Special Frontier Force or Vikas Battalion

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  • Recently, there have been reports that the Special Frontier Force or Vikas Battalion has been instrumental in occupying some key heights on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh to thwart any occupation by the Chinese troops.

What is the Special Frontier Force (SFF)?

  • The SFF was raised by the Intelligence Bureau in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 China-India war.

  • The covert outfit recruited Tibetan exiles (now it has a mixture of Tibetans and Gorkhas) and was initially named Establishment 22 (Major Gen Sujan Singh Uban, an Artillery officer who raised the group, named it after the 22 Mountain Regiment he commanded). Subsequently renamed SSF, it now falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat.

  • On the ground, it is headed by an Inspector General who is an Army officer of the rank of Major General. The units comprising the SFF are known as Vikas battalions. Former Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh held that office at one point.

  • It is commonly believed that the SFF was raised by India in coordination with US intelligence agencies.

Are SFF units part of the Army?

  • Strictly speaking, the SFF units are not part of the Army but function under its operational control. SSF units have their own rank structures, of equivalent status with Army ranks. However, they are special forces personnel highly trained for a variety of tasks.

How are they trained?

  • The SSF training centre is in Chakrata, 100 km outside Dehradun. Recruits are imparted special forces training by the Army. The training takes place under the auspices of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

  • As the force was envisaged as one that would work behind enemy lines, all SFF soldiers are trained parachutists.

What was the SFF’s role in 1971 war?

  • In 1971, the SFF operated in the Chittagong hill tracts to neutralise Pakistan Army positions and help the Indian Army advance. This was Operation Eagle. 

What other major operations have SFF units taken part in?

  • There are several overt and covert operations in which SFF units have taken part over the years, including Operation Blue Star in Golden Temple Amritsar, the Kargil conflict, and counter-insurgency operations. Details of many operations, however, are classified.

Source: Indian Express

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