Military & Aerospace

Optimising the Potential of Special Forces
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Vol. 28.2 Apr-Jun 2013 | Date : 08 Jul , 2013

Compact deadly sub unit

In India, the lack of strategic culture, more on account of keeping the military out from strategic military decision making, has led the hierarchy to believe that conventional forces coupled with nuclear clout can deter us from irregular threats. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Pakistan, though conventionally inferior, has been successfully playing her ‘thousand cuts policy’ knowing full well that India has failed to develop the required deterrent. It is our inability to find a cure to this Achilles’ heel, that has led China, which was hitherto using Pakistan as proxy to wage irregular war on India, now directly aids and supports insurgent and terrorist outfits inside India.

A lackadaisical approach to internal security and failure to coordinate a response has been the bane of the problem in India.

The last conventional war was fought between Russia and Georgia in 2005. In the case of India, the last conventional war or rather conflict was in 1999 in the Kargil region though Musharraf wanted the world to believe that so-called freedom fighters were fighting the Indian Army and not Pakistani regulars (Northern Light Infantry and SSG). Over the last two decades, conflict has increased exponentially with regular armies fighting irregulars or between irregulars, latter more so because of sectarian reasons rather than ideology. In India, irregular forces have been confronting the security sector. In a rogue neighbour like Pakistan, the term ‘non-state actors’ is a misnomer. The notorious exploits of the ISI have led the Deputy NSA to call upon the international community to label it a ‘terrorist organisation’.

In India, the lack of strategic culture, more on account of keeping the military out from strategic military decision making, has led the hierarchy to believe that conventional forces coupled with nuclear clout can deter us from irregular threats. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Pakistan, though conventionally inferior, has been successfully playing her ‘thousand cuts policy’ knowing full well that India has failed to develop the required deterrent. It is our inability to find a cure to this Achilles’ heel, that has led China, which was hitherto using Pakistan as proxy to wage irregular war on India, now directly aids and supports insurgent and terrorist outfits inside India.

Battlefield India

A lackadaisical approach to internal security and failure to coordinate a response that includes external factors has been the bane of the problem in India. This is further aggravated by lack of governance, inadequate laws and lack of implementing existing laws on account of vote-bank politics. Mismanagement of social change has increased strife. We continue to retain the label of ‘soft state’ with actions like permitting Hurriyat to meet Pakistani visitors inside the Pakistani embassy, granting visas to Hurriyat to seek blessings of Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan and politicians shunning bureaucratic advice to not invite Rehman Malik and to not entertain Raja Pervaiz Ashraf visiting Ajmer privately. Incidentally, in a book authored by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman prior to the formation of Bangladesh, he wrote, “Because Eastern Pakistan must have sufficient land for expansion Eastern Pakistan must include Assam to be financially and economically strong.”

In a rogue neighbour like Pakistan, the term ‘non-state actors’ is a misnomer.

Ironically, our politicians permitted the take-over of Assam by illegal Bangladeshi migrants (facilitating their Indian citizenship) through the infamous 1983 Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act till it was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in 2005, but not before Assam was reduced to a Hindu minority state. Today, the MHA has banned no less than 35 terrorist organisations in India, though there are many more that need banning, like the Kerala headquartered Popular Front of India (PFI). Lack of an Internal Security Strategy, governance and aforesaid factors have provided an enormous asymmetric battlefield to our adversaries anchored around the Maoist insurgency, and China and Pakistan would be foolish not to exploit it.

Based on the 1960’s advice of China, Pakistan has raised anti-India jihadi forces and inducted armed modules pan-India that were identified in some ten states including Assam, West Bengal and Kerala in 1992-1993. SIMI started sending cadres to Pakistan for training with the mujahedeen, Taliban and Al-Qaeda and established linkages with radical organisations in Bangladesh for terrorist training. In recent years, Pakistan’s ISI had organised nucleus Maoist training in mines/IEDs/explosives with LTTE that is extracting a heavy price through CRPF cadres being killed and maimed. China backs the Maoist insurgency in India. Not only is China providing sophisticated weapons and communication equipment to the Maoists but over past several months, has provided arms manufacturing facilities to Maoists within India and to Kachen rebels in Myanmar. The Indian Mujahideen (IM) is the creation of Pakistan and the latter’s involvement in various terrorist acts including the recent Hyderabad blasts is unmistakable. The LeT has been hobnobbing with the Maoists and both LeT and Al Qaeda have established roots in Kerala and are deeply linked with the PFI.

India must also focus on the Chinese ‘String of Pearls’ surrounding us being reinforced by radical Islamic terrorism, particularly in Bangladesh and Maldives as it will fuel our internal security situation further. India has been talking of a cold start strategy for many years but Bangladesh too was practicing cold start during the BNP regime headed by Khaleda Zia through annual exercises racing for the Siliguri Corridor. That is the reason why China and Pakistan are trying their level best to integrate and boost insurgencies within India. It is no secret that the BNP-led government in Bangladesh has always been pro China and Pakistan. It is supported by terrorist organisations including Jamat-e-Islami and Ahle Hadith Andolan that are viciously anti-India and are funded by Saudi Arabia in a major way.

China’s newfound interest in Maldives may advertently or inadvertently help spur anti-India sentiments in Maldives.

The cold start by Bangladesh independently is little threat but when viewed in conjunction with China’s designs for Doklam Plateau in Bhutan, the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the strategic footprints already made in Northern Nepal, the threat magnifies. In Maldives, the advent of radicalism and anti-India perceptions have been building since 2005 when the youth started going for training under the LeT in Pakistan, drugs started flowing in and signs of radicalisation became visible on the streets. It did cause alarm bells in the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) but nevertheless radicalism is on the rise. In a country where, as per 2008 estimates, there were 70,000 foreign employees and some 33,000 illegal immigrants, the presence of Al Qaeda and LeT in Maldives cannot be ruled out, as would be their links with their operatives and PFI in Kerala. This poses a major threat to soft targets in South India. Additionally, China’s newfound interest in Maldives may advertently or inadvertently help spur anti-India sentiments there.

Deterrence

Operation ‘Parakaram’ should have been proof enough that conventional power by itself is no panacea to irregular threats. During Parakram, Musharraf kept taunting India to cross the LoC and upped his nuclear sabre rattling. India’s inability to establish an irregular deterrent has led Pakistan to high levels of arrogance and obduracy in continuing terrorist attacks in India. During live TV debates in the aftermath of the recent grotesque incident of the beheading of an Indian soldier and the blasts in Hyderabad some former Pakistani military officers displayed conceit – even challenging India to launch its Strike Corps. It is not that our intelligence agencies have been lacking in advice. Maloy K Dhar, former Joint Director IB wrote in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s Intelligence Unveiled’ thus, “I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored…The Pakistani establishment is a geo-political bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear. The sabre rattling of ‘coercive diplomacy’, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced Islamist groups.”

Click to buy

Why the US has managed to secure its mainland post 9/11 is not only because of an efficient Homeland Security organisation but because the US Special Forces (USSF) are operating in 200 countries including India. Significantly, USSF have undeclared tasks such as conducting proactive, sustained ‘man-hunts’ and disrupt operations globally; building partner capacity in relevant ground, air and maritime capabilities in scores of countries on a steady – state basis; helping generate persistent ground, air and maritime surveillance and strike coverage over ‘under-governed’ areas and littoral zones and employing unconventional warfare against state-sponsored terrorism and trans-national terrorist groups globally. Before 26/11, Al-Qaeda had planned similar operations against New York but could not because the USSF had infiltrated Al-Qaeda. One cannot guard the house by simply barricading it. You must patrol the streets and the area outside.

Growing inter-dependence and interlinking of terrorist groups regionally and internationally should be a matter of serious concern. It is not the US alone that has deployed its Special Forces abroad. This is the case with most advanced countries including UK, Russia, Israel, China and even Pakistan. Pakistan’s SSG was operating with the Taliban in Afghanistan and has been active in Jammu and Kashmir, Nepal and Bangladesh, primarily training anti-India forces. There is a strong possibility of their presence in the Maldives and Sri Lanka as well, aside from presence within India. The Chinese have been smarter. For all the development projects throughout the globe, including in Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan-POK, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Seychelles, contracts underway by PLA-owned/affiliated companies employ serving and veteran PLA soldiers and disguised Special Forces with assigned tasks, including evacuation of Chinese citizens from that country in case of emergencies.

1 2
Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left

2 thoughts on “Optimising the Potential of Special Forces

  1. Hello Lt. Gen Katoch, yet another brilliant article from you. Superb. I am an Indian living in the US and am amazed how the US govt including TSA, DHS and overseas forces work towards one goal – to make the homeland safe & secure. They would not leave any stone unturned including searching and frisking elderly and wheelchair bound old people. India on the other hand has been rendered ‘un-masculine’ (sorry to use that word) by choosing Non-violence and NAM as the state policy. One has to do everything to protect own house. India should start hiring massively to create a parallel force of smart educated youngters for subterfuge and covert operations in Military and Central intelligence and spread out this force in China, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pak, Bangladesh and Nepal under the MOD reads it. Please read and prepare plans to secure our beloved Bharat mata.

  2. The IAS has undoubtedly let the nation down and the MoD has wrongly advised the political leadership and their advisories lead no where but to chaos.

    Having said that who let the MoD with their nil experience have an upper hand. The MoD and IAS have always thrived to have an upper hand right from India’s independence. The 1962 debacle even put this in the right perceptive and highlighted the issue.. wrong advise and interference are not of much difference today..yet the difference lies in genralmanship

    In yesteryears the Karriappas, Thimayas, Maneckshaws and Sunderjees stood their ground…they had drawn a line from which they would not stoop low or under their leadership let the armed forces suffer due to wrong advise of the MoD.
    The chiefs of the armed forces cannot in this case completely shoulder off the mismanagement of the special forces or their army! After all they are the chiefs and NOT mere liaison officers acting like a messenger passing down wrong dictats of the MoD down the force’s throats.
    Who has stopped them from saying a ‘No’. The argument that India is led by a democratic ruling does not cut ice. Does the chairman of Tatas or Reliance or any small company go against democracy wherein and when he puts a stop to ilL advising. More so if that argument was true then how did sunderjee put his foot down during the chinese fiasco in the 80s or maneckshaw, earlier.
    The fact is that the chiefs have shown a fear to the MoD,IAS and that fear has been taken advantage off. Let us see which PM or President or plitical party stands against a chief who stands up to the MoD and addresses the nation if the MoD is adamant in thrusting upon india decissions that are a threat to Indias security.
    Let the chiefs start now as the iron is hot with the nation acknowledging the armys role and IAS failure in the recent floods in North India… the civilian populous wants a leader in their armed forces..they have enough yes men in the police force and every other segment

More Comments Loader Loading Comments