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New Delhi : The Government has slashed the heavy firepower of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) by one-third despite the continuing volatility on the China-India border that it protects alike the Border Security Force (BSF) on the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. Every ITBP service battalion on the border includes a support company that operates 81 mm mortars and medium machine guns to provide heavy fire support to the forward elements in the face of any outbreak of hostilities.
In an unexplained order, the ITBP Directorate General last week reduced authorisation of the mortars to such a company from 12 to 8 while also cutting down the authorised medium machine guns from 18 to 12. Have hostilities with China declined sharply to take such a decision? There was no answer forthcoming. Instead, the decision was attributed as part of the overall force restructuring and rationalisation of both equipment and personnel, saying there will be also reduction in the manpower in service battalions.
The ITBP having 56 battalions is responsible for the peacetime management of the Himalayan borders with China covering 3,488 km from Jammu and Kashmir to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
The border remains volatile with frequent Chinese transgressions into the Indian territory as well as frequent face-offs between the troops of both sides. An official report says there were 415
transgressions by the Chinese soldiers in 2017 as against 271 in 2016 while the number of confrontations went up from 146 in 2016 to 216 in 2017.