India Para Commandos
India has long maintained a number of elite airborne units. The first airborne units were formed by the British, during WWII. When India gained its independence in 1947, it retained a number of its former airborne units, with the remainder being transferred to the new Pakistani Army.
During the 1965 Indo-Pakisatani War, the Indian army authorized the formation of an ad hoc commando unit composed of volunteers from various infantry regiments. The new unit was know as "Meghdoot Force" and was organized by Lt. Col. Megh Singh of the Brigade of Guards. The unit performed successfully in combat, and the Army authorized the Parachute Regiment to form a permanent para-commando unit.
The new unit was raised in June of 1966 and was designated as the 9th Battalion. Commanded by Lt. Col. Megh Singh, the 9th battalion was based at Gwalior, and used veterans of Meghdoot Force as its initial cadre, and volunteers primarily recruited from the Northern area of, to fill its ranks.
In June of 1967 a second commando formation was authorized. The second formation, 10th Battalion, was formed using elements of the 9th battalion and recruits from Rajasthanis. In July of 1967 both units left Gwalior and assumed new postings. The 9th Battalion began operations in the Northern mountain regions of India, and 10th battalion commenced operations in the Western desert.
Each battalion gradually developed a specialization for the type of terrain it was operating in, and in 1969 both units were redesignated as Para Commando Battalions.
During the 1971 Indo-Pakastani War, both Para-Commando battalions saw combat. The 9th Para Commando battalion was committed to the Kashmir region. The Battalion was divided into three combat groups, lettered A-C, with each group being assigned to a different infantry division. A group was primarily used in a static defense role. B group conducted operations in the Jammu-Chhamb sector. C group conducted a raid against a Pakistani artillery battery.
The 10th Para Commando battalion, which was also divided into the lettered combat groups, operated in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. The Battalion's A and C groups conducted raids against several Pakistani targets, including a jeep raid conducted by C group, on the Pakistani town of Islamkot.
During the late 1970's the Army authorized the formation of a third para commando battalion. The 1st Parachute Battalion was chosen, and was soon redesignated as the 1st Para Commando battalion Unlike the other two Para Commando Battalion's, the 1st Para commando battalion was not assigned a geographic specialty, but instead was designated as the Parachute Regiments strategic reserve force. During this same period Indian airborne units had been experimenting with military free fall parachuting techniques, developing a HALO/HAHO capability.
On in June of 1984, an 80 man element of 1st Para commando battalion was involved in Operation "Blue Star". Sikh separatists had fortified an area of stone buildings in Punjab known as the "Golden Temple". The Indian government ordered an operation to regain control of the area. After the initial unit assigned the task failed; a paramilitary commando unit of the Special Frontier Forces, the para commandos were order to take over. Tasked with leading the Army's assault on the complex and neutralizing Sikh machine gun positions the para commandos suffered heavy causalities, with over half the force being killed or wounded, but they were successful in fulfilling their mission.
In July of 1987 10th Para commando Bn was assigned to the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) deployed to the nation of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government had been conducting a counter insurgency campaign against Tamil guerrillas. Under pressure from India, Sri Lanka allowed the deployment of the IPKF, which was supposed to arrange the disarmament of the Tamil forces. Instead it only made matters worse, with Indian forces becoming involved in a number of clashes with Tamil forces. The situation came to a head when a group of Indian commandos was kidnapped, and killed by Tamil guerrillas. In retaliation the Indian government launched Operation Pawan.
By early 1988 the commandos had conducted several combat operations including a number of heliborne assaults. The Army came to the conclusion that each para commando unit should have some combat time under its belt and 10th Para Commando Battalion rotated home. Its replacement was the 9th Para commando battalion. The battalion conducted a number of counter insurgency sweeps, finding numerous arms caches and provided a close protection detail for the Indian High Commission in Colombo. The 9th Para commando was originally scheduled to rotate out in June of 1989 but had its tour extended to participate in an air assault operation. By March of 1990 the last remnants of the IPKF were withdrawn from Sri Lanka.
On November 3, 1988 the small island nation of the Maldives was captured by a force of Sri Lankan mercenaries. The Maldivian President requested assistance from the Indian government and a military force was dispatched to the island. Among the units that compromised this force was the 10th Para Cdo battalion The force was successful in regaining control of the island and spent the next several days hunting down the fleeing mercenaries.
On February 1, 1996 the latest addition to the Para Commando family was raised. The 21 Maratha Light Infantry was redesignated 21st Para commando battalion The unit is believed to specialize in jungle operations.
Within the Indian armed forces Para Commando units are collectively known as the special forces, and are commonly referred to as the special forces regiments. Para Commando training is conducted at Agra by the Indian Parachute Regiment. Prospective Para Commandos are selected from volunteers, and attached to their new unit for a probationary period of three months. During their probation they must complete an in-house training program and are constantly being evaluated by their peers. If they are successful in their training, the new commandos will be permanently assigned to their new unit. Once assigned the new commando is eligible to undertake a number of training courses including HAHO/HALO training and a combat diver course.
Para commando armaments are known to include licensee-built FN FAL assault rifles, and Sterling 9 mm SMGs. AK-47 assault Rifles, Browning High power 9 mm pistols, various grenades, knives and explosives of local manufacture are also used.