Army revives interest in ITBP command
The Indian Army has renewed its demand for operational command of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, amid talk of “intelligence and command failure” leading to the ongoing stand-off and Chinese build-up along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
Government sources said the army has recently revived its demand to take over the operational command of the paramilitary force, which reports to Union home minister Amit Shah.
“The turf war between the defence ministry and the home ministry over the control of the ITBP is a long-standing issue but it has again gained momentum in the midst of the escalating tension between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh. The army has repeated its demand saying the paramilitary force was not sufficiently equipped to meet the challenges posed by the Chinese troops at the disputed frontier,” said a home ministry official.
The ITBP, which guards the 3,488km China frontier which passes along Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, is the first line of defence on the LAC and the army remains behind it.
Sources said the army’s contention was that the China frontier is under constant threat, considering frequent border skirmishes and face-off and several incidents of transgression by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“The army feels it should have the command of the ITBP to ensure better patrolling along the LAC especially at sensitive areas which have witnessed transgression and face-off in the past,” said a defence ministry official.
The home ministry, however, has a different view. It has cited said that according to international conventions, paramilitary forces guard the borders and the army remains behind the first line of defence.
“Even on the Chinese side, the People’s Armed Police, also a paramilitary force, guards the border while the People’s Liberation Army is stationed behind this first line of defence,” a home ministry official said.
The home ministry has cited that the Border Security Force (BSF) guards the Pakistan and Bangladesh borders and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) stands guard along the borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
“The home ministry has said that it was not in favour of handing over the command of the ITBP to the defence ministry. Instead, it has decided to deploy more border guards and increase ITBP presence along the Chinese frontier to counter transgressions,” the official said.
Sources said the Indian Army had for the first time in 1986 demanded operational command of the ITBP. But the demands became more insistent since 1999 when a Chinese intrusion at Chip Chap in the disputed Aksai Chin region was reported while Indian troops were engaged in the Kargil war with Pakistan.
Shah has been maintaining that the 90,000-strong paramilitary force was raised on October 24, 1962, specifically for guarding the Chinese frontier after the India-China war.