Furious preparations are under way in New Delhi for raids in Pakistan in reprisal for the Pakistan-based terrorist assault on Mumbai on Nov. 26. They are directed by defense minister A.K. Antony and chief of army staff Gen. Deepak Kapoor, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources reveal.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh gave visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice a mixed message when they talked in New Delhi on Wednesday, Dec. 3. He assured her that his government would do its best to prevent a war flaring up with Pakistan. But he also made it clear that India would have to retaliate militarily for the Mumbai outrage – not by a one-off operation but a string of raids against extremist Islamic terror groups operating from Pakistani bases. Among them were Lashkar e-Taibe, which is accused of the Mumbai assault, and Jaish e-Mohammed. Both are linked both to rogue elements in the ISI and al Qaeda.
Any further terror escalation, Singh stated, would be met with still stronger Indian military action
Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee underlined this point after the American secretary's departure when he said that Indian officials are in no doubt that the Mumbai assailants came from Pakistan.
Singh also made it clear to his American visitor that India did not mean to hit government or military targets in Pakistan, but he refrained from offering any commitments on three points:
India prepares commando drops, air strikes, missile barrages
1. Should information be received of any Pakistani military installation harboring Islamic terrorists or providing them with logistic support, the Indian army would strike those installations unhesitatingly.
2. The Indian army would not limit its operations to any particular area but strike where it saw fit.
3. The Indian government offered no undertaking to notify Washington in advance of an operation or even share the intelligence prompting an incursion into Pakistan territory.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources have procured an outline of the tactics for these operations drawn up by India's strategic planners:
A. Indian special forces raiders will be flown in and dropped over terrorist command posts and sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Large-scale commando and air contingents will secure the raiders on missions against terrorist locations embedded in urban districts against local intervention.
B. Aerial bombardment of terrorist sites, even at the risk of dogfights with the Pakistani air force.
C. Missile barrages on bases and training installations of terrorist groups similar to the 1998 twin American attacks on al Qaeda installations in Afghanistan and Sudan.
New Delhi is in a hurry
It is hard to imagine president Asif Ali Zardari and prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani letting a missile blitz go by without ordering the Pakistani army to hit back; chief of army staff, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, would not stand for it and he would no doubt go ahead with a counter-attack in defiance of the politicians.
Already, our sources report that Zardari, Gilani and Kayani are at loggerheads.
The general disputes the government line which leans toward cooperating with the Indian investigation of the terrorist attacks. He wants Islamabad to stand up to New Delhi, flatly deny allegations of ISI implication and confront India with a troop buildup on their border. India should realize, he contends, that any military action would meet with armed Pakistani resistance.
D. Indian special marine forces would make seaborne landings at terrorist locations on the Pakistani coast, possibly by submarine.
E. Drones would use laser-guided missiles like the American Predators striking terrorist sanctuaries on the Pakistani-Afghan border.
F. Covert Indian death squads would liquidate high-profile terrorist leaders in Pakistani cities.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that India's political and military leaders know that time is not on their side. They cannot afford to wait to go after Pakistan until after they have corrected the glaring blunders and failings revealed in the operation against the terrorists who held Mumbai to siege for three days because the public is too angry to brook delays. India is therefore preparing to go full ahead full tilt with military reprisals – even at the risk of igniting a major war conflagration with Pakistan.
Commando units expanded six fold
For now, India's war planners are focusing on the rapid, large-scale expansion of commando units until they have enough to carry out deep incursions into Pakistan while also defending the home front against more terrorist attacks. A six fold expansion has been approved.
Under consideration is a separate air wing on permanent standby for counter-terror forces to improve their mobility.
Also planned is an armed coastal defense force to seal India's shores against terrorist landings like the seaborne terrorist incursion of Mumbai. This is a vast enterprise given the length of India's coastline – 7,516 kilometers.
New Delhi is looking at two examples: the US Coast Guard, which protects American shores and ports but cannot seal them hermetically, and Israel, whose navy uses missile vessels and coastal radar to seal its shores.
India is also planning a new intelligence system after its Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) failed to sound the alarm of the coming assault on its financial capital.
All these projects demand many billions and time counted in years before a national security machine is standing and fully coordinated.
India's special forces have six arms:
Para Commandos, an elite unit of the Indian Army;
The Marine Commando Force (MCF), special forces of the Indian Navy;
The planned campaign of retaliation against Pakistan will speed up the establishment of a blue-water intervention force capable of conducting covert operations and specialized warfare outside Indian borders. The framework is present but it is too small to meet India's post-Mumbai requirements;
Garud Commando Force, special Indian Air force units trained mainly in Special Forces tactics, Combat Search and Rescue, Counter Insurgency Operations and emergency responses to terrorist threats to airfields;
The National Security Guards (NSG), rated as one of the most professional units of its kind in Asia.
It fills the following functions: neutralization of specific terrorist threats to vital installations in any given area; handling hijack situations involving air or land piracy; engaging and neutralizing terrorists; and the rescue of hostages in kidnap situations;
The Special Frontier Force (SFF), an elite guerrilla unit originally composed mainly of Tibetan refugees trained to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines in the event of another Indo-China war. It has since been converted to covert cross-border operations on any front as needed;
The Special Protection Group protects Indian VIPs, like the prime minister. Recruits include NSG commandos and police who receive similar training to that of the American Secret Service.