New Delhi: India’s elite counter-terror force NSG has been functioning without a regular military operations commander for the past six months, posing serious questions on the effectiveness of its combat readiness and planning in case of an impending contingency.
The special force has recently asked the Ministry of Home Affairs, under which it functions, to intervene and get an officer from the Army on board soon.
The post of Inspector General (Operations) is held by a Major General-rank officer on deputation from the Army, which, sources told PTI, has been vacant since April after incumbent Maj Gen Shashank Mishra moved to his cadre on promotion.
In the NSG hierarchy, the counter-terror and counter-hijack commando units are placed under the overall command of IG (Operations), a post based in the NSG headquarters in Delhi.
The NSG Director General (DG), an officer from the Indian Police Service, is the top commander of the force.
The sources said as no new Maj Gen rank-officer has been posted to the NSG till now, hence another IG of the force (IPS officer) is holding the post in an additional capacity.
They said the non-availability of suitable officers from the Army has been the primary reason that the post is vacant.
While some officers prefer getting promoted in their cadre, in some cases they were not found suitable for the working of the NSG, that remains in combat readiness round-the-clock, they said.
“The IG Operations is the man who analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the counter-terror and counter-hijack teams in consultation with the force commander based at the NSG garrison in Manesar.
“He is responsible for the on-ground planning and execution of operations when the commandos are deployed for a task,” a senior official privy to NSG operations said.
This is the reason that the IG Operations is brought from the military as both the fighting units of the NSG-51 SAG and 52 SAG are manned by officers and jawans from the Special Forces and infantry of the Indian Army and it requires a special bonding and coordination between the two to ensure seamless, precise and successful operational results.
NSG DG Sudeep Lakhtakia told PTI that while it is important to have a full-time IG (Operations) he had “complete faith” in the capabilities of his Deputy IG (Operations) and Force Commander (a Brigadier-rank officer) in keeping a 24×7 readiness of the commandos.
“We are hopeful that a full-time IG (Operations) will join the NSG soon. Till then, my DIG and Force Commander are rendering the task and they are very capable officers,” he told the news agency.
Sources in the Union home ministry said a meeting was recently held with the Ministry of Defence and the Army on the subject and the name of a Maj Gen is expected to be finalised soon.
The posting and taking over of a new IG (Operations), however, is expected to take another 1-2 months, which could be the longest time when this NSG post remained headless due to non-availability of the officer.
In 2012, a similar situation occurred for about six months when there was no regular operations head in the ‘black cat’ commandos force.
The IG operations is entrusted for the complete tasking of the 51 Special Action Group (counter-terrorist unit) and 52 SAG (counter-hijack unit) and is also responsible to pick the best commandos to be placed in these units in consultation with the IG and DIG Training of the force based in Manesar.
The force was raised in 1984 as the federal contingency force and has five hubs across the country to undertake quick operations.