India Expands Presence on Contested Border with China

High up in the Himalayas, India’s Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol (ITBP) stands as the first line of defense against the country’s northern neighbor. Closely cooperating with the army, the organization mans high-altitude checkpoints thousands of feet above sea levels. Despite officially being just one of India’s “armed police services” it is in essence a paramilitary force. Having been created in the wake of India’s defeat against China in the 1960s, the force is uniformed, armed in a military manner and tasked primarily with safeguarding the country against an external threat.

In light of a recent incident where a Chinese corporal was captured on the border and released after what both sides described as “friendly treatment”, some publications have made the case for a potential easing of tensions on the border. However, just this week, India approved an expansion of the ITBP with 47 new outposts. This comes less than two weeks after a meeting between Chinese and Indian military officials which, as both sides expected, led to no breakthrough. Statements made by Indian officials do not make the situation look any brighter.

India’s Union Minister of Home Affairs, Gangapuram Kishan Reddy, had this to say in reference to China as he announced the expansion of the ITBP presence:

“India is surrounded by a hostile neighborhood and our enemy, time and time again, puts obstacles to stop our economic development. […] The enemy can raise its head anytime, anywhere and we should be fully prepared to face any possibility. […] I am happy to inform that the ITBP has been given the approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs to establish 47 border posts, besides acquiring special clothing and equipment for high-altitude locations.”

The move is part of a more comprehensive approach to securing India’s northern border. India is currently racing around the clock to construct the infrastructure needed to maintain a larger, more sustainable presence on the mountain-border and has made significant progress on the Nimmu-Padam-Darcha highway and other crucial strategic roads joining India’s heartland to the untamed Himalayas. Top Indian and American security officials have also just recently met at a bilateral summit to discuss the emerging strategic partnership between the two democracies motivated by the common threat of China.