Indian Special Forces soldiers march during the Army Day parade. The Defence Ministry is now considering a unified Special Forces Command. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
NEW DELHI — India is likely to establish a unified Special Forces Command as the Defence Ministry is considering a two-year-old recommendation by a select committee to strengthen its “clandestine” fighting ability, a ministry source said.
The decision will be taken up by the new government. Defence Minister A.K. Antony had delayed making a decision on this issue ahead of the May 16 general election.
India’s Special Forces are under different organizations and report to different ministries. Lack of a unified command inhibits its ability to deliver the desired punch at the required place and time, officials said.
“The Special Forces lack logistics, communication resources and the support systems of the type that is needed for carrying out integrated Special Forces operations,” defense analyst Venkataraman Mahalingam said. “Access to intelligence and real-time information by operatives are nonexistent. They have no shared ethos, training, equipment, concepts or doctrines. Individual roles of these forces have not been defined, and as a result they lack super specialization and expertise to take on sensitive assignments.”
Analysts said the ambiguity on the structure of Special Forces stems from a lack of clarity about its role.
An Army official said the Special Forces can be used for strategic tasks, including deterrence against irregular and asymmetric warfare.
“Under the nuclear backdrop, since a conventional war cannot be an option to counter or deter low-level, low-cost, sub-conventional terrorist strikes, Special Forces should constitute the core instrument of our response,” Mahalingam said. “These forces can be employed at the strategic level to achieve the chosen political effect by imposing unacceptable costs by delivering disquieting surgical strikes at a place and time of our choosing.”
In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Committee on Indian National Security recommended creating a Special Operations Command to bring together the existing special forces of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and other agencies under a unified command-and-control structure. This would mean strengthening the clandestine and unconventional warfare capabilities of the armed forces, and include the ability to swiftly strike behind enemy lines.
The wish list for arming the Special Force could include stealthy aircraft and naval commando delivery platforms; man-portable sensors; an integrated combat system to facilitate effective command and control; night and day surveillance and information-sharing capabilities; and technologies to help Special Forces detachments maintain surveillance over large areas, gain access to difficult targets, and enable strikes with measured effects and precision, Mahalingam said.
India needs to have special forces for possible use in the Indian Ocean in addition to deployment for strategic interests against China and Pakistan, the Army official said.
Prakash Katoch, a retired Army lieutenant general and Special Forces expert, earlier said, “India needs a three-tier set-up of Special Operations Forces. Tier one should be the Special Forces that are purely deployed strategically on politico-military missions on foreign soil. Tier two should be the Commando Forces that meet military requirements in conventional war as also counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations within the country. Tier three should be the airborne forces as rapid-reaction forces.” ■