How India's Tibetan Special Frontier Forces beat back China's PLA at Black Top

India's Special Frontier forces recruits mostly Tibetan refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom have made India their home since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet over Chinese oppression in 1959. 

SFF pays tribute to Nyima Tenzin

The death of Tibetan soldier Nyima Tenzin belonging to India's Special frontier force who was cremated last week with full state honours with his body wrapped in Indian and Tibetan flags reverberated throughout the country, and also across the LAC.

Nyima Tenzin belonged to the Tibetan refugee community. The havoc created by the Special frontier force led China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying to say: "I am also wondering what is the connection between so-called "Tibetans in exile" and the Indian border troops. I hope you can do some in-depth investigation. It will be great if you can share with us any further information and progress in this regard."

It can be safely said that Chinese troops were taken by surprise with the ferocity with which India's Special frontier force struck the PLA. According to official sources, Tenzin lost his life in an anti-personnel mine blast near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and China in close confrontation with each other along the LAC. The SFF has now become India's premier fighting force in the upper Himalayas.


SFF: Elite Commando unit

The little-known special operations force was formed in November 1962, after India's humiliating debacle at the hands of the Chinese in October of that year.

The main aim of the special unit was to conduct covert operations behind LAC and to keep a check on the activities of the Chinese who were always keen put up forward posts along the long border.

After initial bottlenecks and resistance on part of the then Nehru government, the SFF finally came into being as an elite commando unit.


Nyima Tenzin

The SFF conducted a joint operation with the Indian Army as they moved to capture the Pangong North Finger 4 area in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Army said: "Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground". 

On 1 September 2020, company leader Nyima Tenzin of SFF died during a landmine blast when undertaking a reconnaissance mission along the line of actual control (LAC).


Black Top Hill captured

According to reports, SFF soldiers had launched an attack along with Indian troops and captured the Black Top Hill. India's defence ministry said Chinese troops "carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo" at the border on Saturday.

PLA forces tried to take hilltops traditionally claimed by India around Pangong Tso, a lake at 4,200 metres (13,500 feet) altitude.


'Severe military provocation'

China said Tuesday its soldiers took "countermeasures" after Indian soldiers opened fire in a contested mountainous region in Ladakh.

India was guilty of a "severe military provocation" on Monday after its soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control in the western border region of Ladakh and "opened fire", according to China's Defence Ministry.


SFF during Indo-Pak war in 1971

The SFF soldiers were also instrumental in conducting special operations during the India-Pakistan war in 1971 over Bangladesh. 

According to reports, at least 49 SFF soldiers were killed in action as they chocked the escape route of Pak soldiers to Myanmar.


Tibetan refugees

The force recruits mostly from Tibetan refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom have made India their home since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet following a failed uprising in 1959. Some are Indian citizens.

Few details are publicly known about the covert force set up soon after a war between India and China in 1962.

Its estimated strength is at more than 3,500 men.


Tibetans cheer

People of the exiled Tibetan community were seen waving flags and singing patriotic songs while felicitating the soldiers of the covert forces with traditional scarves. They also tied the scarves to the military trucks for good luck.

The exiled Tibetan community living in India's hill town of Shimla cheered and felicitated soldiers of the elite SFF unit