The Sikkim Scouts is a regiment of the Indian Army, raised in 2013, and expected to be complete and operational in 2015, based in and recruited from the state of Sikkim. It will be formed along the lines of the Ladakh Scouts and Arunachal Scouts, as it is recruited from a mountainous border area and dedicated to border defense and mountain warfare.
Sikkim became a state of India in 1975, after having been a British and then Indian protectorate for nearly a century. Even as a protectorate, Indian troops were stationed in Sikkim, because of the area's important role as a buffer zone against China, with which it shares a 222 km (138 mi) border. Indeed, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has made many incursions across Sikkim's border over the years, including during the Sino-Indian War, and in the 1967 Chola incident. More recently, there were small incursions and skirmishes around 2010, and China lays claim to the northernmost "finger tip" of Sikkim. Several units of the Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police are stationed in Sikkim at present. Historically, these troops have been drawn from other parts of India, and not from the local population.
Pawan Kumar Chamling, Chief Minister of Sikkim from the Sikkim Democratic Front, requested of the Ministry of Defence that the Sikkim Scouts regiment be formed, to provide positions for young men in Sikkim and since all the Himalayan border states had similar forces. (The Ladakh Scouts were formed in 1963, and the Arunachal Scouts in 2010, while other Himalayan states have dedicated border security battalions in regular regiments such as the Kumaon Regiment.) The ministry and the Indian Army supported Chamling's proposal, as it was in line with India's "sons of soil" policy to bolster her defence units by integrating locals into them, and on 6 December 2012, the proposal was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security. Officials stated at the time that the regiment would be formally established in mid-2015, after the initial recruits had been raised and trained. The raising of the regiment was expected to cost some Rs 32.5 crore (US$600 million). The cost of maintaining the regiment was projected to be a slightly greater amount per year.
During March 2013, the first recruiting drives for the new regiment were held in Sikkim, which were expected to enroll roughly 500 candidates. They fell somewhat short of initial expectations, in large part because of the popularity of tattoos among Sikkimese men; the Ministry of Defense had issued a policy banning tattoos (other than religious symbols and names) for new recruits to the Indian military in 2011.
The regiment was presented with a flag, and formally raised, by Army Vice Chief S. K. Singh at Lucknow on 24 May 2013. At the time, there were 319 Sikkimese recruits in the regiment, and a cadre from Gorkha regiments assembled to train the recruits. The process of recruiting and training the regiment will not be completed until around mid-2015, when the battalion was expected to be fully formed. Some time thereafter, it will be given responsibility for guarding the border in Sikkim.
The regiment will initially be made up of one battalion, and its future expansion will be limited by the small size of the population it recruits from. The battalion's strength when the regiment is formed in 2015 is planned to be 934, comprising 28 commissioned officers, 44 Junior Commissioned Officers and 862 jawans (other ranks). The regiment will be about 85% Sikkimese, drawing from a population of 612,000, with a large portion of military-age men. The relatives of veterans will be given priority for positions.
The soldiers of the Sikkim Scouts will be trained in the tactics of mountain warfare. As the members of the regiment will be mostly locals, they are expected to be fairly familiar with the skills needed to operate and survive in the mountainous terrain of Sikkim. In an additional advantage to the Indian Army, they will be able to get information from locals more easily, as they belong to the same culture and speak the same language. The Indian Army's commanders have expressed the sentiment that in the event of war, members of the Sikkim Scouts and other local regiments from the border would be ready to fight to the end for their home state. Their training will serve to instill military discipline and familiarity with the modern methods of warfare in mountains.
The regiment will be tasked with surveilling and guarding the borders of Sikkim, especially the high mountain passes of the north-eastern border with China. While other units of Indian Army troops will continue to pass through Sikkim on a temporary (2–3 year) basis, as part of their rotation between different bases in India, the Sikkim Scouts will be permanently stationed on the border, and its members will spend nearly their entire career in the state.
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