In the latest development in the India-China border standoff, the Indian Navy has deployed its elite Marine Commandos (MARCOS) near Pangong Lake in Eastern Ladakh.
The move comes months after India deployed its secret Special Frontier Force in the region. India’s external spy agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), exercises control over SFF, which consists mainly of Tibetan and Gorkha paratroopers trained in mountain warfare.
Indian news agency ANI reported that the MARCOS personnel will serve along with their Air Force and Army colleagues, who have been in Ladakh since the hostilities began in the region seven months ago.
According to experts, the latest deployment will enhance the interoperability and cooperation among the three forces, and would also boost the operational capabilities of the newly formed Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD).
“The MARCOS have been deployed in the Pangong lake area where the Indian and Chinese forces have been engaged in a conflict situation since April-May timeframe this year,” the news agency reported quoting government officials. The commandos would get new boats and infrastructure ‘for operations in the lake’.
However, it isn’t the first time the MARCOS are deployed in the Himalayas. These frogmen are combat-hardened and one of the most reliable special forces units India has. It was back in 1996 that the Indian Government decided to deploy the unit to secure the Wular Lake in Jammu & Kashmir, and since then, the commandos have proved their mettle in their combat skills.
To merge with the local population and carry out special operations, the MARCOS personnel are allowed to grow beard upon Kashmir deployment- earning them the name ‘Dadhiwala Fauji’ (bearded soldiers).
The ANI report also said that the special unit of the IAF – Garud – had moved to hilltops on strategic heights in the Eastern Ladakh armed with Igla MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense System) to counter any aerial aggression by the Chinese PLA and prevent sudden surprises.
The Garuds have been deployed in the region since 2016 in order to gain operational exposure, and have participated in many encounters in the valley along with the Indian Army and paramilitary forces. The move was initiated by the then-Army Chief and now Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat.
The force has earned many gallantry medals, including one Ashok Chakra, three Shaurya Chakras among others for various engagements, including eliminating a team of terrorists led by the nephew of 26/11 terrorist Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
The special forces have been pivotal in the operations conducted recently, including the more-known one that happened during the intervening nights of 29-30 August when the Indian Armed Forces captured additional strategic heights, including Black Top.