India gives final farewell with 21-gun salute to Tibetan soldier amid heightened border tension with China

BJP’s general secretary Ram Madhav pays respect to SFF Company Leader Nyima Tenzin.

DHARAMSALA, 7 Sept: A 21-gun salute was given to a Tibetan soldier of India’s elite covert paramilitary unit Special Frontier Force (SFF) who died in the line of duty for the first time on Monday when he was laid to rest at Leh with full honours at a public funeral.

The presence of the ruling party of India, BJP’s general secretary Ram Madhav and BJP MP from Ladakh Jamgyal Tsering Namgyal at the widely publicised funeral of SFF Company Leader Nyima Tenzin who military sources say died in an accidental mine blast while patrolling in Ladakh on the night of 29-30 August has prompted media reports to speculate it as India sending a clear message to China amid heightened border standoff. 

This is possibly the first time an SFF funeral has been held publicly with India publicly acknowledging the slain Tibetan-India soldier’s sacrifice for the nation.

As far as my memory goes, the first time with military honours, reverse arms and volley of shots by a ceremonial guard,” Amitabh, Madhur, India’s former adviser on Tibetan affairs in the Ministry of Home Affairs has tweeted.

However, with so much media frenzy surrounding the SFF and their involvement, Madhur has advised restraint over the matter.

“I would advise restraint on this subject,” he tweeted in response to a twitter post by Tibetan writer-activist Tenzin Tsundue that tagged India’s defines Minister and India’s National Security Advisor that read, “Special Frontier Force’s victory in Ladakh is a pride for Tibetans and hope for India. But there is the entire winter in front of us. But, SFF is still considered secret and secondary force with no equal pay or ranks. Sad.”

Whether India providing a public funeral to the Tibetan soldier denotes a departure from the past remains to be seen with both the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Defence declining over the comment, Mathur added that “This can be quite meaningless and even misleading if not backed by a firm commitment to a practical, robust and coordinated policy.”

However, what has changed for certain is the deployment of SFF at the flashpoint of the standoff. Notwithstanding a rule that was put in place whereby SFF soldiers could not be placed within 10 km of the Indo-Tibet border in 1975, SFF company leader Nyima Tenzin has died in an operation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) while directly confronting the Chinese in Eastern Ladakh.

The slain Tibetan- Indian soldier and SFF came to the limelight after India successfully captured a number of strategic heights in the Chushul sector overlooking crucial bases of the Chinese military following a confrontation along the southern bank of Pangong lake area on the intervening night of 29 and 30 August.

The army statement without any reference to the SFF stated that “Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong lake, and undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on the ground,” the force said.

While SFF soldiers were praised and applauded for their service, sacrifice and valour in India by the Indian’s and exiled Tibetans alike, China first played dumb over their existence with the CCP mouthpiece latter running a commentary that read “exiled Tibetans in India’s special force are only cannon fodder”.

Meanwhile, Hundreds of Tibetans and Ladhakis were also in attendance as Company Leader, Nyima Tenzin’s was cremated at the Shiwatsel cremation ground in Leh, Union Territory of Ladakh on Monday morning with military honours.

Tibetans and people from Ladakh were heard raising slogans such as “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, “Tibet desh ki Jai” and “We salute Indian army” among others. Additionally, Tibetans across the diaspora expressed their solidarity with the 51-year-old SFF soldier by holding candlelight vigils and prayer services.

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