India has operationalized its strategic Indo-Tibetan Border Police command in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh-Ladakh district after moving it from Chandigarh, as part of a plan to counter the ever-increasing Chinese military build-up in the region.
The North West (NW) frontier of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), tasked to guard the 3,488-km long Sino-India border in peace times, is headed by an Inspector General (IG) of Police-rank officer, which is equivalent to a Major General in the Army.
“We are operational from the Ladakh region beginning April 1 and the force headquarters in Delhi has been informed,” ITBP IG Arvind Kumar told news agency PTI from Leh.
Sanctions have been received to create more buildings and logistics for the new command and Director General (DG) SS Deswal, the force chief, is expected to visit the formation soon.
Leh is the base for the 14 Corps of the Army headed by a Lt General-rank officer and the new shift will allow a better interaction between the two forces “for strategic and defence planning”, the official operations blueprint had said.
The Army, which carved out a separate Corps in Leh after Jammu and Srinagar following the Kargil intrusion in 1999, has been demanding operational control over the ITBP, a proposal rejected by the government time and again.
Having the ITBP and the Army at the same combat location will resolve these issues as well, the sources had said.
“We have to be on the border and that is why the frontier is being sent to the forward area,” DG Deswal had earlier said.
The Union home ministry had first mooted the proposal for this strategic move in 2015 but it did not materialise owing to some “administrative reasons”.
As per the blueprint of deployment approved by the government for the ITBP, the Leh frontier of the border guarding force will have three sectors that will be based in Leh, Srinagar and Chandigarh and each of these will be headed by a Deputy IG-rank officer.
The new ITBP frontier will have command of about a dozen battalions deployed along the Chinese border that runs along Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said, adding more battalions would be inducted in order to enhance the presence of the mountain-trained force on this icy, blizzard-prone mountainous border.
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