasked with inducting two battalions into the theater of war on the Western Front. The force’s day and night patrols held the Pak infiltrators at bay and did not allow them to settle.

After an honorable performance at the 9th Asian Games in 1981-82, Govt. of India entrusted the ITBP with the responsibility of providing counter-terrorism security cover during CHOGM-1983 and NAM-1983. The anti-terrorist group ITBP has again done a remarkable job in these functions.

In 1987, six battalions of the ITBP were raised to stop bank robberies perpetrated by terrorists and extremists armed with sophisticated weapons in Punjab. These battalions took on the difficult task of providing security to banks with coin vaults in the state. After a successful period in Punjab, five ITBP battalions were moved to J&K from Punjab in 1998 for counter-insurgency operations. In addition to this, a unit has been deployed to protect and secure the Jawahar tunnel.

In 2004, the ITBP was deployed to Gurguri, Minar and Zaranj in Afghanistan to provide security for the Border Roads Organization undertaking the Delaram-Zaranj road construction project.

The highly trained ITBP commandos have been deployed to provide security for the Indian Embassy in Kabul and Consulate Generals in Jalalabad and Kandahar, where they have played a valuable role. Two jawans, Late Const (GD) Ajay Singh Pathania and Late Const (GD) Roop Singh, gave their lives and four were injured in a suicide bomb attack at the embassy’s main gate in Kabul on July 7, 2008. Both Brave Hearts was bestowed on Kirti Chakra posthumously by the Government of India.

In 2014, a group of fidayeen attacked the Consulate General of India in Herat, Afghanistan which was successfully repelled by ITBP commandos. Inspector (GD) Manjeet Singh awarded Shaurya Chakra and other commandos awarded Presidential Police Medal for bravery.

Since the ITBP deployed to the hills, during the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand, the force was the first to respond and launch a massive rescue and relief operation in all affected areas and rescued 33,009 pilgrims safely by constructing improvised bridges, tracks, etc. has carried out many special and highly specialized rescue operations in the Himalayas over the years.

The ITBP has led the way in adventure sports like mountaineering, skiing, rafting, ice hockey, etc. The force has successfully completed 209 mountaineering expeditions to date, which is a record.

ITBP has won a number of decorations such as Padma Shri-7, Kirti Chakra-2, Shaurya Chakra-6, Sena Medal-1, President’s Police Medal for Gallantry-19, Police Medal for Gallantry-91, Parakram Padak- 79, President’s Gallantry Police and Fire Medals-2, Prime Minister’s Lifesaving Medal-86, Jeewan Raksha Padak-6, Sarvottam Jeewan Raksha Padak-2, Uttam Jeewan Raksha Padak-13, Tenzing Norgay Adventure Award-12 , etc., for his many accomplishments.

Last year, the ITBP was awarded 20 Police Bravery Medals and 260 Special Operation Medals from the Union Home Secretary for exemplary bravery and devotion to duty. It was one of the rare but very special achievements of the force when it was awarded for safeguarding the motherland on the extremely difficult border between India and China.

The ITBP Marching Contingent has won the Best Marching Contingent trophy six times in the Republic Day Parade. The ITBP board was presented in 1998 and 2018 at Rajpath on Republic Day.

Training

The genesis of the ITBP lies in guerrilla training. His concept, overall formation, and skill stance are very different in many ways. In addition to military and police tactical training, it trains its personnel extensively in mountain warfare, rock and ice gear, and unarmed combat in particular. High altitude survival, rangers, skiing, rafting, etc. are part of the major skills held by the ITBP.

The force specializes in the field of adventure sports. In addition to having completed a record of over 230 mountaineering expeditions over the years, he has successfully climbed Mount Everest four times. It also boasts of the national champion ice hockey team.

Budget

The government-sanctioned annual budget of ITBP in 2020-21 was Rs 6,150.15 crore, in 2021-22 it was Rs 6,567.17 crore and in 2022-2023 it is Rs 7,461.28 crore.

ITBP 2.0

The ITBP is looking to increase its membership over the next five years. Nearly seven battalions would shortly be force sanctioned for the Arunachal Pradesh deployments. It will have more than a million people in its ranks by 2030.

The force may also seek a dedicated air wing, as has been discussed for many years. It is also looking for direct satellite connectivity for live and exclusive communication. It will strengthen its presence on the Chinese borders as more and more India-China Border Roads (ICBR) are under construction. After the successful completion of dozens of strategic roads in ICBR Phases I and II, its third phase has also been supported by the government.

The ITBP, according to officials, could become one of the best equipped and modernized CAPFs in the next 10 years.

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