Indo-Pakistan Military Conflict of 1971
Illustration showing military units and troop movements during the war
SFF was extremely successful against Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan Military Conflict of 1971. Elements of the force were sent to Mizoram in late November 1971. A strong Task Force was deployed and conducted pre-emptive strike operations in support of the Indian army formations along the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
They trained the Bangladeshi underground unit, Mujib Bahini for their secret missions. For the Bangladeshi campaign, designated Operation Mountain Eagle, the SFF members were issued Bulgarian AK-47‘s and US carbines. SFF conducted several mission, including the destruction of the Kaptai Dam and other bridges.
The Inspector General S. S. Uban urged that the SFF be used to capture Chittagong, but SFF members did not have artillery, communications or airlift support to conduct missions of that magnitude. However they conducted secret small missions including the operation at the Kalurghat radio station. The SFF moved into East Pakistan on 03 December 1971, they were also loaned four Indian Air Force Mi-4 helicopters.
They also halted tactical sections of the Pakistani 97 Independent Brigade and the famed 2nd Commando Battalion from infiltrating into Burma by cutting off their rear defences and flanks. This operation saw the first Dapon, Tibetan equivalent of a Brigadier General to command part of the SFF Task Force.
With the Pakistani Lt. General A.A.K. Niazi signing the ceasefire on 17 December, the SFF had lost 56 men and had 190 wounded. The Indian government gave awards to 580 operatives of the SFF for their meritorious conduct and valour during the Bangladeshi campaign.
SFF was used in combating communal riots in mid 70s and later was used in Operation Blue Star in 1984. It was also used briefly for VIP security in late 1984 around the Prime Minister following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Later this role fell upon the Special Protection Group.
In 1975 a new rule pertaining to the SFF was issued, this prohibited the SFF from being deployed to within 10 km of the Indo-Chinese border unless under explicit instructions. This came about after several incidents in which SFF was found to be conducting unsanctioned cross-border raids and intelligence operations. Currently, one SFF battalion is stationed in the Siachen Glacier.
With warming of Indo-Chinese relations, SFF has moved out of covert operations to various other fields like counter-terrorism. The major functions of SFF in the present day scenario are as follows:
One Squadron is responsible for counter-terrorism duties, with a team in a constant state of alert. The four squadrons rotate through this role on a six-monthly basis. Special Group teams regularly conduct CT operations in troubled Kashmir against militants on specific intelligence inputs.