M A I N   N E W S

Meet Marcos, India’s version of Seals
Indian naval marine force has carried out joint exercises with US counterparts
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 7
Away from the public glare, the Indian Navy, in the past two decades, has prepared its own special forces on the pattern of the US Navy Seals-the team that killed Osama Bin Laden earlier this week in a stealth operation carried out in the dead of the night using choppers and sophisticated equipment.

The Indian Naval Marine force called the ‘Marcos’ has been modelled on the US Navy Seals in the training pattern, working style and the secrecy. The Indian unit came up some two decades ago and was started with training being imparted by the US Navy seals in the latter part of 1980s. Diplomatically, this was no mean feat since those were the Cold War years when India was an ally of the USSR. The beard disguises facial features.

The secrecy around the Marcos is the same as around the ‘Seals’. Within the Indian Navy, the deployment and training pattern of Marcos is not discussed openly. Men, no women in the combat zone, are posted to ‘diving units’ and as ‘sub-mariner’ to disguise their real posting, said sources. Officials admitted that India may not have stealth choppers like the US, but Marcos have Sea King choppers, while the weaponry is largely from Europe and Israel.

The ‘trust’ of the Marcos on the Seals and vice versa is evident from the joint exercises conducted to fine tune special operations. This is something such crack teams do not carry out with other navies without being in the comfort zone. In April last year, the two specialised forces carried out a joint exercise off the coast of Goa. This was the last documented exchange between the two units.

Sources confirmed that periodically Indian Marcos have been visiting the ‘Seals’ in small units of two to three. “This largely to see what new techniques and technologies are available ”, said an official. Apart from this, in 2009, the ‘Seals’ carried out a joint exercise with Indian Army special forces at the Army’s jungle warfare school at Warangal.

Indian Marcos have taken part in several operations like the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The Marcos are also attached with the Army in counter-insurgency duty in Kashmir for operations in the lakes in the Valley, earning them the sobriquet “magarmach’ or crocodile from the locals.

Unlike the US, India’s immediate adversaries are closer to home, hence the Army Special Forces have also been developed in the past 40 years or so. The US uses the navy forces more, while India has the option of the Army units - some 8 in number, of 600 men each. The US has a sea-going force and has traditionally fought away from home using warships, hence the greater stress on navy Seals and aircraft carriers. Indian special forces have the capability to be launch a contingent of a small strike group on board choppers or specialised amphibious ships that do not need a jetty to berth near a coast. 





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