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India’s Territorial Army inducts Mandarin language experts

New Delhi: The Territorial Army has inducted a batch of Mandarin language experts and posted them in forward areas, a step that seeks to enhance linguistic capabilities of the Indian side during border talks with the Chinese army.

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Besides, the Territorial Army (TA) is also engaged in “advanced stages” of discussion and has “identified criteria” for hiring some cyber security experts, sources said.

The TA, which has served the nation in times of war and peace, will mark its 75th Raising Day on Monday.

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The batch of five Mandarin language experts will play a role as interpreters between Indian and Chinese sides during Border Personnel Meetings, a defence source said.

“These experts will aid the Indian Army in understanding exactly what is being told from the other (Chinese Army’s) side. This will in turn help in understanding a scenario better from India’s perspective,” the source added.

But, they can also be deployed in jobs other than aiding the Indian Army in BPMs, another source said.

The move comes nearly three years after the eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries that erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong Lake areas.

The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.

The two sides hold Border Personnel Meetings at five points — Daulat Beg Oldie in northern Ladakh, Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Chusul in Ladakh, Bum-La near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in Sikkim. Usually, both sides resolve various operational issues at the BPMs.

Speaking about the formation of the TA, the defence source said, “The TA was raised on October 9, 1949, and now we have just entered into our 75th year of existence, and have served the nation in times of war, and in humanitarian and environment protection works through its eventful journey over these decades.”

It was raised on the concept of being a ‘citizen soldier’s army’. Besides augmenting the organisational requirements, the TA also provides an opportunity to able-bodied volunteer citizens of India, especially those who are overage for enrollment in the regular army, to serve the nation in uniform.

Keeping pace with changing times, the TA units are also evolving and undertaking various steps to transform to “remain current and responsive to the emerging environment,” the sources said.

One such step is the recruitment of five “Chinese (Mandarin) language experts this year,” the source said.

“The process to hire these experts in the first phase began in January and the process was completed a few months ago (around August). The process was rigorous and entailed both a written and oral examination of various candidates who have expertise in Mandarin language,” the source added.

And, the “best in the country” in this field of language have been hired. The average age of these hired experts is 30 years.

Of the 60 current TA units, 43 are Infantry TA units and integrated with the Indian Army and have been used in war and now in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism roles in Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast, the sources said.

In addition to security-related duties, TA units are actively involved in “perception management” towards winning the hearts and minds of the local populace, including in the Jammu and Kashmir region, they said.

TA units have also played an important role in providing essential services and establishing rehabilitation camps in strife-torn Manipur this year, they said.

Certain TA units are also deployed in conjunction with Border Roads Organisation and the Ministry of Railways for the protection of under-construction road or rail alignments in remote and sensitive areas.

There were six Railway TA units, out of which five have been disbanded and one is currently existing. The decision to disband those units had come from the railways, the sources said.

Besides their operational role, the TA has also contributed to the protection and preservation of the environment.

The first Ecological Task Force (ETF) was raised in 1982, to address the severely degraded hills of Mussoorie (Uttarakhand) due to intensive and incessant limestone quarrying and deforestation. Today, the TA has ecological battalions deployed along the length and breadth of the country, they said.

Various Ecological Task Forces of the TA deployed across India have jointly planted approximately 9.38 crore saplings in approximately 88,400 hectares of land across the country. The units have constructed 29 new water bodies, besides rejuvenating many existing ones, the sources said.

A specialised TA Ecological Battalion, namely Ganga Task Force, is deployed along banks of River Ganga and has been working towards its conservation and rejuvenation in conjunction with the Ministry of Jal Shakti as part of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

The unit personnel have also been employed in Delhi to assist in the ongoing efforts to control pollution in the River Yamuna.

On the ‘Nari Shakti’ front, the Territorial Army had commenced commissioning of Women Officers in TA since 2019.

In a major development, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had approved an amendment to existing cadre management provisions for women officers of the TA, the sources said.

This progressive policy measure is aimed at enhancing the scope of ‘Nari Shakti’ and also meeting their professional aspirations since women will now serve and train under the same conditions as their male counterparts in a wider range of units and appointments including serving in challenging field conditions and important staff appointments, the sources said.

The TA is fully integrated with the regular Army, and in apt recognition of nation-building efforts and contributions made during war or conflicts, numerous individuals have been honoured with gallantry as well as distinguished service awards in the TA, they said.

The TA also grants honorary ranks to noted personalities to spread the message of the ‘Citizens’ Army’ to the masses and its role in nation-building. Past recipients of such honorary ranks include cricketer M S Dhoni and Olympian shooter Abhinav Bindra.

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