Defence National

When para commandos won enemy’s respect

When 120 Indian para commandos landed inside Pakistani territory in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir during the 1971 war, even the enemy had applauded the “excellent work by the boys” in a post-war flag meeting.

The men from 9 Para, a special-forces unit of the Army’s Parachute Regiment, had entered 15-to-20 kilometres deep into Pakistan and destroyed its artillery guns. Nearly 60 Pakistani troops were killed and those who fled their posts were court martialled. This first raid behind the enemy lines, which the future leaders of the army read about in military academies, forced the Pakistan army to raise a second line of defence for its artillery, changing its military doctrine.

Recalling the war, Colonel K D Pathak (retd), then a captain and second-in-command (2IC) of the raiding company, said: “During the night of December 13, 1971, my unit was assigned the task of destroying Pakistani artillery guns deployed near Mandhol village, 19 km southwest of Poonch. These six 122-milimetre Chinese guns of the Pakistani battery were creating trouble for our 93 and 120 infantry brigades.

The 9 Para unit was then posted at Nangi Tekri (naked hill), 4,665 feet above the sea level, in the Poonch sector.” Colonel Pathak, now 77, remembers how the company of six officers and 120 men led by Major C M Malhotra started around 5.30pm on “that cold night”. “We had to cross neck-deep water of the Poonch river to reach Mandhol, which we found to be deserted. After locating the guns, the party split into six groups, one to take down each target. In a fierce battle with the enemy, we blew up all its guns with 3-to-5 kg timer explosives powered by pencil cells and put inside the barrels. Many Pakistani soldiers were killed. Several fled. We lost only two men, while 20 were wounded,” said the veteran.

One of the founders of the Indian special forces, Colonel Pathak said most difficult task was to return safely with 20 wounded soldiers and the body of another. They finished it at 6.30am next day. The colonel who retired in 1992 said this surprise raid had shattered the local Pakistani line of defence. “It was precise, calculated, and successful operation inside the enemy territory,” he said. “After the war, even the military delegation from Pakistan praised the professionalism of the Indian troops who had carried out the operation.” Sidelights of the operation ‘Pakistanis’ who held their post Returning from the operation, the unit saw abandoned mules of the Pakistani army but when it tried to take these along, the loyal animal refused to move an inch Earning Pakistani commendation.

The success of 9 Para was recognised only when the Pakistan Army delegation narrated after the ceasefire what damage the unit had done at Mandhol Changed the art of war. Learning a lesson from this setback, the Pakistani army raised a second line of defence for its artillery guns, which meant changing its military doctrine.

About para commandos :

Para (Special Forces) is a special forces unit of the Indian Army’s Parachute Regiment tasked with missions such as special operations, direct action, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, counter-proliferation, counter-insurgency, seek and destroy and personnel recovery. The unit’s heritage stems from World War II, with the creation of the 50th Parachute Brigade in October 1941.

Motto(s) “Men apart, every man an emperor”

Engagements

  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
  • Operation Blue Star
  • Operation Cactus
  • Operation Pawan
  • Kashmiri hostage taking 1995
  • Kargil War
  • Operation Rakshak
  • Operation Khukri
  • COIN Operation in Samba
  • Operation Summer Storm 2009
  • 2015 Hot pursuit, Myanmar
  • 2016 India–Pakistan military confrontation

1971 Indo-Pakistan War

The unit (Para-Commandos, Indian Army) first saw action in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, the first six-man assault team was inserted 240 kilometres (150 miles) deep into Indus and Charchao, where they carried out raids. The assault team killed 473 and wounded 140 on the Pakistani side. In addition, they also destroyed 35mm artillery guns of the Pakistan independent battery, and took 18 members of the elite Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army hostage. They also destroyed an airfield. In Bangladesh 2 PARA (Airborne), which was a part of 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade, carried out India’s first airborne assault operation to capture Poongli Bridge in Mymensingh District near Dhaka. Subsequently, they were the first unit to enter Dhaka. For this action 2 PARA were given the Battle Honour of Poongli Bridge and the Theater Honour Dhaka.

Operation Bluestar 1984

In 1984 the Para (SF) were involved in Operation Blue Star. They were charged to lead an attack on the Holy Site of the Sikh religion the Golden Temple to evict Sikh militants in Punjab. 80 members of 1 Para (SF) were given the task of assaulting two areas of the temple, one of which required divers. However, there were a number of setbacks as a result of inaccurate intelligence on the strength of the militants who were trained by Gen. Shabeg Singh (ex- 1 Para himself), operating in low light, the conventional manner of the raid, and the lack of incentive, all of which resulted in a mission failure. The diver mission was aborted after the first team got bogged down. The commandos achieved their aims after a gunfight with militants that lasted hours.

Sri Lanka 1987

The late 1980s saw the Para (SF) in action in Sri Lanka, as part of Operation Pawan. However, the lack of proper planning by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), and insufficient intelligence on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) whereabouts, caused the initial heli-borne assault on Jaffna University on 11 October 1987 to be a tragic failure. However it was because of the efforts of the Para (SF) that later led to the capture of the Jaffna peninsula, forcing the LTTE militants to take refuge in the forests.

Six soldiers lost their lives in that ill-fated mission. Due to their superior training, the Para (SF) took refuge under a house, after they were mislead by a youth who offered his services to help the commandos track Velupillai Prabhakaran but instead took them on a wild goose chase. They engaged the enemy for a full 24 hours and picked up all their dead with their weapons after reinforcements arrived the next morning.After the failed assault on Jaffna City, the 10 Para (SF) participated in a heli-borne assault on the town of Moolai 23 kilometres (14 miles) to the north west in November 1987. More than 200 LTTE guerrillas were killed and an arms depot seized. In order to give the commandos battle experience, 1 Para (SF) was rotated home in early 1988 and replaced by 9 Para (SF).This battalion was scheduled to return home in June 1988, but the tour of duty was extended due to a planned air assault into the coastal swamps around Mullaittivu. The mission was a success, in that it located several arms caches. The 9 Para (SF) also provided 12 men for the security of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

Operation Cactus 1988, Maldives

With the capture of Maldives, an island nation off the south western coast of India, on 3 November 1988 by the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) mercenaries, the army turned to the 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade to carry out an airborne/air transported operation to liberate the country and return power to the legal government. This operation had 6 PARA spearheading the mission. 6 Para flew in on 4 November 1988 in a fleet of IL-76, An-32 and An-12 transport aircraft. One team rescued the president, another took over the airfield, and a third rescued Maldivian security personnel besieged in the National Security Service HQ. Later 7 Para and part of 17 Para Field Regiment were also deployed to the Maldives. When mercenaries tried to escape by sea along with hostages, they were intercepted by the Indian navy. Thus, 6 Para, and the 17 Para Field Regiment conducted the first-ever international intervention by the Indian army without any loss of life.

Kashmiri hostage-taking, 4 July 1995

In 1995, Para (SF) took part in mission to rescue the six Western tourists kidnapped on 4 July by Al-Faran, a Kashmiri Islamist militant organisation.[citation needed] None of hostages were rescued, but the operation resulted in the death of Al-Faran leader Abdul Hamid Turki and four other Al-Faran members.

1999 Kargil War

In 1999 nine out of ten Parachute battalions were deployed for Operation Vijay in Kargil, which bears testimony to the operational profile of the Regiment. While the Parachute Brigade cleared the Mushkoh Valley intrusions, 5 PARA was actively involved in the forgotten sector of Batalik, where it exhibited great courage and tenacity, and was awarded the Chief of Army Staff (COASS) Unit Citation.

Operation Khukri 2000, Sierra Leone

Operation Khukri was a rescue mission conducted by the 2 PARA (SF) in Sierra Leone in June 2000. About 90 operators commanded by Major (now Lt. Col.) Harinder Sood were airlifted from New Delhi to spearhead the mission to rescue 223 men of the 5/8 Gurkha Rifles who were surrounded and held captive by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels for over 75 days, just 90 Para (SF) forced 2000-5000 members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) divided into 5 battalions to surrender. This ultimately led to the liberation of Freetown

Operation Summer Storm 2009

On 11 April 11 2009, the 57 Mountain Division of the Indian Army based in Manipur, Para Commandoes along with the para-military Assam Rifles and State Police, launched a counter insurgency operation, codenamed “Operation Summer Storm” in the Loktak Lake region and adjoining Loktak Lake in Bishnupur District, located south of State capital of Imphal. The first major mobilisation of troops in 2009 ended on 21 April. As the troops began pulling out, an Army spokesperson described the operation as a success, disclosing that 129 militants, all belonging to the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) were killed. The Forces also claimed to have located and destroyed five militant camps during the Operation and seized 10 weapons, including sixty nine AK-series rifles, forty eight rocket launchers, and an unspecified quantity of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). No militant was arrested. No fatalities among the Special Force (SF) personnel or civilians was reported.

Ongoing Counter-insurgency Operations (COIN) in Jammu and Kashmir and the Eastern States.

Paratroopers and Para (SF) have conducted thousands of counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and the eastern states in India. Sometimes these units work with the Rashtriya Rifles (COIN force) in complicated operations. Since the mid-1990s, the role of Paratroopers and Para (SF) as a counter terrorism force has increased substantially. They are now actively involved in counter terrorist (CT) and COIN operations in Kashmir as an essential part of the Home Ministry’s decision to conduct pro-active raids against militants in the countryside and mountains. Personnel include Para (SF), Paratroopers (Airborne), National Security Guards (NSG) and special units of the Rashtriya Rifles – a paramilitary unit created for counter insurgency operations in Kashmir. They may also include MARCOS personnel, many of whom are seconded to the Army for CT operations.

Counter-terrorist operation in Samba

On 26 September 2013, terrorists dressed in Army fatigues stormed a police station and then an Army camp in the Jammu region killing 10 people, including an Army officer, in twin fidayeen attacks. The terrorists sneaked across the border early on Thursday, barely three days ahead of a meeting between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan. The attack was on a police station. The 16 Cavalry unit of the Army in Samba district falls under the jurisdiction of 9 corps, headquartered at Yol Cantonment in Himachal Pradesh. The three heavily armed terrorists, believed to be from the group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), were holed up in the cavalry armoured unit’s camp at Samba for several hours after they barged into the Officers mess, until they were killed during a fierce gunfight with 1 Para (SF) of the army. The bodies of the three terrorists aged between 16 and 19 were in the custody of the Army.

Authorities moved commandos of 1 Para (SF) in helicopters to the shootout site. The Para (SF) commandos first carried out an aerial reconnaissance of the camp before landing to neutralize the three terrorists. The 1 Para (SF) had identified the exact spot during the aerial reconnaissance from where the intruders were returning the army fire. After landing, the commandos started engaging the terrorists in a direct gunfight, but in order to give them an impression that their exact hiding location had still not been identified, an abandoned building inside the camp was blasted. This made the terrorists complacent thinking that their hiding spot had not been yet been pin-pointed. They kept on intermittently returning army fire until all three of them were eliminated. The entire operation, from the moment the terrorists entered the camp until they were gunned down, took nearly nine hours to complete. The main worry of the soldiers tasked to eliminate the terrorists was the Army Public School situated some distance from the place where the terrorists had been engaged in a sustained firefight. Army men were worried about the possibility of the terrorists moving into the school and taking children and staff as hostage. For this reason, the operation to eliminate the terrorists was carried out with extreme caution and patience.

Counterinsurgency operation in Myanmar 2015

Based on Precise intelligence inputs, the Indian Air Force and 21 para (SF) carried a cross-border operation along the Indo-Myanmar border and destroyed two militant camps one each of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (K) (NSCN) and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL). The operations were carried out inside Myanmar territory along the Nagaland and Manipur border at two locations. One of the locations was near Ukhrul in Manipur. The army attacked two militants’ transit camps.

70 commandos were reportedly involved in the operation. The commandos, equipped with assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and night vision goggles, were divided into two groups after they fast roped from Dhruv helicopters just inside the Indian territory near the border with Myanmar. The teams trekked through the thick jungles for at least 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) before they reached the training camps. Each of the teams was further divided into two sub-groups. While one was responsible for the direct assault, the second formed an outer ring to prevent any of insurgents from running and escaping. The actual operation (hitting the camp and destroying it) took about 40 minutes. Indian Air Force Mil Mi-17 helicopters were put on standby, ready to be pressed into service to evacuate the commandos in case anything went wrong. In its statement after the operation, the Indian Army said it was in communication with Myanmar and that, “There is a history of close cooperation between our two militaries. We look forward to working with them to combat such terrorism.”

The Indian Army claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties (158 reported) on the attackers behind the ambush of the Army on 4 June, which claimed the lives of 18 Army jawans (soldiers) of 6 Dogra Regiment from the Chandel district of Manipur. This has been noted as the largest attack on the Indian Army after the Kargil war of 1999.

Surgical strikes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir

On 29 September 2016, India said the strike targeted areas close to the Line of Control (LoC), where it believes militants congregate for their final briefings before sneaking across it into India. An Indian security source said the operation began with Indian forces firing artillery across the frontier to provide cover for three to four teams of 70–80 commandos from 4 and 9 Para (Special Forces) to cross the LoC at several points shortly after midnight IST on 29 September (18:30 hours UTC, 28 Sept.). Teams from 4 Para SF crossed the LoC in the Nowgam sector of Kupwara district, with teams from 9 Para SF simultaneously crossing the LoC in Poonch district. By 2 a.m. IST, according to army sources, the special forces teams had travelled 1 km (0.62 mi) – 3 km (1.9 mi) on foot, and had begun destroying the terrorist bases with hand-held grenade and 84 mm rocket launchers. The teams then swiftly returned to the Indian side of the LoC, suffering only one casualty, a soldier wounded after tripping a land mine.

The Indian army said the strike was a pre-emptive attack on the militants’ bases, claiming that it had received intelligence that the militants were planning “terrorist strikes” against India. India said that, in destroying “terrorist infrastructure” it also attacked “those who are trying to support them,” indicating it also attacked Pakistani soldiers. India later briefed opposition parties and foreign envoys, but did not disclose operational details. However, the Pakistan army dismissed the claim stating that Indian troops had not crossed the LoC but had only skirmished with Pakistani troops at the border, resulting in the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers and the wounding of nine.

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