New Delhi: Soon India will have its own elite commandos from all the three services — the Army, Navy and Air Force — to carry out classified, covert operations and anti-terrorist missions. The synergy between the three forces would be useful to meet future warfare needs and significantly upgrade India’s ability to carry out covert operations across borders. This planned initiative would combine assets of the Marcos (Navy), Garuds (Air Force) and Para Special Forces (Army).

The move is to bring together the core strength and best commandos of each force and form a new, lethal force. The unit will be on the lines of the US Special Operations Command, which was responsible for killing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Recruitment for the tri-services special operations division is underway. The unit will initially have 150-200 commandos which will be further increased to 2,000-30,000. The number of commandos from the Army will be more than that from the two other services. 

The division will work under the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), which is responsible for maintaining a synergy in the functioning of the three forces, and is headed by an officer of Major General rank. At present, all the three services have their special forces but work separately. With a combined force, the best of commandos can be trained together, where they can share their expertise.

Once the division becomes functional, the plan is to bring together the commandos from the three services to a central place or station for joint training to conduct special missions during peacetime and war. They will be trained to launch missions at short notice.

According to officials, the Army will play an eminent role as it has the most experienced professionals for such missions. The unit will also have its own dedicated helicopters, transport planes and specialised weaponry besides surveillance equipment for carrying out strategic missions.

The specialised teams will be engaged in missions of strategic importance. They will be responsible for conducting operations within the country and on foreign soil. Recently India carried out air strikes in Pakistan's Balakot and had earlier undertaken surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Their missions would include targeting strategic installations and high-value targets as far as terrorists are concerned, and cripple the warfighting capabilities of the enemy.

The idea to have such a division — earlier planned to be called the Special Operations Command — was mooted by the Naresh Chandra Committee, formed in 2012, and several military officials after the US Special Operations Command carried out the raid to kill bin Laden deep inside Pakistan. Officials felt that the Indian forces should have similar capabilities and a combined command of commandos of the three services for conducting sensitive missions within and outside the boundaries of the country.

Major General AK Dhingra has been appointed as the first chief of the Armed Forces Special Operations Division. Maj Gen Dhingra is a Special Forces veteran and is from the elite 1 Para Special Forces Regiment. He has done Special Operations courses in the US also and has been appointed as the first chief of the AFSOD