South Asia Center Nonresident Fellow Iskander Rehman writes for the Center for the Advanced Study of India on the need for India to increase and further develop its Special Operations Forces:
Over the past decade, Special Operations Forces (SOF) have emerged as an increasingly critical component of modern military power. For western democracies, in particular, the frequent use of small, elite, units of clandestine operators has come to be seen as a more effective, discreet, and surgical means of projecting power within deeply contested regions. Provided they are well trained, equipped, and enabled, SOF possess the ability to act as true force multipliers, conducting key missions with small logistical footprints in austere forward environments. As one recent American doctrinal document notes, “special operations conducted by small SOF units, with unique capabilities and self-sufficiency (for short periods of time) provide the U.S. government with a wide array of military options. These options may generate less liability or risk of escalation than are normally associated with the employment of larger and more visible conventional forces.”
Cognizant of these facts, most modern militaries have sought not only to shelter their elite forces from looming budget cuts, but in many cases, have also expanded their numbers, enabling capabilities and intelligence support structures. In the case of the U.S., for instance, the number of SOF personnel deployed overseas has more than quadrupled since 9/11. This revitalized focus on special operations and unconventional warfare is not, however, unique to the West. Indeed, recent reports would appear to indicate that the People’s Republic of China attaches an almost equal priority to the development of its SOF capabilities, although in many cases these forces may bear a closer resemblance to elite infantry units than genuine commandos.