Army wants operational control of ITBP for better border posture against China.


2 May 2011
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NEW DELHI: With Chinese troops continuing with their aggressive "transgressions'' across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Army wants the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to be placed under its "operational control'' for better border management.

Defence ministry sources said the Army contends India's border management posture will acquire the much-needed "cohesion, coordination and synergy'' required to counter the People's Liberation Army's "offensive'' posture if ITBP is placed under its jurisdiction.

The Army feels such a step will prove operationally productive as well as ensure optimal utilisation of resources especially in eastern Ladakh where ITBP, one of the seven central police forces under the home ministry, is responsible for border management of 826 km of the LAC.

The Army is also present in depth along that stretch but it can exercise operational control over ITBP only during the outbreak of hostilities.

This is not the first time the Army has moved for getting ITBP under its operational wings along the 4,057-km LAC for "single-point control'' as well as effective "border-guarding'' rather than mere "border-policing''.

The defence ministry had six years ago taken up the Army proposal with the home ministry and the national security advisor, among others, but it all came to naught. Interestingly, one of the main objectors at that time was the external affairs ministry, which felt that it would needlessly antagonize China.

China has had no such compunctions. It continues with its policy of frequent troop incursions all along the three LAC sectors -- western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal).

Officially, India often downplays Chinese intrusions, holding that they take place due to "differing perceptions'' of the still-unresolved LAC. The fact, however, remains that China has been indulging in aggressive border patrolling for several years now to strengthen its claim over disputed areas and put pressure on India.

India's overall border management policy has remained largely muddled over the years despite having a porous land border of 14,880-km, running through 17 states and touching six countries. Moreover, it took the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai for the government to rethink security of the country's 5,422-km coastline and 1,197 islands.

The large land borders with both China and Pakistan, as also Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, continue to suffer from a lack of coordination among the different forces manning the border outposts, ranging from BSF, ITBP and Sashastra Seema Bal to Assam Rifles and of course the Army, which report to different bosses and ministries.

Incidentally, both the Border Management Task Force in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil conflict, and the subsequent Group of Ministers' report on "reforming the national security system'' in 2001, had strongly recommended the principle of "one border one force''.

"Multiplicity of forces on the same borders has inevitably led to the lack of accountability as well as problems of command and control,'' held the crucial GoM report. But since then, both the previous NDA and the present UPA regimes have taken only half-hearted steps to plug the gaps.
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