Military & Aerospace

Whither Special Forces?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 28 Jan , 2014

Compact deadly sub unit

While discussing a monogram on Special Forces at a prominent Think Tank in New Delhi last month (December 2013), one of the discussants (a former Brigadier) opined that the “entire Parachute Regiment should form part of the proposed Special Forces Command.” It is not the stupidity and absurdity of the proposal alone but the dogged pusillanimous pursuit with which this idea of converting all Parachute Battalions to Special Forces has been followed over the years – stymieing the Special Forces; pulling them down any which way so that the Parachute Battalions can wear the Special Forces badge and more importantly, get the Special Forces allowance in the process. That this Brigadier was a former paratrooper requires no guesses. But it so happened, that he was a last minute substitute to the two-star officer in Military Operations Directorate of the Army. The latter’s name had already been mentioned in the program for the said event circulated to all concerned by the Think Tank. Why the two-star ducked was obviously to avoid uncomfortable questions since he has not served for a single day in a Special Forces unit and was probably advised to stay away by the Director General of Military Operations who happens to be Colonel of the Parachute Regiment and has never served with Special Forces either. So the Brigadier was commandeered all the way from Kolkata to do their bidding.

At such an international seminar hosted by the United Services Institution (USI) of India, New Delhi during 2005, the Deputy Defence Attaché of the US Embassy in India expressed surprise about suggestions by some veteran paratroopers that Special Forces operations should be limited to about five kilometers across the borders.

In the past, the military has been regularly participating in Special Forces seminars in both national and international levels. At such an international seminar hosted by the United Services Institution (USI) of India, New Delhi during 2005, the Deputy Defence Attaché of the US Embassy in India expressed surprise about suggestions by some veteran paratroopers that Special Forces operations should be limited to about five kilometers across the borders. In fact, he drew the attention of the audience that the Defence Minister speaking at the inaugural session stating that India’s areas of strategic interest included the Straits of Malacca, the Cape of Good Hope, the Middle-East and beyond. Later, in 2013, the USI planned a Special Forces seminar for exclusive participation by the military Special Forces, as prelude to a larger seminar at international level. However, this had to be called off because the Army refused to participate. The reason was very much obvious; the two-star officers heading the Additional Directorate General (Special Forces) under Military Operations (MO) Directorate, right from its establishment in 2006, and even the one-star deputy have continued to be those who have not served one single day in Special Forces. Naturally, answering questions in seminars implies exposure. The façade of secrecy just does not hold because nothing classified is ever discussed in Special Forces seminars at national or international levels.

General BC Joshi was the first Army Chief who took note of the focus required to alleviate the Special Forces concept – in line with the transnational threats and need for employing Special Forces at strategic level. Under him the, Army Special Forces Regiment was raised. The then three Parachute (Commando) units were renamed 1 Special Forces, 9 Special Forces and 10 Special Forces and a Headquarters Special Forces was raised. The appointment of Chief of Army Staff was designated the Honorary Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment; General BC Joshi donning the mantle of the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment. Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (who eventually retired as Vice Chief of Army Staff) was named the Colonel of the Special Forces Regiment. But then tragedy stuck and General BC Joshi died while in office. His successor, General Shankar Roychowdhury, in a moment of utter weakness, succumbed to pressures from retired Paratrooper Generals and disbanded the Special Forces Regiment. At that time, not only had General Shankar Roychowdhury accepted and become the Honorary Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment, he had also been presented the Special Forces Regiment Banner an official ceremony by Lieutenant General A Sandhu, an outstanding Armoured Corps officer who was then Director General Military Operation and Ex-Officio Colonel of the Army Special Forces Regiment. Nowhere else in history can one find an Honorary Colonel of any Regiment disbanding his own Regiment.

mailto:idr@indiandefencereview.comThat the Army is averse to changes is no secret. The birth of Army Air Defence (AAD)  had terrible labour pains since this required separation from the Regiment of Artillery, latter vehemently opposing the split and orchestrating delaying the execution for as long as possible even once the decision to raise AAD was approved. As part of this maneuvering, the Colonel level appointment in Military Operations Directorate (MO-7) was quietly reduced to a major level post in the same section so that he cannot make much noise. However, in the case of Army’s Special Forces Regiment, it was much worse as this Regiment had already been raised and was functional.

The total effort post disbandment of HQ Special Forces was focused on ‘equating’ the Parachute Battalions with Special Forces battalions though the former are infantry battalions that are trained in airborne induction.

In a single stroke, Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury as the Army Chief set back the Army’s Special Forces by several decades. But what followed were measures quietly put in place to ensure such an eventuality would not surface again. Headquarters Special Forces was gradually broken up and finally disbanded. The appointment of Deputy Director General (Special Forces) in Military Operations Directorate started getting manned by non-Special Forces officers and at one stage was held by an infantry officer because he was from the same unit as the then Army Chief. Being an upright officer, he frankly admitted he had no idea about Special Forces and special operations. The HQ Special Forces, if raised in Delhi was to oversee all issues pertaining to Special Forces including manning, equipping and training but this was not allowed. The total effort post disbandment of HQ Special Forces was focused on ‘equating’ the Parachute Battalions with Special Forces battalions though the former are infantry battalions that are trained in airborne induction. Once on ground, they resume the role of holding ground like any other infantry unit. Yet efforts were focused on getting for the Parachute Battalions: same tasks as Special Forces; similar organization; same weapons and equipment; similar manpower policies; more or same level of training with foreign Special Forces; same Special Forces insignia and Special Forces allowance by renaming Parachute Battalions as Special Forces (Airborne); bringing whole / part probation of volunteers for Special Forces / Parachute Battalions under the Parachute Regimental Centre; equal course vacancies and instructors at the Special Forces Training School (SFTS) despite a separate Army Airborne Training School in existence; post officers from Parachute Battalions (not having served in Special Forces at any point of time) to command Special Forces units; converting more and more Parachute Battalions to Special Forces role; placing severe restrictions and quotas on Commanding Officers of Special Forces Battalions for rejecting volunteers who do not make it in probation or whose performance has dropped etc.

Some of the above measures succeeded in part and some did not. Success in varying degrees was achieved through paratrooper officers posted in appointments that controlled manpower, manpower policies, weapons and equipment, training and in the Military Secretary’s Branch controlling officer postings. In fact, after years when a Special Forces officer took up the appointment of Colonel MS 1 in Military Secretary’s Branch, he volunteered out within weeks due to excessive pressure to do things his conscious did not permit. He was posted out as a Base Commander on Siachen Glacier. The move to designate Parachute Battalions as Special Forces (Airborne) led to jokes circulating that the ‘Ghatak Platoons’ of Infantry Battalions and Scouts Battalions be renamed Special Forces (Footborne) and elements within the Army trained in underwater operations be designated Special Forces (Waterborne). In two successive Pay Commissions, the then Army Chiefs rightfully rejected the projections for Parachute units to be authorized the same allowances as Special Forces, though efforts continue. Here the intent was to somehow get the same Special Forces allowance authorized, following which wearing the Special Forces insignia would meet no resistance. As to the conversion to Special Forces role, when the requirement of a fourth Special Forces battalion was felt, the Army Special Forces Regiment had been established. Therefore, the Parachute Regiment refused to provide a battalion and so an infantry battalion was converted to Special Forces. However, when the Special Forces Regiment was disbanded, the clamour to convert Parachute units to Special Forces was resumed with full force.

The US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan was used as an opportunity by the then Colonel of the Parachute who was heading the Perspective Planning in Army Headquarters to convert three Parachute Battalions in quick succession to Special Forces. This unprecedented expansion was resorted to by deliberately feeding the hierarchy that 20,000 US Special Forces (SF) were operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was untrue since this included 82 and 101 AB Divisions of the US. Actually even in the peak period of USSF deployment only 90 x Operation Detachments Alpha (ODAs) were used (each ODA being 10-12 strong), as confirmed by then Commander US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

…our Army Special Forces went in for an unprecedented 120 percent increase in period 2001-2004 alone in complete disregard to global norms relating to Special Forces and the common sense that ‘quality is better than quality’.

As a result, our Army Special Forces went in for an unprecedented 120 percent increase in period 2001-2004 alone in complete disregard to global norms relating to Special Forces and the common sense that ‘quality is better than quality’. Significantly, the annual increase of US SF then stood at 1.8 percent with subsequent bids going up to 2.5 percent annually because of global commitments. Conversion of two out of these Parachute battalions to Special Forces was ironically undertaken after a comprehensive study on modernization had been approved by the Vice Chief of Army Staff endorsing that no more expansion of Special Forces be undertaken; only consolidation and review after the current Army Plan was over. What reversed this decision was the carrot of saving manpower through these conversions as the strength of a Special Forces battalion is much less than a Parachute battalion and the Army was looking for more manpower for new raisings. The result of such rapid conversions was not only dilution in manpower, arms and equipment, and training etc in Special Forces battalions, but it reduced the number of Parachute battalions to just four. The turnover of Parachute Battalions from the Parachute Brigade got severely affected with just one loose battalion outside. As a result you had individual Parachute Battalions sitting in Agra for six years at a stretch and some going to Ladakh thereafter for turnover. So while infantry battalions and Special Forces slogged it out in counter insurgency, some Parachute Battalions were out of CI areas for years on end. This forced Army Headquarters to stop this nonsensical business of converting Parachute Battalions to Special Forces and undertaking raising of more Parachute units. At the same time, the ninth Special Forces battalion is already under raising, after which a tenth such unit is planned be raised.

mailto:idr@indiandefencereview.comAs mentioned above, the two-star and one-star appointments heading the Additional Directorate of Special Forces in MO Directorate continue to be held by officers who have never served in Special Forces ever since this Additional Directorate was established. The two-star has always been a paratrooper. The one-star is always from the same unit or the regiment as the Army Chief so that this Brigadier can earn a stamp of having served in this appointment in MO Directorate, which would help him further his career – specialization be damned. The same arrangement is continuing since 2006, effectively throttling any voice of Special Forces. Efforts to somehow ‘equate’ Parachute Battalions with Special Forces Battalions continue, using every opportunity to push through the same measures as mentioned above. In the same wane, there is a move now to bring the Special Forces Battalions directly under Corps Headquarters instead of the current arrangement under Command Headquarters – very stupid and not liked by any of the Special Forces Battalions but who cares. Incidentally, the same General Officer who spoofed the hierarchy with the 20,000 USSF deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan had later done a study recommending that all our then existing 13 Corps should have a Special Forces Battalion each – a study that the Special Forces members of the study refused to sign.

The US SF too underwent similar resistance from the airborne forces but were lucky to eventually break away, however, the manner in which our Special Forces are being dealt with by the Army hierarchy has broken all records. Query the hierarchy in uniform and they will deny this entirely but the ground reality is as described above. The Defence Minister will say our Special Forces are armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art weapons and equipment but that is another story and has been reported aplenty elsewhere. Being in uniform the Army Chief’s recent statement denying any capability gap between the PLA and the Indian Army comes in the same category. The way the concept of Special Forces has been dealt with over the years, the entire Parachute Regiment may not be part of the proposed Special Forces Command, as recommended by the veteran paratrooper Brigadier. However, given the current dispensation, it is very much possible that the Special Forces of the three Services are brought together under a similar non-specialist hierarchy, even a three star paratrooper army commander, akin to what the army has been doing for past several years. That will make China and Pakistan really, really happy. Not without reason some time back when a question was asked what China thinks about India’s nuclear forces, the response was what to talk of nuclear forces, India does not even know how to use its conventional forces!

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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

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27 thoughts on “Whither Special Forces?

  1. A very real take on the situation…
    It is sad that when the world over the Special Forces are a unique organization left to themselves , why is it that in our country this matter should ever become an issue at all…???

  2. THE AIRBORNE AND SPECIAL FORCES GENERALS AND SENIOR RANKS MUST BRAINSTORM TO PREPOSTION HIGHLY WORTHY OFFICERS AND OTHER RANKS IN AFRICA , LATIN AMERICA, SOUTH EAST ASIA, CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS AS BUSINESSMEN SECURITY EXPERTS TO SECURE , DIAMOND, GOLD, RARE EARTHS , URANIUM, AND OTHER MINES AND BUSINESSES TO SECURE INDIAN INTERESTS LIKE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION , EXSAS AND AMERICAN SPECIAL FORCES . ALL NEED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR THE PEANUT WAGES WHEN IN GOVT SERVICE AND NO TIME BE FURTHER LOST AS SOON THE THREE SERVICES WILL SOON BE VERY POOR IN THE GROWING AFFLUENT SOCIETY OF THE COUNTRY

  3. FOR GLOBAL OPERATIONS BY 2030 AND RECOVERING LOST GROUND TO THE BABUS THE HIGHLY RESPECTED GENERAL MUST CONCEPTUALIZE AND FORCEFULLY PUT FORWARD IDEAS AND GERMINATE THE NEW HIGHER COMMAND DEFENCE ORGANIZATION WITH ARMY CHIEF PROMOTED FROM COL GEN RANK TO FIELD MARSHAL RANK BY THIRD YEAR , TWO SERVING FIELD MARSHALS FOR GROUP OF FORCES WESTERN THEATER AND ONE EASTERN THEATER . ALL ARMY CDRS AND PSOS UPGRADED TO COL GEN RANK AND SERVING LTGENS AND COL GENS IN DEFENCE MINSTRY . LET SPECIAL AND AIRBORNE BE DISCUSSED BY CAPTS AND MAJORS IN MESSES OVER THREE CHEERS

  4. THE IAS IPS AND CIVIL SERVICES DO NOT RUN DOWN THEIR OWN DEPTS WHO IS SPECIAL AND WHO IS NOT AIRBORNE . THE SECRETARY MAY HAVE 6TO 8 COURSE MATES AS SECRETARIES IN THE SAME DEPT AND NO EGO HASSLES AS TO WHO IS THE BOSS . PERKS AND SALARY ARE EQUALLY SHARED TO THE HILT . IF ONLY 1, 9 AND 10 WERE THE SPECIAL FORCES AND OTHER AIRBORNE REGIMENTS NOW CONVERTED SO THAT CAPACITY ENHANCED AND OTHERS ALSO SHARE THE ALLOWANCES . WHY BE FICKLE MINDED A AFFLICTION WHICH SERIOUSLY DOWNGRADES THE SERVICES COMPARED TO OTHER SERVICES . THE SOLUTION LIES PERHAPS POURING OF MORE RESOURCES FOR CUTTING EDGE EQUIPMENT, TRAINING AND DEPLOYMENT AND UNDER A SPECIAL FORCES COMMAND .IN ANY CASE A MILLION STRONG ARMY FACING TWO AND HALF FRONTS WITH INTERESTS FROM MALACCA TO MAGREB, DOWN TO AFRICA ARAB WORLD NEEDS MORE AIRBORNE BRIGADES , SPECIAL FORCES REGIMENTS TO MEET THE COMMITMENTS . THE REQUIREMENTS WILL INCREASE EXPONENTIALLY WHEN A CONFIDENT REFORMED HIGHER DEFENCE ORGANISATION LOOKS TO SECURE INDIAN INTERESTS BY PREPOSITIONING IN CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS , ASIAN , AFRICAN AND LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES

  5. dear sir,
    1. Read your article very closely and also read your other articles on similar issue, first of all its very heartening to know that you agree on the fact that India is way away from knowing the meaning and having a knowledge on special forces leave aside its employment and achieving strategic goals or as indian sf calls breaking the will of the en before breaking out of the hostilities( pun not intended).
    2. The biggest mistake done by our predecessors was merging the special forces and parachute regiment into one entity and still till date the so called or self claimed think tanks have not been able to even realize that mistake.
    3. Applaud for the article written by Laxman sir, some of the points written by him needs to be answered by you, in the capacity of ex COR.
    4. Even I have a ques for you, if you have so much against para bn’s you could have shown courage in declining the appointment as COR with para bn’s as part of it. Sir the disparity was not there, it was created and then aggravated by some selfish people who had no concern for its effect at grassroot level and now it has become venomous.
    5. And if china laugh’s at us he has full right to do so.

  6. Dear Sir,
    1. It is very well brought here by you that British and US airborne forces are different from SOF but if u think logically n pragmatically in indian context then I would like to bring to your notice, which I believe that you already know that the PARA BNs are doing all the SOF tasking here,be it readiness for Direct Action, quick response readiness for Disaster Management or Assistance to friendly foreifn Nations( OOAC Taskings).
    2. You See theb term SF in US is the name given to one of the SOF under USASOC. They have many SOFs and under USASOC they have Rangers or Airborne Rangers and SF or Green Berets.
    3. If you see the mandate and tasking of Green Berets (or USSF) and compare them with our SF BNs. You would see yourself and would get convinced that nowhere our SF tasking match with that of theirs and nowhere our SF BNs could be employed in similar manner.
    (a) Our SF BNs are doing the tasks which a normal well trained Inf Bn can do.
    (b) In valley they are fighting and competing with RR BNs for the ‘Share of Pie’
    and in NE with the AR BNs.
    (c) Although in Books a different tasking migh exist for them as it exists for the
    so called CAT Teams of Inf BNs in NC.
    4. So it implies that it is not prudent to compare the US and Indian scenarios as far as SOF are concerned, Be it SF or Airborne BNs. Moreover we can take some idea from Srilanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan SOFs( SSG, Cdo BNs, Airborne Special Forces, Special Forces etc) and rightly so as we share some similarities with them as far as tp’s IQ, Education level, Habits and The Op scenarios are concerned
    5.As far as strength of US SOF under US army is concerned, they have 7 SF Groups( 5 SF groups are regulars and 2 SF groups are National Guards comprises of non regulars volunteers from corporations, police, businesspeople etc like TA in our case) & each SF group has 4 BNs under it and also they havea Ranger Regt under USASOC.

    • 6. As far as allowance is concerned they do not have any allowance for being in SOF. Allowance in US SOF is given for the skills achieved by an indl.
      7. As far as accoutrement is concerned, US has a very high regard for the intangible motivation it brings to the members of the armed forces. It is therefore only fighting tps of operational detachmnents wear Green Berets and the support staff like staff sergeant, Logistic or NBC NCO etc never wears Green Berets although they remain very much part of the SF team unlike our Tradesman(Housekeeper, clerks etc) wear balidan and get an extra allowance of almost 1000% more then a volunteer soldier serving in active field area under hazardous environment in J&K and NE.
      8. I would like to ask you certain questions:-
      (a) How can you justify thata a soldier, top in merit passing out from PRTC, if
      sent to an Airborne BN gets 1000% less allowance then somebody lowest in
      merit from the same course sent to a SF BN?
      (b) How can you justify that for all SF officers Inf Courses are career courses
      and not even a single course in SFTS is mandatory or a career course, which
      according to you should be their bread & butter.
      (c) Tps from SF BNsand Airborne does the same courses, be it skills related,
      Inf courses or technical courses, then where is the difference?( only a minor
      difference exists due to org structure)
      9. In a nutshell following pts could be considered for a thought :-
      (a) It is not prudent to compare US or British SOFs with Indian SOFs
      (b) The PARA BNs are very much doing the task of SOF in Indian context. They
      are a voluntary Force, which is ready to do any task anywhere so they should
      be given their due.
      (c) As far as allowance and accoutrement is concerned- YES it does makes a difference, particularly if you are a volunteer to do any task & have the skills, will and ability to do it. It is not about Money or Tabs on Uniform but for the ….

      • …comparison it brings to the job you do, risk you are ready to take and your hard work. Its a reality and if you talk about US SOF the Green Berets and Rangers fought for their Beret colours. The retired Rangers did many protest marches till White House to have a different Beret colour. Yes, Intengibles does count..!!
        10. As far as Withering of Indian SOF is concerned, In reality, the real withering has happened to the PARA BNs, the very rapid reaction force of the country. Inspite of the fact that the Quantity( number) of these BNs is very low the Quality is drastically ging down every day, defying the logic that quality and quantity are inversly prproportional and this has happened due to the impracticaland biased policy decisions taken by a few due to either their misplaced sense of reality and pragmatism or du to the solitary, selfish and ego based ulterior motives and policy decisions.

        Regards..!

  7. one more in the grudge series from the gen. if ghatak platoons want to be “SF (foorborne)” the gen is from SF (book/paper borne) because though his passion to hold the SF flag high is appreciable he misses out ( conveniently or chooses to)on several facts.
    1. as col JP singh has braught out the role of Airborne BN is nothing like infantry. does the ranger bn doesn’t take def when it establishes Air Head ? are the direct action tasks done by an unit in US SOF (not SF) same as tasks done by airborne bn in india ?
    2. the gen holds the view that Garuds in their air transported role can be termed as SF but not the para bn ? by the way no one in airborne bn wants to be called as SF because we all know the gigantic gap between the projection and on ground capability. where SF units still plan and operate for 72 hrs only as any other inf unit. their language skills are so…. less we speak the better.

  8. The problem afflicting the Indian Army is the same one our politicians are afflicted by; personal interest or that of the particular party, in this case individual or regt/corps. India/army be damned. Why is Mech Inf a separate promotion bd when Para Regt is not? After all the basic difference among inf, mech inf & para is the mode of delivery into battle. task being same.

    • Sir, difference lies here in being a volunteer and going through a selection process and also in training and readiness for special operations..however you have a logic ..the regt that parachute regt should have a different selection board..
      Regards

  9. I am a Paratrooper and I need to put in some clarifications here. I am not going to debate the politics of it all nor go into the specifics.
    1.Firstly Parachute Battalions are NOT Infantry Battalions and do not operate like Infantry Battalions after an airborne landing. Parachute operations are always specialised operations and require meticulous planning and skill in execution.
    2. Parachute Battalions have never tried to equate themselves with Special Forces; it’s incorrect to say so. We Paratroopers are very proud of our Airborne heritage and Elite status and we needn’t and don’t equate ourselves to anybody. The question of pay and allowances was a different issue and maybe not put across well in its own perspective. The Parachute Formation has a strategic focus and is well trained for its job. The Special Forces are still not at that level.
    3. The problem with our Special Forces is that they read too much about US Special Forces and the SAS, without realising that these countries have a global perspective and India doesn’t. The employment and deployment of Special Forces in the Indian context will be different and what’s that going to be; needs to be looked into. They should stop trying to equate themselves with US Special Forces and the SAS and start thinking in the Indian context.
    4. The country desperately needs a special forces command and all specialised units to include the Special Forces battalions, The Parachute Brigade and the additional Parachute Battalions be put under its ambit. An ego play here is not the need of the day; it can be called The Airborne and Special Forces Command. The Airborne units also need a controlling HQ as the mandarins of Army HQ can’t quite manage these forces nor think sanely as to their management, equipment, training and employability.
    And a final word for my fellow Paratroopers – let’s not get personal here we have a common heritage and a change in badge doesn’t break long standing bonds.

    • I fully agree with the Colonel’s views.
      “The employment and deployment of Special Forces in the Indian context will be different and what’s that going to be; needs to be looked into. They should stop trying to equate themselves with US Special Forces and the SAS and start thinking in the Indian context.” The author and Saikat Datta have not addressed this issue and probably wish that Indian Spl Forces function on the lines of the US/British SF. Saikat Datta’s comments smack of arrogance and not anguish.

    • Dear Mr Kumar,

      Lots of spam comments are coming on hourly basis. We try to clear them as possible. During this shunting process, your comment bymistake likely to be deleted.

      Regards,

      Jitender Kalra
      Team IDR

  10. Glad to get the response from paratrooper colleagues. The Brigadier construes he was called stupid wheres what was called stupid was the suggestion that the entire Parachute Regiment be made part of the proposed Special Forces Command. As regards the Brigadier’s book, I read it long back. It would be prudent for him to interact with some US SF officers posted in Delhi (to clarify who the US SF are) since he states he is a resident of Delhi albeit during the event he had stated that post his job with a private firm in Bangalore, he was based in Kolkata and only his mother stayed in Delhi. His reference to Gen Padmanabhan is strange because he is fully aware of what happened on ground and it is certainly not what the Brigadier is hinting at. But if he is not aware then he might have a dialogue with the then Vice Chief and the DGMO who are both located at Chandigarh-Panchkula. The Brigadier may like to reflect upon why he refused to take action to introduce the special weapons and equipment (imported for Special Forces) into service when he was holding an apointment in Delhi that could to do so,despite ann SF officer going to his office and putting all the required details on the Brigadier’s computer, and without which replacements of these items by through ordnance channels was not possible. British airborne forces covered themselves in glory during the Falkland War. They don’t clamour to be equated with British Special Forces. Similarly, the US 82 and 101 Airborne Divisions don’t clamour for equatio withSpecial Forces. Neither the British nor the US airborne forces keep crying for same allowances and qualification badges as their respective Special Forces. Our Parachute Brigade is the rapid reaction force of the country. It is expected to be a potent punch and needs to pursue for excellence in its own role, rather than focusing on equating the parachute battalions with Special Forces.

  11. @brigadier Deepak Sinha, it is a fact that there were several attempts to equate the Parachute Bns with the SF units. I find a major contradiction in your statement. On one hand you state that the Para Bns play a supportive role to the SF in the US and UK (a factually incorrect statement but something I shall return to later).

    If you agree with the US and UK models, then you will probably agree that their SF are separate from the Parachute Bns and we should adopt that model. And therefore, we should never try to equate the Paras from SF, in pay or roles.

    As for the factual accuracy of your statement, the Airborne troops of the US and the Para Bn don’t support the SF. The SF undertake small team, covert action and in cases like Op Neptune Spear, Navy SEALS were waiting in a Chinooks to support the SEAL Team 6 that carried out the Abottabad hit. The Ranger Bn is not an airborne unit. The SAS and all it’s actions have always been carried out without any support from the airborne formations.

    Finally, as for the 2002 study and subsequent studies, they were manipulated by a politically motivated General. He was close to the ruling dispensation and has been duly rewarded with a Governorship. Such Generals are like Lt Gen B N Kaul of 1962 and their toxic legacy takes decades to undo. My apologies for these strong words but the incalculable harm done to India’s SF is the cause for my anguish.

    • Have to disagree on factual issues. Rangers are all airborne qualified and have been in battalion level airborne assaults in Panama, Grenada and Iraq. In the UK role of 3PARA based SFSG is to support SAS/SBS.
      Role of PARA and PARA(SF) are different but nothing stops them from being part of same Regt. We have both Mech Inf and Recce &Support battalions as a part of the Mechanized Infantry/GUARDS Regt with no difficulty. Why do we need to ape the west?
      As regards pay it stands to reason that PARA Pay should be commensurate with the dangers they face.How do you logically draw up a degree of difficulty between units that both are required to operate behind enemy lines as their primary responsibility?

    • Dear frnd..it seems u hv never operated n r away from reality n it gives a feeling that u must have grown up watching documentaries n reading books..n imagining..yourself to be some james bond.. n it seems u don even have a basic understanding of ground realities…n your knowledge is also very shallow… for your kind info nick name of 75th ranger regt is airborne rangers..many things we can’t discuss in open forum otherwise I would have certainly removed your ignorance
      . ..!!

    • Dear frnd ..it seems u r a man living in books, imagination n documanteries.. far away from ground reality ..for your info 75th rangers nick name is airborne rangers…if this would have not been open forum ..I would have certainly removed your ignorance …!!

  12. I have been called many things in my life, but stupid was not one of them, but I guess there is a time for that too. This, off course, is inconsequential because in a democracy we all have a right to our views, even if they are puerile. What offends however is for motives to be imputed that I “was commandeered all the way from Kolkata to do their bidding”.
    Apart from being at a loss as to who’s bidding I was supposed to be doing; the General Officer has his facts wrong. Firstly, I am presently resident of Delhi so nobody needed to commandeer me from Kolkata, and more importantly, I have had no occasion to change my views that have been public knowledge ever since my book “Beyond the Bayonet: Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century” was published in 2006.
    I continue to believe that the Parachute Brigade, especially after having commanded it, is an extremely potent organization that in the prevailing air defence and operational environment would best be employed under a unified special operations headquarters in conjunction with other special forces. The US 75th Ranger Regiment and the 3 PARA based SF Support Group of the UK are employed in this very manner. I guess somebody forgot to tell them that this was an absurd proposition!
    As regards the other points made, I find it interesting that while recounting issues that have prevented the formation of a separate Special Forces Regiment, he avoids mentioning the study report that he presented in 2002 to Gen Padmanabhan, then COAS, recommending separation which was rejected for reasons best avoided being put in the public domain. Incidentally, suffice it to say, all issues mentioned here and more, were given.
    Finally, it would be a disservice to all ranks if it was not reiterated that parachute pay needs to be substantially enhanced in line with SF pay as the existing differential adversely impacts motivation,morale and functioning within the Regiment.

  13. Well to an extent what the General is saying is right. Let the Special Forces break away from the Parachute Regiment and be formed into a separate Regiment. The real fact about the Indian Army is that no one knows what to do with the Special Forces and the Parachute Battalions. Employment of forces comes from having a strategic perspective. Since that is sorely missing no one knows what to do with these specialised units. I will also call Parachute Units as specialised units. They too have a special role, and their equipment, training and operational philosophy also differs from Infantry Battalions. Employment of Special Forces and Parachute Units entails a lot of risk and on the Indian side we don’t have that in our blood. We have to have a Strategic mind set to have a role for these units and until we have that we will continue to flounder as we are doing now. Perhaps it would be saner to have a separate Airborne and Special Forces Command in India, which should be looking into all the aspects of these units. Such HQs will be staffed by a mix of officers from the Airborne as well as Special Forces.

  14. Well, another of the predictable pieces by the same general. While he was in service, he too was Colonel of the Parachute Regiment. Now running it down; isn’t it the same as what he is accusing general Roychoudhri of. Left to his ilk, the SF in India would have remained at the level they were at in 1970’s. Remember, his own unit had to be prematurely pulled out of IPKF in Sri Lanka for reasons too unpalatable to be mentioned here. While I cast no aspersions on his personal courage, as a general officer, he should look beyond personalities and suggest improvements not run down people who are trying to do their job in very challenging circumstances.

    • Suggest you read the book ‘India’s Special Forces’ released last year – available on line. Being a Colonel of the Regiment for one year, you cannot cannot correct what has been put in place over the years (all recorded in the said book) including the resistance to change. However, you are welcome to your comments.

      • I have great regard for the General and his writings; however, I find his tone very bitter in this article. Without mentioning personalities, it would have probably been more appropriate to suggest measures to correct the defects and anomalies plaguing the Special Forces.

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