Increasing Chinese activity on India’s eastern borders and their dabbling in Nepal affairs have prompted security establishment in India to look into revisiting the role of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in its previous avatar of intelligence gathering as Special Services Bureau.
The Special Services Bureau was set up a year after India’s war with China in 1962 to gather crucial human intelligence on Chinese manoeuvres in the region by using local foot soldiers in large numbers. Later when Chinese threat diminished with the rise of that country as an economic power, the SSB’s role was changed to that of a border guarding force. In 2001, it was renamed as Sashastra Seema Bal.
However, again with the region seeing a perceptible rise in Chinese expansionist tendencies in the form of increasing cases of incursions in Ladakh and in Arunachal Pradesh and an up-scaled proactive role in Nepal where communists have become a major force, the Indian security establishment is acknowledging the vital role SSB could play.
A major cause for worry for India is the increasing Chinese footprints in Nepal in the form of growing Chinese study centres and a China’s keen interest to invest in both Nepal and Bhutan.
The same prevailing thought could be seen when director general of Sashastra Seema Bal, Arun Chaudhary, stressed on the need to revive the organisation restoring its former role at a seminar held on Friday to celebrate forces’ golden jubilee.
“We want to revive the earlier role of SSB that included intelligence gathering. The case for this is pending with the ministry of home affairs,” said Chaudhary, speaking at a seminar on Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan relations security challenges.
Sources in the ministry said the proposal has its merits and is being looked at closely as it would entail overhauling the SSB which during last 13 years of serving as a border guarding force has lost touch with much of its old assets and got into a new mould.
At the same time, SSB does not favour using locked borders with Nepal as Chaudhary was categorical in saying that the proposal to fence the Indo-Nepal border does not find favour with SSB.
“Border fencing is so far being resisted by SSB,” said Chaudhary.
Jayant Prasad, former Indian envoy to Nepal, agreed and said that instead “we need to renew and adjust the 1950 treaty between the two countries, allow Nepal greater movement of its goods by way of roads and a railway network, sign the strip-maps and work out land boundary.”