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India-Paramilitary and Reserve Forces

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Paramilitary Forces

In addition to the regular armed forces, India also has paramilitary forces. These forces have grown dramatically since independence. There are twelve paramilitary organizations, which have an authorized strength of around 1.3 million personnel. In 1994, their reported actual strength was 692,500. These organizations include the Coast Guard Organisation and the Defence Security Force, which are subordinate to the Ministry of Defence. Paramilitary forces subordinate to the Ministry of Home Affairs include the Assam Rifles, the Border Security Force, the Central Industrial Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and the Rashtriya Rifles (National Rifles). The National Security Guards, a joint antiterrorist contingency force, are charged with protection of high-level persons (the so-called very very important persons--VVIPs) and are subordinate to the Office of the Prime Minister (also sometimes known as the Prime Minister's Secretariat.) The guards are composed of elements of the armed forces, the Central Reserve Police Force, and the Border Security Force. The Special Frontier Force also is subordinate to the Office of the Prime Minister. The Railway Protection Force is subordinate to the Ministry of Railways. At the local level, there is the Provincial Armed Constabulary, which is controlled by the governments of the states and territories (see State and Other Police Services, this ch.).

During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, local police forces could not deal with the mounting array of sectarian, ethnic, and regional conflicts, and paramilitary forces were increasingly called on for assistance. In addition to security and guard duties, paramilitary organizations assist local and state-level police forces in maintaining public order and shield the army from excessive use in "aid-to-the-civil-power" operations. These operations essentially involve quelling public disorder when local police forces prove inadequate to the task.

The Coast Guard Organisation was constituted as an Armed Force of the Union in 1978 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence (although it is funded by the Ministry of Home Affairs), following its 1977 establishment as a temporary navy element. Its principal mission is to protect the country's maritime assets, particularly India's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and the marine resources contained in the area, which comprises nearly 2.8 million square kilometers. The coast guard is also responsible for the prevention of poaching and smuggling, the control of marine pollution, and carrying out search-and-rescue missions. Under the command of a director general, the coast guard is organized into three national maritime zones: the Western Maritime Zone, headquartered at Bombay; the Eastern Maritime Zone, headquartered at Madras; and the Andaman and Nicobar Maritime Zone, headquartered at Port Blair. The zones are further subdivided into district headquarters, one each for the eight maritime states on the mainland and two in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In times of emergency, the coast guard is expected to work with the navy. In the late 1980s, coast guard units from the eastern zone supported Indian peacekeeping efforts in Sri Lanka. The coast guard's equipment includes about fifty ships, nine helicopters, and thirteen fixed-wing aircraft (see table 38, Appendix).

Another Ministry of Defence paramilitary organization has a security mission. The Defence Security Force guards Ministry of Defence facilities throughout India.

The Border Security Force was established in the closing days of the 1965 Indo-Pakistani conflict. Its principal mission involves guarding the Indo-Pakistani line of actual control in Jammu and Kashmir as well as borders with Bangladesh and Burma. It works in internal security and counterinsurgency operations in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab. The border force has also been used to deal with communal rioting.

Another Ministry of Homes Affairs paramilitary force deployed in Jammu and Kashmir is the Rashtriya Rifles. In 1994 it had 5,000 troops, all of whom served in Jammu and Kashmir. Some observers expected the force to grow to thirty battalions, with around 25,000 personnel. In March 1995, Indian television referred to the Delta Force of the "fledgling" Rashtriya Rifles. It was reported that the force was operating against "terrorists" and "foreign mercenaries" in Doda District in south-central Jammu and Kashmir.

Founded in 1939, the Central Reserve Police Force is the country's oldest paramilitary organization. It maintains internal order when local and state-level forces prove inadequate to the task. The Central Reserve Police Force in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab has worked in counterinsurgency operations. This force also was dispatched to Sri Lanka during India's 1987-90 involvement there. The Ministry of Defence's weekly armed forces magazine, Sainik Samachar , reported that the Mahila Battalion (Women's Battalion) of the Central Reserve Police Force had "proved its mettle in hot warlike conditions in Sri Lanka," and had established women as "a force to reckon with" in the paramilitary.

Another significant paramilitary organization is the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, established in 1962 in the aftermath of the war with China. It is primarily responsible for the security of the border with China.

The Special Frontier Force, established in 1962 in the aftermath of the war with China, is less well publicized by the government. Apparently it is an elite, parachute-qualified commando unit, nominally subordinate to the army and deployed along sensitive areas of the border with China, and recruited partially from among border-area hill tribes and Tibetan refugees. The Special Frontier Force also appears to have a domestic security role; members of the force were involved in the Golden Temple siege in 1984. In 1994 its reported strength was 3,000, making it one of the smallest paramilitary forces.

Data as of September 1995

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