VIEW­POINT: SPE­CIAL FORCES – EF­FORTS TO BRIDGE EQUIP­MENT VOIDS

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Me­dia is agog with news head­lines “Army on Shop­ping Spree, Com­man­dos to Get Dead­lier,” re­port­ing that af­ter the successful ‘sur­gi­cal strikes’, the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) is fast-track­ing some long-de­layed mod­erni­sa­tion of the Army’s Spe­cial Forces to make them even more lethal and mo­bile for clan­des­tine war­fare. As per MoD sources, seven re­quests for pro­pos­als (RFPs) have been is­sued to the United States, Is­raeli, Swedish and other com­pa­nies for ac­qui­si­tion of the spe­cialised weaponry on a fast-track ba­sis, fast-track ba­sis be­ing re­dun­dant hype as all RFPs have sim­i­lar re­sponse pe­riod. Be­sides go­ing by the ear­lier ex­pe­ri­ence, it will take a num­ber of ‘years’ be­fore the weapons and equip­ment sought ac­tu­ally gets fielded. So let us keep the ‘fast-track’ busi­ness aside, even as news re­ports quot­ing MoD resources say “Re­stricted” ten­ders have been is­sued to se­lect for­eign arms com­pa­nies for ac­qui­si­tion of new as­sault ri­fles, sniper ri­fles, gen­eral pur­pose ma­chine guns, light­weight rocket-launch­ers, tac­ti­cal shot­guns, pis­tols, night-vi­sion de­vices and am­mu­ni­tion.

In ad­di­tion, tri­als are re­port­edly in progress to ac­quire some 120 light strike ve­hi­cles (LSVs), which can be car­ried by he­li­copters, for spe­cial op­er­a­tions. In­ci­den­tally, all the weapons and equip­ment men­tioned have been au­tho­rised to Army’s Spe­cial Forces units since year 2002. All the equip­ment promised to be ac­quired through the for­eign mil­i­tary sale (FMS) route im­me­di­ately post-9/11 has still not fetched up. Dis­re­gard­ing global norms, our Army also went in for rapid ex­pan­sion of the Spe­cial Forces which cre­ated enor­mous de­fi­cien­cies in Army Spe­cial Forces units. And, it is these crit­i­cal­i­ties that are be­ing at­tempted to be bridged. That is why the more Ta­vor as­sault ri­fles ex Is­rael is just for 1,120 pieces for now. LSVs were of­fered by a Sin­ga­pore de­fence firm more than a decade back but these were not even called for tri­als per­haps be­cause the ex­pected bribe was not of­fered. The me­dia also talks of dis­pos­able rocket launch­ers, which have been in use by the In­dian Army past decade. As sig­nif­i­cantly, the news re­ports say that there is no progress to es­tab­lish a Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, as pro­posed by the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee.

Spe­cial Forces are be­ing used strate­gi­cally world over to fur­ther na­tional in­ter­ests of their coun­tries. Their employment is ac­tu­ally ex­ten­sion of for­eign pol­icy of the con­cerned coun­try. Lead­ing na­tions em­ploy­ing Spe­cial Forces proac­tively trans-fron­tiers are per­haps the United

States, Rus­sia, UK and Is­rael. US Spe­cial Forces (USSF) are op­er­at­ing in over 100 coun­tries. This is in ad­di­tion to al­most all diplo­matic mis­sions in for­eign coun­tries hav­ing USSF pres­ence. Since China has al­ready po­si­tioned the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) troops in her de­vel­op­ment projects glob­ally in­cluded Pak­istan, Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kashmir (PoK), Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Sey­chelles and other coun­tries in garb of work­ers and tech­ni­cians of de­vel­op­ment projects, we can safely posit a size­able sec­tion be­ing Chi­nese Spe­cial Forces. Pak­istan has em­ployed the Spe­cial Ser­vices Group (SSG) ac­tively in Afghanistan, J&K, Nepal and Bangladesh, and is forg­ing links with ex­trem­ist/ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions in In­dia.

What In­dia needs is an In­te­grated Spe­cial Forces Com­mand (ISFC) di­rectly un­der the Prime Min­is­ter with par­al­lel links to the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice (PMO) and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor (NSA). The Prime Min­is­ter should have a Spe­cial Forces Cell un­der him manned by the Re­search and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Spe­cial Forces per­son­nel, tasked w ith: evolv­ing pol­icy and doc­trine for strate­gic employment of Spe­cial Forces at strate­gic level; over­see their man­ning, equip­ping, train­ing, task­ing, in­tel­li­gence, in­ter-agency syn­ergy; co­or­di­nate and mon­i­tor their op­er­a­tional employment, and; co­or­di­nate joint train­ing and op­er­a­tions with for­eign Spe­cial Forces. The bal­ance Spe­cial Forces should be clubbed un­der the Chief of De­fence Staff as an In­te­grated Com­mando Com­mand (ICC) for sup­port­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions; cross bor­der tac­ti­cal tasks and within bor­der tasks be­yond ca­pa­bil­i­ties of reg­u­lar in­fantry.

The case for rais­ing of a Ma­rine Brigade is gath­er­ing dust in the MoD for the last decade-and-a-half should be ac­ti­vated and the Ma­rine Brigade clubbed with the ICC. Tasks of the IFSC and ICC would com­ple­ment each other in spe­cific sit­u­a­tions. The main dif­fi­culty in es­tab­lish­ing the ISFC will be the re­luc­tance of the or­gan­i­sa­tions and agen­cies presently con­trol­ling them, namely the Ser­vices, the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs (MHA), the Cabi­net Sec­re­tar­iat. How­ever, the ex­er­cise is essen­tial in the present con­text, akin to the ef­forts for in­te­grat­ing the nine ma­jor in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, which is yet to fully take off in face of stiff op­po­si­tion. Diplo­macy and con­ven­tional war by them­selves can­not con­tend with asym­met­ric wars of Pak­istan and China. Con­ven­tional re­sponse to asym­met­ric threats do not work and merely fortress­ing one’s house is no an­swer. We need a well thought out co­or­di­nated proac­tive ap­proach. Es­tab­lish­ment of the ISFC and ICC will be vi­tal steps to­wards this.

Con­ven­tional re­sponse to asym­met­ric threats do not work and merely fortress­ing one’s house is no an­swer. We need a well thought out co­or­di­nated proac­tive ap­proach. Es­tab­lish­ment of the ISFC and ICC will be vi­tal steps to­wards this.

LT GEN­ERAL

P.C. KA­TOCH (RETD)

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