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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Vikas Regiment [a.k.a. Establishment-22] - Tibet's Army In India


Special Frontier Force [SFF], Vikas Regiment, Establishment-22, call them what you may. They're Tibetans trained to fight Han China's occupation of Tibet.

Their very existence is mentioned in the most hushed of tones, if at all. A look up on the Internet for 'Vikas Regiment', for example throws up only a few hundred results, compared to the millions for something well known. Results for SFF, though more in number, are more or less based on hearsay or regurgitation of what is already known. It isn't hard to figure why - its recruits are citizens of Tibet, operating under an Indian Chain of Command. Their goal, in event of a conflict with Communist China, is to infiltrate back home, to cause debilitating disruption to China's military capability.

To sharpen their fighting skills & gain battlefield experience, since their inception, they have been made part of numerous campaigns India has had to conduct. Not surprisingly, their nationality & topography of the region where they are originally from, made them uniquely suited for involvement in certain mission, which they executed with distinction, and continue to do so, if one were to believe the hushed whispers. However, the nature of this arrangement with India, makes widespread acknowledgement of their role difficult. A foreign legion, training in India, to liberate its nation, when the opportunity arises. 2012 marked its Golden Jubilee year.

A recent essay tries to chronicle their history, and some of the less denied missions they had been assigned. How is this, to gauge how motivated a bunch they are,

"When the first airborne exercise was started in the summer of 1963, Major Uban recalled that even cooks and drivers implored for their opportunity to jump (Conboy & Marrison, 2002). In a similar vein, Indian Air Force officer and parachute instructor of the unit M. K. Anand recounted that "there was even a pregnant lady, the wife of the Tibetan ranking member, serving as rigger, who kept her pregnancy a secret to keep jumping" (as cited in Kohli & Conboy, 2002, p.16)"

- Special Frontier Force

While it has been written well, there are a 1-2 minor factual errors - the Special Secretary Mr. R. N. Rao mentioned is, in fact, Mr. R.N. Kao, with a K, the term 'Mukti  Bahini' [MB] is used to refer to the Bangladeshi refugees who the Indian establishment trained to fight the pakistan Army carrying out oppression. SFF personals may have been embedded with the Mukti Bahinis, as had conventional Indian Army officers to provide them leadership & guidance. Thus, these SFF personals too could be called Mukti Bahini.

Do I believe Tibetans would one day secure back their independent homeland? Despite my earnest desire to see it happen, the answer would be no. China's growing economic clout is corresponded by its increasing, brutal assertion of its occupation of the Tibetan plateau, bolstered by building-up military capability on it. Its internal policies aside, there is no real, influential, international constituency that supports an independent Tibet, if it means causing detriment to self. India, too, faces a similar predicament. Its commitment to the growth and economic prosperity of its citizens hinges, to no small extent, on establishing a good, peaceful, trade & commerce-driven relationship with China. Also, China being the de facto manufacturing hub of the world, any disruption in its internal dynamics caused by a muscular Tibetan independence movement, will undoubtedly affect its output, much to the detriment of the world. Periodic self-immolations of Tibetans to draw attention of the world community to their plight is a lost cause on people living in a state of wilful ignorance of the inconvenient truth. Nothing Tibetans are currently doing serve even as a pin-prick on the Chinese politburo bent on holding on to Tibet. Unless there is fundamental course-correction in the way in which Tibetans approach their freedom struggle, in future, I only foresee things getting less free for them in Tibet.

One person who has written extensively about India-China affairs, including Tibet is Claude Arpi - must read his blog, for his well-researched posts to help gain an understanding of the relation. About the 1962 war, he squarely blames then Prime Minister of India, Mr. J Nehru, for initiating it and subsequent debacle. He has also written about the highly secretive Establishment-22 [Vikas Regiment].


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