Special Operations: Indian Commandos Set Free


April 23, 2012: The Indian Army has been given permission to do something American Special Forces have been able to do for decades: buy whatever equipment they need, without going through the procurement bureaucracy. This move is in response to a recently leaked report detailing how corruption, and efforts to deal with it, have paralyzed a lot of military procurement, leaving Indian commandos without the weapons and equipment needed to do all that is demanded of them. These "fast-track" exceptions provide opportunities for more corruption, which in cases like this is seen as the lesser of many evils.

The Indian Army has had one special operations crisis after another for the last decade. For example, two years ago when the Para-Commando force sought to add an eighth battalion there were complaints that the troops involved are not getting adequate training or equipment. This was an increasingly common issue for all the special operations troops. India has several different special operations organizations and each of them have a specific mission and all too often serious problems with the government procurement bureaucracy.

Para Commandos form the parachute infantry of the Army but have been given additional training and equipment to enable them to carry out commando type operations. A lot of the special equipment never seems to arrive, nor does all the additional money for training.

The Special Protection Group personnel are assigned the task of protection for India's Prime Minister and VIPs from terrorist attacks. For some reason these troops always seem to get what they need.

The elite MARCOS unit acts as India's Navy SEAL teams and performs special ops on the high seas. Again, there are constant shortages of equipment and training opportunities.

The primary counter-terror unit in the country is the 15,000 man National Security Guards and the ones who have borne most of the responsibility for tackling India's persistent insurgent problems over the last couple of decades. These fellows are constantly called on to deal with emergencies equipped only with promises of new gear and weapons.

Over the last decade the army has formed a force of over 7,200 commandos so that each of the 359 infantry battalions in the army could have a twenty man Ghatak (commando) platoon. While this gave each battalion some shock troops, it also increased discontent among the rest of the troops, who now see modern equipment up close and wonder why they don't have it (like most of their Western counterparts do). In many cases some Ghatak platoons didn't have it either, while others did. This uneven distribution of modern gear caused morale problems among the Ghatak troops. Another cause of discontent was the knowledge, often via the Internet, that commandos from other nations often had better, or much better, equipment and weapons than the Ghatak units. The last decade has seen accelerating development of new commando equipment, but Indian commandos feel like they're the last to get the new stuff, if at all. 

India has been increasing spending on equipment for its ground forces over the last decade, but these efforts have been uneven. Some of this has been caused by corruption. Like many other nations India has long had problems with kickbacks and favoritism in defense procurement. But it's been worse with India, which ranks high in international surveys of how corrupt nations are. To many Indian soldiers this seems to explain why they are constantly risking their lives using second rate weapons and equipment.

The end result of this is that India is under increasing pressure, from below, to honor promises to upgrade the weapons and equipment of the infantry forces. These troops have fallen far behind other armies and the troops, and especially their officers, are not being quiet about it. But government plans to upgrade infantry weapons and equipment have not amounted to much. The troops are not happy with this.

While India spends a lot of money on its fighter aircraft, naval vessels, and heavy ground equipment like tanks and APCs, very little is spent on taking care of the infantry. This isn't unique to the Indians, it just happens that the infantry historically doesn't get first grab at funds within the military and are usually at the bottom of the list when it comes to spending in general.


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