India has been fielding a variety of Special Forces since the early 1960s. They include the Para Commandos of the Army, the MARCOS of the Navy, the National Security Guard and the Special Frontier Force, amongst others. They have performed many tasks, both in war and in operations other than war, with great deal of efficiency and elan. However, they are largely trained to carry out only a limited number of tasks, which are mostly attrition-oriented.
Low intensity conflicts will increasingly manifest themselves in future, wherein we will need to tackle asymmetrical opponents, such as terrorists, insurgents and rebel groups. In such highly sensitive and ambiguous situations, Special Forces are indeed the instruments of choice.
Special Forces also play an important role in conventional operations, where they act as ‘force multipliers’. In many situations, Special Forces can respond to a wider spectrum of crises than conventional forces.
Covert operations are another facet of the employment of Special Forces. Such operations, when efficiently conducted, result in major gains, especially at the strategic level. The dividends that accrue tend to be highly disproportionate to the small force employed. In addition, such employment is less likely to be considered a prelude to war.
The armed forces of India need to be prepared to conduct operations over the entire spectrum of conflict. However, the portents for the future are that the armed forces would be involved in ‘more conflicts and less wars’. In this milieu, Special Forces are likely to play an extremely important role.
Besides the changing nature of war, there are many other challenges, which the armed forces and particularly the Army, will face in the coming years. Consequently, we need to take a holistic view, both about the size and quality of our Special Forces.
The book examines these and other related issues in the entirety. It covers a big canvas, which includes the roles and structures of the Special Forces of some important countries and the extent of their applicability in our context. The relevance of the book is not only for professionals but also for others who wish to learn about these elite forces.
About the author:
Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi, a former Vice Chief of Army Staff, is the Director of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS). In his over 40 years of distinguished service in the Army, he has held a variety of important and prestigious appointments, including Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and Army Commander of both the Army Training Command and the Western Command.
After his retirement, he devotes considerable time in writing for newspapers and professional magazines, participating in seminars and delivering lectures, mostly on security-related issues and international relations. He has edited and contributed in the book Army 2020 (2004), and has contributed chapters to Changing Perspective on National Security (2004), India’s National Security - Annual Review 2003 and 2006, and The Indian Army – A Brief History (2005).