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Indian Para SF vs Pakistani SSG Commandos – Whom Would You Bet-On In A Rescue Operation?

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Indian Para-SF vs Pakistans’ SSG commandos – The comparisons are inevitable. The Indian Para-SF has generally been praised for its agility and ability to penetrate deep into enemy territory while the Pakistani SSG or Special Services Group have been lauded for being a battle-hardened unit who have demolished staunchest of the enemies. 

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On 29 September 2016, India announced that it conducted “surgical strikes” against terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and inflicted “significant casualties”.

Indian Army commandos, not the elite Para-SF, went 38 kilometres deep inside Pakistan-controlled -Kashmir and claimed to demolished seven terror launch pads and transit camps of militants. All were reportedly within two to three kilometre of the Line of Control (LoC). The surgical strikes were carried out in Bhimber, Hotspring, Tattapani, Kel and Lipa sectors on Pakistan’s side of the LoC.

However, Pakistan too has a similar commando force that is the SSG. The EurAsian Times compares the Indian Para-SF with the Pakistan SSG commandos and evaluates how the special forces of India and Pakistan match or unmatch each other.

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1) India’s Para Commandos (Para-SF)

The Para-SF heritage stems from World War II, with the creation of the 50th Parachute Brigade in October 1941. 9 Para SF, raised in 1966 as 9th Parachute Commando Battalion. The first para commando battalion was raised in 1966, and, by 1968, it was split into two — 9 Para (Special Forces / SF) and 10 Para.

Para SF vs SSG Commandos

Para SF – Special Forces of India

According to the experts talking to the Eurasian Times, “9 Para was meant for Jammu and Kashmir whereas 10 Para was meant for border operations in Rajasthan.”

The first test of the Para SF came with Operation Mandhol in the western sector during the 1971 war over Bangladesh. Pakistan had artillery guns positioned near Mandhol village in Poonch and 9 Para SF were tasked with the mission to  destroy them. The Indian elite commandos carried out the operation, completing it in less than 24 hours.

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The 2015 Myanmar operation was carried out by 21 Special Forces, set up in the 1990s from the 21st battalion of the Maratha regiment.

Training of Indian Para SF

The initial training to become a Para SF commando is 3.5 years, the longest anywhere, but the training is also a continuous process. In the Special Forces, the members are imparted both basic and advanced training.

They are taught specialised modes of infiltration and exfiltration, either by air (combat freefall) or sea (combat diving). Some trainees return to PTS to undergo the free-fall course, which requires at least 50 jumps from altitudes up to 33,500 feet (10,200 metres) to pass. Both High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) and High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) techniques are learned.

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The Parachute Regiment presently has nine Special Forces, five Airborne, two Territorial Army and one Counter-Insurgency (Rashtriya Rifles) battalions in its fold. The initial phase is a three-month probationary training of physical fitness and aptitude test and it is so gruesome that more than 80% of the applicants drop out.

Those who successfully complete the test are subjected to a five-week-long process called the ‘hell’s week’ where commandos are put through extreme sleep deprivation coupled with the most difficult physical tasks, like shooting a target 25 meters away with a man standing next to it. These commandos are even capable of firing while lying down, standing, running full-sprint, even backwards and looking into a mirror – with a reaction time of 0.27 seconds.

The para commandos are being trained with almost every type of infantry weapon required for particular missions: from high-end automatic pistols to assault rifles like small arms guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers etc.

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Pakistan’s SSG and SNG

The Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG), also called the Maroon Berets is the special operations force of the Pakistan Army tasked with their five primary missions: foreign internal defence, reconnaissance, direct actions, counter-terrorism, and the unconventional warfare– their most important mission.

The Special Services Group (SSG) boasts of prooven combat experiences in Yemen, India, and Afghanistan. In 2010, 300 commandos of the SSG assisted Saudi Arabia and Yemen in combating the Houthi rebels in the region.

In October 2009, SSG commandos stormed an office building and rescued 39 people taken hostage by suspected Taliban militants after an attack on the army’s headquarters.

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The Special Service Group Navy of Pakistan performs some of the country’s most secret missions. The members of the group are regularly sent to the US Navy SEALs for training. With a dropout rate of 80-90 per cent, the group has one of the most stringent training routines in the world.

Training of SSG

The training courses in the Pakistani SSG emphasize strong physical conditioning and mental fitness, including the strategic thinking quiz and a 36-mile march in 12 hours.

The curriculum of the basic military training course included the mastery in Judo and Karateka, special weapons training, military navigation, and handling and disarming of the chemical explosives, survival skill training.

There are schools of special warfare that the trainee soldier chooses: Snow and High Altitude School, Mountain Warfare School, Airborne Warfare School, Desert Warfare School, Sniper School, and Frogman School.

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These schools offer the advanced training courses which run for an additional 25–30 weeks and only successfully passed out personnel are awarded badges of their specialized fields by their specialized school faculty. The dropout rates of SSG (Army) are 85 to 90 per cent due to the extremely tough training process.

The SSG has equipped itself with the latest and most advanced weapons. It has a wide arsenal to suit its needs. It includes the famed Heckler and Koch submachine guns, sniper weapons, G3s, Finnish Tikka bolt actions. Pistols in use are Austrian 9mm Glock 15, the Berretta M9 (M92F), the SIG Pro 226 apart from the latest FN-Herstal P90 SMG – reserved for very high-risk applications.

Verdict: SSG vs Para-SF

There is no official agency or rankings which could compare Indian Para SF with the Pakistani SSG commandos. Both the special forces have not really come face to face, unless in covert operations, which is unknown to the EurAsian Times.

Going by the secondary research conducted by the EurAsian Times, the general consensus of the Indian Para-SF comes as an elite, well trained, spirited, and heavily equipped commandos who go through one of the world’s hardest training program. The raw energy, determination and fearlessness of the Para-SF is incomparable.

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The Pakistan SSG commandos just like the Indian Para-SF demonstrate of raw energy, fearlessness and brute approach. The Pakistani SSG commandos, however, are definitely more battle-hardened than the ParaSF and see a lot of action, while the Indian commandos are unquestionably better trained and equipped but see very little action, despite being used in Kashmir for counter-insurgency operations.

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Pakistan Unhappy Over The Arrest, Expulsion Of ‘Spy Diplomats’ By India

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India recently expelled two officials of the Pakistan high commission after they were arrested by the security forces on charges of espionage, the Indian external affairs ministry said.

According to reports, three officials of the Pakistani mission were detained on Sunday while allegedly trying to obtain classified information on the Indian security establishment. The Indian move came as tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are already high.

The three men initially reportedly insisted that they were Indians and even displayed fake Aadhar cards, the officials said. “Later, during interrogation, they admitted they were officials at the Pakistan high commission and worked for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),” according to reports in the Indian media.

A case was registered against them under the Official Secrets Act. Consequently, the government ordered the expulsion of Abid and Khan, who both work for the visa section at the Pakistani mission.

“The government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission and asked them to leave the country within twenty-four hours,” read an official handout issued by the Indian foreign ministry, which also summoned the Pakistani chargé d’affaires on the issue.

But within hours of the Indian move, Pakistan reacted sharply and denounced the expulsion of its diplomats. “The Indian action has been accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda,” said a foreign office statement.

The statement said the two staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were detained by the Indian authorities on “false and unsubstantiated charges.” They were, however, released on intervention by the High Commission.

“We condemn the detention and torture as well as threatening and pressuring of the diplomatic officials to accept false charges,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui. She said Pakistan strongly rejected the baseless Indian allegations and condemned the Indian action calling it a violation of the Vienna Convention.

“The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi has always worked within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms. The Indian action is clearly aimed at shrinking diplomatic space for the working of Pakistan High Commission,” she added.

Later, Indian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office for a demarche over declaring two officials of Pakistan High Commission persona non grata.

“The Indian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office for a strong demarche, conveying Pakistan’s condemnation of the Indian decision to declare two officials of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi persona non grata and rejection of all baseless Indian allegations against the High Commission officials,” a Foreign Office statement stated.

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China Warns India Of Economical Repercussions If It Supports The US In Cold War Against China

China’s aim of upholding friendly ties with India hasn’t changed, so Beijing will still provide assistance to India by boosting bilateral partnership to help its economic recovery and expanding bilateral trade ties.

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As US-China tensions intensify, Chinese state media – Global Times writes that many experts are predicting that both nations are set to enter a Cold War and advises India to stay away from US-China rivalry.

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GT writes – with sentiment building in India, many experts have urged New Delhi to join the new Cold War and utilise the situation. Such senseless opinions are nothing but ridiculous and should not influence the Indian government’s position.

GT claims that India has little to gain from interfering in US-China dispute and Modi government needs to face the new geopolitical development objectively and reasonably. India needs to be cautious not to include the US factor in its approach with China.

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The same holds true in China-India border conflict and the offer of US arbitration is worthless as both China and India have the ability to resolve their problems bilaterally.

In a possible US-China Cold War, India must not favour the US or becomes a US pawn against China as it would deteriorate economic ties between both the nations and the Indian economy may not be able to take ‘financial hit’ at such time, GT cautions.

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China’s aim of upholding friendly ties with India hasn’t changed, so Beijing will still provide assistance to India by boosting bilateral partnership to help its economic recovery and expanding bilateral trade ties.

GT warns that China doesn’t want to see a situation where politics leads to financial consequences, so Modi government is encouraged to view the India-China ties with the practical mindset instead of being lured by nationalist sentiment.

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Israel-China Relations: How Israel Is Getting Caught Between US-China Rivalry? Analysis

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Israel knew the drill even before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boarded his flight to Tel Aviv earlier this month four days after the death of his father. It was Pompeo’s first and only overseas trip since March.

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Echoing a US warning two decades ago that Israeli dealings with China jeopardized the country’s relationship with the United States, Pompeo’s trip solidified Israel’s position at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide.

Two decades ago the issue was the potential sale to China of Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). Israel backed out of the deal after the US threatened withdrawal of American support for the Jewish state.

This month the immediate issue was a Chinese bid for construction of the world’s largest desalination plant and on the horizon a larger US-Chinese battle for a dominating presence in Eastern Mediterranean ports.

Within days of his visit, Pompeo scored a China-related success even if the main focus of his talks with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was believed to be Iran and Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Israel signalled that it had heard the secretary’s message by awarding the contract for the Sorek-2 desalination plant to an Israeli rather than a Chinese company.

The tender, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

China’s interest in Israel is strategic given the fact that the Jewish state is one of the world’s foremost commercial, food and security technology powerhouses and one of the few foreign countries to command significant grassroots support in the United States.

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If there is one thing Israel cannot afford, it is a rupture in its bonds to the United States. That is no truer than at a time in which the United States is the only power supportive of Israeli annexation plans on the West Bank.

The question is whether Israel can develop a formula that convinces the United States that US interests will delineate Israeli dealings with China and reassure China that it can still benefit from Israeli assets within those boundaries.

“Right now, without taking the right steps, we are looking at being put in the situation in which the US is telling us we need to cut or limit our relations with China. The problem is that Israel wants freedom of relations with China but is not showing it really understands US concerns. Sorek-2 was a good result. It shows the Americans we get it.” said Carice Witte, executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL) that seeks to advance Israeli-Chinese relations.

Analysts, including Witte, believe that there is a silver lining in Israel’s refusal to award the desalination plant to a Chinese company that would allow it to steer a middle course between the United States and China.

“China understands that by giving the Americans this win, China-Israel relations can continue. It gives them breathing room,” Witte said in an interview.

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It will, however, be up to Israel to develop criteria and policies that accommodate the United States and make clear to China what Israel can and cannot do.

“In order for Israel to have what it wants… it’s going to need to show the Americans that it takes Washington’s strategic perceptions into consideration and not only that, that it’s two steps ahead on strategic thinking with respect to China.  The question is how.”  Witte said.

Ports and technology are likely to be focal points.

China is set to next year takeover the management of Haifa port where it has already built its own pier and is constructing a new port in Ashdod.

One way of attempting to address US concerns would be to include technology companies in the purview of a still relatively toothless board created under US pressure in the wake of the Haifa deal to review foreign investment in Israel. It would build in a safeguard against giving China access to dual civilian-military use technology.

That, however, may not be enough to shield Israel against increased US pressure to reduce Chinese involvement in Israeli ports.

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“The parallels between the desalination plant and the port are just too close to ignore. We can’t have another infrastructure divide,” Witte said.

The two Israeli ports will add to what is becoming a Chinese string of pearls in the Eastern Mediterranean.

China already manages the Greek port of Piraeus.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) is looking at upgrading Lebanon’s deep seaport of Tripoli to allow it to accommodate larger vessels.

Qingdao Haixi Heavy-Duty Machinery Co. has sold Tripoli port two 28-storey container cranes capable of lifting and transporting more than 700 containers a day, while a container vessel belonging to Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO docked in Tripoli in December 2018, inaugurating a new maritime route between China and the Mediterranean.

Major Chinese construction companies are also looking at building a railroad that would connect Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon to Homs and Aleppo in Syria.  China has further suggested that Tripoli could become a special economic zone within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and serve as an important trans-shipment point between the People’s Republic and Europe.

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BRI is a massive infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven effort to connect the Eurasian landmass to China. Potential Chinese involvement in the reconstruction of post-war Syria would likely give it access to the ports of Latakia and Tartous.

Taken together, China is looking at dominating the Eastern Mediterranean with six ports in four countries, Israel, Greece, Lebanon, and Syria that would create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All that is missing are Turkish, Cypriot and Egyptian ports.

The Chinese build-up threatens to complicate US and NATO’s ability to manoeuvre in the region.

The Trump administration has already warned Israel that Chinese involvement in Haifa could jeopardize continued use of the port by the US fifth fleet.

“The writing is on the wall. Israel needs to carve out a degree of wiggle room. That, however, will only come at a price. There is little doubt that Haifa will move into the firing line,” said a long-time observer of Israeli-Chinese relations.

James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

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