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What is the Special Frontier Force also known as Establishment 22 and Vikas Battalion

New Delhi, Sep 03: There are reports that the Special Frontier Force (SFF) referred to as the Vikas Battalion had been instrumental in occupying some key heights along the Line of Actual Control. The action was taken to prevent any occupation by the Chinese troops.

What is the Special Frontier Force also known as Establishment 22 and Vikas Battalion

The SFF is a special force that was created on November 14 1962 and the main goal was to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines in the event of another Indo-China war.

Formation:

It was on the advise of Intelligence Bureau Chief Bhola Nath Mullik that the SFF was formed. SFF is also referred to as Establishment 22 or 22 because its first Inspector General, Major General Sujan Singh Uban had commanded the 22nd Mountain Division in Europe during World War II.

A new name:

Subsequently the force was re-named as the Special Frontier Force and it now falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat. It is headed by an Inspector General, who is an Army officer in the rank of Major General. It may be recalled that former Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh had held that office at one point during his service. The units that comprise the SFF are known as Vikas Battalions.

Highly trained personnel:

The SFF units are not part of the Army, but function under the operational command of the Indian Army. The units have their own rank structures, which have an equivalent status with the Army ranks.

The personnel are highly trained and can undertake various tasks which are normally performed by any special forces unit. Women soldiers are also part of the SFF and perform specialised tasks. The SFF has its own training establishment, where the recruits are trained.

The 1971 operation:

In the 1971 war, the SFF operated along the Chittagong hill tracts in East Pakistan, which went to become Bangladesh. The SFF was posted to neutralise the army positions of Pakistan. This helped the Indian Army advance ahead.

The operation was code named, 'Operation Eagle.' The forces were airlifted into operational areas and infiltrated behind enemy lines to destroy the communication lines of the Pakistan Army. The force also played a major part in preventing the escape of the Pakistan army personnel from Bangladesh into Burma.

In this operation, estimates suggest that 3,000 personnel of the Special Frontier Force were used in the covert operations.

Other operations:

There are many other major operations that the SFF has carried out. The force took part in Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The force was also part of the Kargil War. While these are some of the known operations, there are many more counter insurgency operations that the SFF had participated in, which remain classified.

Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the SFF was briefly used for VIP security around the Prime Minister. This role was later handed over to the Special Protection Group (SPG). In the year 1975 a new rule was issued that prohibited the SFF from being deployed within 10 kilometres of the India-China border unless under explicit instructions.

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