Special Operations: Indian SOCOM Defeated By Politicians

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January 31, 2016: The most formidable foe Indian commandos face are Indian politicians. Since 2013 Indian special operations forces and the various branches of the military have sought to form a united Special Forces Command based on the success of the American SOCOM (Special Operations Command). Created in the 1980s SOCOM went on to be the model for similar organizations in many other nations. One of the most recent was Israel in 2007. That is important because Israel has become a major defense supplier and military ally of India since the 1990s and the two countries exchange a lot military-related information and experiences. Indian officers and special operations troops are quite familiar with the success of the Israeli SOCOM. But by late 2015 these Indian efforts were blocked by a lack of government willingness to back the proposal and the fact that half the Indian armed forces (and nearly as many of the special operations troops) are not in the military but an equally large collection of paramilitary forces controlled by other bureaucracies. This was done on purpose in the late 1940s to prevent the possibility that the military would become powerful enough to take over the government. That has worked. Neighboring Pakistan went in another direction, building a relatively more powerful military and has suffered periodic military takeovers. But India has several other cultural differences from Pakistan that have helped prevent coups. Meanwhile many non-defense branches of the Indian government have grown fond of having their own armed forces and mainly because of that have been unwilling to give up or share control of their special operations forces. In reaction to that the military has been reluctant to provide assistance to these paramilitary forces, even when there was a strong case for it (as in efforts to deal with Islamic terrorism, leftist rebels and armed separatist groups).

The Indian Army has had one special operations crisis after another since 2001. For example, in 2010 when the Para-Commando force sought to add an eighth battalion there were complaints that the troops involved are not getting adequate training or equipment. This was an increasingly common issue for all the special operations troops. India has several different special operations organizations and each of them have a specific mission and all too often serious problems with the government procurement bureaucracy. Para Commandos form the parachute infantry of the Army but have been given additional training and equipment to enable them to carry out commando type operations. A lot of the special equipment never seems to arrive, nor does all the additional money for training.

The Special Protection Group personnel are assigned the task of protection for India's Prime Minister and VIPs from terrorist attacks. For some reason these troops always seem to get what they need. This leads many Indians (military and civilian) to see the special operations procurement problems as the fault of self-serving politicians.

The elite MARCOS unit acts as India's Navy SEAL teams and performs special ops on the high seas. Again, there are constant shortages of equipment and training opportunities. Moreover MARCOS often does not cooperate with army special operations forces and actually duplicates some of the army special operations capabilities.

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 persistent insurgent problems over the last couple of decades. These fellows are constantly called on to deal with emergencies equipped only with promises of new gear and weapons.

Since 2003 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. While this gave each battalion some shock troops, it also increased discontent among the rest of the troops, who now see modern equipment up close and wonder why they don't have it (like most of their Western counterparts do). In many cases some Ghatak platoons didn't have it either, while others did. This uneven distribution of modern gear caused morale problems among the Ghatak troops. Another cause of discontent was the knowledge, often via the Internet, that commandos from other nations often had better, or much better, equipment and weapons than the Ghatak units. The last decade has seen accelerating development of new commando equipment, but Indian commandos feel like they're the last to get the new stuff, if at all.

Thus Indian special operations officers believe an Indian SOCOM would give the special operations forces more political clout within the government to get what they need before an emergency arises and the politicians start blaming each other, and the military, for not having the necessary weapons and equipment.

 


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