Special Operations: India Wants A SOCOM


September 4, 2014: The Indian Army recently expanded its airborne forces with two new para commando battalions. Navy commandos are getting new equipment, as are the air force units that supply air support for special operations. But what the Indian special operations forces want the most is a combined command, like the United States SOCOM (Special Operations Command). The Americans have this kind of unified special operations command since the late 1980s and their Indian counterparts have seen ample evidence that this approach works. But getting Indian Defense Ministry bureaucrats and those running the army, navy and air force to do the same for India has been a losing battle so far.

Meanwhile India has one of the largest special operations forces in the world. The army has eight (expanding to ten) special forces (formerly Para Commando) battalions. That is, they are trained for operating against terrorists and irregulars in peacetime but are also trained to use parachutes and would do so in wartime as light infantry landed in enemy territory. India will station the two new special forces battalions near the Chinese border, where more army and air force units are being moved to match the Chinese buildup there that has been going on for years.

The parachute battalions are but one component of Indian special operations troops, which is a very varied group. For example, the Special Protection Group personnel are assigned the task of protection for India's Prime Minister and VIPs from terrorist attacks.  The elite MARCOS unit acts as India's Navy SEAL teams and performs special ops on the high seas.

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 several and persistent rebel problems over the last half century. 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. This gave each battalion some well-equipped shock troops.

There are also special police units. These are not just SWAT, but trained and equipped form more complex commando operations. These police units, like most of the military special operators, spend a lot of time dealing with Islamic terrorists and political and ethnic rebels inside India.



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