Keeping “strict vigil”, ITBP conducted 2,899 patrols along China border from April to December 2022: MHA

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The ITBP mans 180 border outposts along the 3,488-km border with China in the western, middle and eastern Himalayas.  file

The ITBP mans 180 border outposts along the 3,488-km border with China in the western, middle and eastern Himalayas. file

The Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) conducted 2,899 patrols along the China border between April and December 2022, according to the 2022-23 annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs that was published on Friday.

The Ministry said, “ITBP ensured security of border and remained vigilant during heightened security scenario along Indo-China Border.” It added that the patrols were conducted to keep a “strict vigil.”

The number of patrols, around 300 per month, are said to have increased after the latest border row with China began in 2020. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh on June 15, 2020.

Asserting territorial claims

There are at least 26 patrolling points — out of the 65 such points in eastern Ladakh — that are not being patrolled by Indian troops since April and May 2020, though the two countries have held several rounds of talks to resolve the border issue. In eastern Ladakh, several areas that were being patrolled earlier have been turned into “buffer zones,” with the Chinese also not sending troops.

Patrolling points are often used to assert territorial claims along the undefined Line of Actual Control (LAC). There is no mutually agreed border in several stretches.

In September 2020, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had informed the Parliament that face-offs with the Chinese PLA happened because “patrols were interrupted”, and there was no commonly delineated LAC.

Patrolling a long border

The ITBP is manning 180 border outposts along the 3,488 km border with China in the western, middle and eastern Himalayas, starting from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh in the west to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh in the east. The ITBP conducts short- and long-range patrols, special missions, and joint patrols to dominate unmanned gaps along the China border.

An official said that, depending on the weather conditions and operational requirement, each border outpost typically sends up to ten patrols per month according to its “perception of the border.” The long range patrols could last up to 30 days, the official added.

India has been stepping up its vigil along the China border, and on February 15, the Cabinet Committee on Security approved raising seven new ITBP battalions, comprising 9,400 personnel, for deployment. At least 47 new border outposts and 12 staging camps are under construction in Arunachal Pradesh. The outposts were sanctioned in January 2020. The battalions are expected to be raised by 2025-26, increasing the strength of the ITBP from the current 90,000 to 99,400, making it the fourth largest Central Armed Police Force. The ITBP has built 25 strategic roads, while another 32 roads are under construction.

Though it is the primary force deployed along the China border, the ITBP works in coordination with the army in certain locations.

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