The Indo-Tibetan Border Police, a premier paramilitary organisation, has been guarding the nation for 50 years. It was raised to secure the Indo-Tibetan border. Over the years it has added many feathers to its cap.

The Big Three — the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force — are in the limelight most of the time. But is there anything that keeps our paramilitary forces in the spotlight too?

Every year, the grandeur of the Republic Day parade helps us acknowledge, among other things, the power and reach of our military forces. This includes the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) among numerous other Central paramilitary forces.

The ITBP is concerned with guarding borders in the heights, the BSF guards borders in the plains and jungles while the CRPF watches over internal security. Equally important as the main armed forces, the personnel of all these paramilitary forces are trained for different tasks.

It’s now the turn of the ITBP to bask in its glory.

Guardians

Raised on October 24, 1962, it is in the middle of its golden jubilee year — from October 24, 2011 to October 24, 2012. The on-going celebrations will highlight its achievements in: operation, administration, modernisation, internal security, disaster management, mountaineering, adventure sports, welfare, international assignments and special operations.

The ITBP is a premier paramilitary organisation raised to secure the Indo-Tibetan border that stretches across 2,115 km. As it began to get more responsibilities, it underwent changes that began in 1978. In 1992, Parliament enacted the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force Act, 1992, which came into effect in 1994.

With its battalions present from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh, to Jechup La in Arunachal Pradesh, it watches over 3,488 km of the India-China border. This it does from outposts at altitudes ranging from 9,000ft to 18,600ft across the extreme and difficult mountain terrain in the western, middle and eastern sectors. Getting to its men by road is difficult, so supply and replenishment is done by air-dropping and helicopter sorties.

Military experts consider the ITBP to be one of the best mountain forces in the world. Its personnel have to be familiar with winter survival techniques and working in adverse, freezing and unpredictable high altitude weather.

Its officers and men, professionally trained mountaineers and skiers, are able to face high velocity storms, blizzards, avalanches and landslides. Some of its other activities include preventing trans-border crime, smuggling and other illegal activities. It is also the nodal agency for disaster management in the Himalayas.

And there is more. The ITBP’s national centre for U.N. CIVPOL training, or the International Civilian Police, imparts training to personnel from all police organisations for U.N. peace keeping missions. ITBP officers have represented India in strife-torn countries like Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Congo, Haiti, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Western Sahara. It continues to be a part of the U.N peacekeeping mission in Congo. Its current mission is in ensuring the security of Indian missions in different parts of Afghanistan.

If you go on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, you will find the ITBP is there as a guardian, a role it has donned since 1981. ITBP personnel are fondly known as Himveers or Protectors of the mountains and friends of the people.

The ITBP has played an important role in fighting infiltration. It has seen deployment in parts of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1965, for example, the force saw action against Pakistani intruders. In the 1971 war, it was on special duty in Srinagar and Poonch, and active in protecting the Pathankot area.

There are achievements in adventure too. Its personnel have scaled a number of peaks, including Mt. Everest and made a mark in the fields of judo, shooting, archery, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, rafting, mountain biking and para-gliding.

All of us are aware of India’s scientific expeditions to the Antarctica. Well, the ITBP has been associated with it since 1981, providing training to Indian team members at its mountaineering and skiing institute at Auli, Uttarakhand. ITBP personnel are also a part of the Indian Antarctica expedition team.

The institute at Auli imparts training in snow craft, ice craft, trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, winter survival, first aid and hygiene.

Golden Jubilee kicks off

India Post will release a special commemorative ITBP stamp.

The ITBP plans to adopt villages in the border areas and ensure their all round development.

A coffee table book, seminars, a marathon, a special parade, a long range relay patrol, band display and a special film are other events planned.

There is also a special logo. The three peaks depict the ITBP ethos — Shaurya, Dridhta, and Karmnishtha — which stand for strength, determination, courage and compassion.

The ITBP didn’t have to look far for an icon for the jubilee — the elusive and majestic snow leopard. It lives right in the midst of the ITBP’s domain, in extreme, climatic conditions.

An ITBP river rafting expedition named “Ganga Punardarshan” traversed the Ganga, from Gomukh to Gangasagar. It covered a distance of 2,525 kilometres in 57 days and passed many villages, towns and cities across the river route.

The force has won a number of awards and medals — Kirti Chakras, Shaurya Chakras, a Sena Medal and numerous police medals for gallantry and distinguished service.

Sensitive role

Within the country, the ITBP looks after sensitive installations/institutions like Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Vice- President’s House, Parliament House, and the Rumtek Monastery and the Raj Bhavan in Sikkim. It also watches over the terrorist Kasab.

At the border in the North-East, it provides security to traders moving from Nathu La to Sherathang and back. It provides security, medical aid and telecommunication assistance during the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, from Gunji to the Lipulekh Pass.

Something different

Due to the nature of its operations, the ITBP’s weaponry is a bit different from that of the Indian Army. Some of it includes infantry weapon training equipment, hand held thermal imaging systems, night vision trackers and bomb and metal detectors.