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HomeFrontlinesAsia-PacificPLA ups recruitment of Tibetians, amidst claims of forming a new unit...

PLA ups recruitment of Tibetians, amidst claims of forming a new unit for terrain warfare

Sources from atleast 3 intelligence agencies have confirmed that the People’s Liberation Army has began to recruit Tibetian cadets from various camps to create a new warfare unit. Claims suggest that this has been happening since early this this year and the PLA aims to establish a unit which would specialize in warfare with India along the LAC.

The formation of such a dedicated warfare unit against India was well initiated earlier as well, when both China and Nepal had healthy diplomatic relations before a political crisis shook the Himalayan state. Several sources close to this development, have said that the Chinese tried to take the help of Nepalese, as well as Tibetians to join their unit which would specialize in fighting along the cold and dry Tibetan plateau.

Reports from the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times suggest that several officers from the PLA visited towns in the Tibetian Autonomous Region (TAR) to possibly up the number of recruits starting from February. These are not limited to, but include the towns of Rudok, Zanda and Tsamda. These reports also hint that the requirement for such a specialised unit was a necessity after the clashes at Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control. 

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But the Chinese are not the first to do so… 

India, which had already seen the potential of such a unit earlier, created the Special Frontier Force. Established on 14th November 1962, the SFF is a unit which is predominantly based on Tibetian refugees, who fled their homeland upon the Chinese occupation from 1959 and 1962 onwards. The unit aims at utilizing the already acclimatized Tibetian and Nepalese Gurkhas to perform covert operations behind enemy lines if a war breaks out between India and China. 

The SFF is a huge force, which comprises of 6 Battalions with another battalion attached to work under the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s foreign intelligence agency. Even if the need of performing covert operations hasn’t occurred, the SFF has fought all major wars and internal security threats, which includes the Bangladesh Liberation war of 1971, Kargil Conflict of 1999 and internal threats such as during Operation Blue Star (1984)

Past Intelligence gathering successes:

During the 1960s, reports from the CIA suggested that the Chinese were preparing to test nuclear weapons in Xinjiang province, and it was indeed in 1964, that China exploded its first nuclear bomb in Lop Nur test site on 16th October 1964. This event alone created the necessity to gather more information on Chinese WMD development, by both India and the USA. The SFF and CIA conducted several covert operations during the 1960s, by entering China under disguise and planting Electronic Intelligence devices across various sites to recover information. This however began to change when USA finally began to develop improved spy satellites, completely reducing the requirement for ELINT or HUMINT missions. 

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