India will soon raise a new 1,000-man force in Sikkim to guard the 225-km Sino-Indian border that the Himalayan state shares with China’s Tibet. To set up the battalion-sized force it will cost the nation’s exchequer `3,000 crore.
The Army’s move to raise the Sikkim Scouts, on the lines of Ladakh Scouts in Jammu and Kashmir, got the key approval of the Central government’s highest decision-making body, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Thursday. The force will be used for mountain warfare, a difficult proposition in conventional wars.
The force, to be deployed at an altitude of 16,000-20,000 feet, will be raised before 2015 from among the eligible youth of the six-lakh population of Sikkim. According to census statistics, almost 60 per cent of Sikkim’s residents are people aged under 24.
“The Sikkim Scouts will guard key passes and sectors in the mountainous areas of the state, apart from routes of ingress and egress,” a senior Army officer told Express on the CCS decision.
The Army’s logic behind recruiting youth from the State is that being sons of the soil, they have better knowledge of the terrain, can adapt to the weather, environment and altitude easily, and carry out better border management. It will also generate employment opportunity for the youth.
China had, for years, not recognised Sikkim as part of India. However, in 2003, during a visit to China by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a bilateral memorandum was signed that was said to have been a de facto Chinese acceptance of Sikkim being an Indian province.
China, later, published a map showing Sikkim as part of India and its foreign ministry removed Sikkim from its list of “countries and regions”. Yet, the border dispute continues due to China’s claims over a small tract of territory called the ‘Finger Area’ in the State’s north.