India’s secretive Special Frontier Force keeps China on its toes as border tensions continue
The SFF personnel are elite forces known to be trained in high-altitude warfare and are excellent mountain warriors
Raised in 1962, the Special Frontier Force (SFF) was unknown to a majority of Indians, till it was talked about in glorious terms for its personnel’s bravery, courage and alacrity in occupying commanding heights of the South Bank of Pangong Tso before intruding Chinese troops could try to change status quo in the area. In this effort, SFF lost Nyima Tenzin, a commandos from its Vikas Regiment, in a landmine blast and images of SFF member Tenzin Nyima’s body wrapped in Indian and Tibetan flags have been doing the rounds of social media.
But the little-known paramilitary unit consisting mainly of Tibetan refugees and some Gorkhas, has never lost any opportunity in giving its best whenever it has been tasked to do a difficult assignment. It had also played a major role during the 1971 Bangladesh War.
The SFF, according to a report in The Print, was formed in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 war with China. SFF was raised by Major General Sujan Singh Uban and it was known as Establishment 22.
The report highlights Claude Arpi, Tibetologist, saying that the Force was the brainchild of former Intelligence Bureau director BN Mullick and the US intelligence agency - CIA. Many Tibetans volunteered for the Force when approached by India. Arpi said that it had 6,000 members. SFF units, also known as Vikas battalions, come under the direct purview of the Cabinet Secretariat, and are operationally involved with the Army, says the report. The Force is headed by a Major General rank Army officer, who serves as Inspector General of the SFF.
Furthermore, the Force is based in Chakrata in Uttarakhand. It has both men and women soldiers who are highly motivated and trained special forces personnel. The report said their training is akin to that imparted to commandos and special forces. In other words, the SFF personnel are elite forces known to be trained in high-altitude warfare and are excellent mountain warriors. They are trained extensively in various aspects of mountain warfare and are mostly deployed as part of India’s defence against China, the report said.