India-China standoff: How Indian Navy's MARCOS can change the game along Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh

Written By: Rustam Roy

The Marine Commandos or MARCOS, called Marine Commando Force (MCF) belongs to the special forces team of the Indian Navy. 

Operation Cactus in the Maldives

Amid the ongoing stand-off between India and China, the Marine Commandos (MARCOS) of the Indian Navy have been deployed in the Pangong lake area in eastern Ladakh.

The Marine Commandos or MARCOS, called Marine Commando Force (MCF) belongs to the special forces team of the Indian Navy. 

They have undertaken several covert operations over the years since the 80s with one of the famous being operation Cactus in 1988 when the elite Navy unit freed the Maldives from a coup and helped to restore President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's reign in a valiant effort which has become part of India's military history.

During the operation, not a single MARCOS commando was killed ensuring India's predominance in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR).


MARCOS deployed in eastern Ladakh

The idea behind the deployment of the commands in eastern Ladakh where Indian Air Force's Garud operatives and Indian Army's Para Special Forces, which have been there since day one of the conflicts, is to enhance the integration of the three services and provide the naval commandos exposure to extreme cold weather conditions, government sources told ANI.



Navy commandos

"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 sources told ANI said.

The Navy commandos are also soon going to get new boats for operations in the lake along with the existing infrastructure for operations in the lake, they said.

Army's Special Forces including the Para Special Forces and Cabinet Secretariat's Special Frontier Force have been operating in eastern Ladakh for carrying out special operations for a long time.



Line of Actual Control

The Indian Air Force's Garud Special Forces moved to hilltops on the strategic heights on the Line of Actual Control (LAC)along with their Igla shoulder-fired air defence systems in the early days of the conflict to take care of any fighter or other aircraft of the enemy which may have tried to violate Indian air space.

The special troops belonging to both the Army and Air Force have been there for more than six months now also, the Indian side had used the special forces to occupy strategic heights along the LAC to preempt the Chinese from doing so. 

The Chinese have also maintained special troops on their side of the LAC. The Indian Navy has deployed teams in the Wular lake area



In fact, the Indian Navy has stationed the MARCOS commandos along the LAC to keep the Chinese forces at bay. The Indian Navy has increased its surveillance missions and beefed up operational deployment in the Indian Ocean in the wake of increasing forays into the region by Chinese naval vessels and submarines.

The Indian Navy has ramped up its operation this year in the wake of Chinese aggression along the LAC with the Quad exercise comprising of India, the US, Australia and Japan aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, a region that witnessed increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the recent years.



MARCOS have also undertaken several operations against the LTTE in the 1990s ensuring India's dominance in the unpredictable Sri Lankan zone is kept under control.

They were also deployed in Somalia in 1993 and they were deployed along with the Indian Army during the Kargil war in 1999.

The commandos are trained to undertake anti-piracy operations which they have carried out with clinical precision in the Gulf of Aden which is the hotbed of pirates.


MARCOS in Pangong lake

The area along the Pangong lake will provide the MARCOS a fresh new ground to showcase their skills situated in the Ladakh.

They are not only adept at giving support to the Army which they have on several occasions but can undertake missions on their own and can help the Indian Air Force in suppressing the enemy's air defences at high altitude.


MARCOS conduct operations

Recently the MARCOS had taken part in a military exercise Andaman and Nicobar with the Indian Army’s Parachute Brigade and Indian Air Force amid tensions along the LAC.

The commandos were flown in from IAF's C-130J transport aircraft as they displayed their warfighting capabilities. 

The Bull strike mission held in Teressa island in Andaman and Nicobar islands prepared the men for high altitude warfare in the upper Himalayas with the People's Liberation Army(PLA).


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