Indian Armed Forces vs Paramilitary Forces of India || Learn the Difference!

Army vs capf

There are many different forces working for our security in India like Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Indian Coast Guard which fall under the Ministry of Defence and CRPF, BSF, SSB etc. that fall under Ministry of Home Affairs. There are 3 types of forces working in India - the Indian Armed Forces, Central Armed Police Forces(CAPFs) and the state police forces . Many people do not know the difference between CAPFs and the Indian Armed Forces. They consider them all to be the same and are not familiar with the difference in their roles and responsibilities.

This article is an attempt to end this confusion once and for all. This article will also discuss some important information in brief about these different forces and also their roles & responsibilities.

Indian Armed Forces

The Indian Armed forces are the 'military' forces of India and they come under the administration of the Ministry of Defence of the Indian government. The President of India acts as the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. With the strength of around 1.4 million active personnel, it is the fourth largest armed force in the world and the largest volunteer force in the world. It comprises of basically 3 forces - Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. 

Indian Army

With a strength of over 1.2 million active and over 960,000 reserve personnel, it is the second largest standing army and the largest volunteer army in the world. It is headed by a 4-star officer of the rank of General. Presently, General Bipin Rawat is the Chief of the Army Staff.

The roles and responsibilities of the Indian Army include ensuring national security and national unity, defending the nation from external aggression and internal threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It also conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances. The Indian Army has participated in all major and minor battles both before and after independence and has won many gallantry awards and battle honours. 

India is also one of the largest contributors to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force so the Indian Army is also involved with a number of peacekeeping missions all over the world.

Indian Air Force

With a strength of over 150,000 active personnel and over 1700 aircraft, the Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world. It is headed by a 4-star officer of the rank Air Chief Marshal. Presently, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria is the Chief of Air Staff.

Its primary role is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during armed conflict and it also works in unison with the Indian Army in humanitarian operations. It is also involved in UN Peacekeeping missions all over the world.

Indian Navy

With a strength of 67,252 active personnel and a fleet of 137 warships and 235 aircraft, the Indian Navy is the 7th largest Navy in the world. It is headed by a 4-star officer of the rank Admiral. Presently, Admiral Karambir Singh is the Chief of Naval Staff.

Its primary role is to safeguard the India's maritime borders, and it works in conjuction with other Armed Forces to defeat any threats or aggression against the territory, people or maritime interests of India, both in war and peace. Indian Navy also promotes bilateral relations between nations through joint exercises, goodwill visits and humanitarian missions.

Indian Coast Guard

Unlike other forces which were formed in the British era, the Indian Coast Guard was established on 18 August 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, 1978 of the Parliament of India as an independent Armed force of India. Important thing to note is that even though it is an armed force of India, it is not a military force. Neither it is a central armed police force. The Indian Coast Guard(ICG) is a bit of an anomaly as it comes under the Ministry of Defence but the coast guard servicemen do not get any ex- servicemen benefits or Military Service Pay(MSP). The officers of ICG are not commissioned by the President of India and the personnel of ICG do not take part in any protocol of Military forces such as President’s Body Guard, ADCs, Tri-Services Guard of Honour etc.

It is a different military force when compared to Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Army as its main objective is to provide non-military maritime services to the nation. Instead of fighting wars or engaging in armed conflicts, it is tasked to protect India's maritime interests and to enforce maritime law over the territorial waters of India, including its contiguous zones and exclusive economic zones.

It works in close cooperation with the Indian Navy, the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Revenue (Customs) and the Central and State police forces.

Central Armed Police Forces

army vs capf
Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are the security forces that come under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Their role is to fight with the internal threats of India which are too dangerous to be dealt with by the state police forces. They also assist the Indian Armed Forces in their operations and also help them in border patrolling. They can be considered as the missing link or a bridge between Indian Army and State Police Forces in India.

Central Armed Police Forces personnel also serve in various important organisations such as Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Special Protection Group (SPG), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and even in the Indian Army on deputation. 

It is important to note that the Central Armed Police Forces should not be confused with the Indian Army. Just because they wear camouflage uniforms, it doesn't mean that they are Indian Army. The CAPFs are headed by civilian officers from the Indian Police Service and are under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, not the Ministry of Defence.

Some people believe that the Assam Rifles, Indian Coast Guard and the Special Frontier Force come under the category of paramilitary forces. Rest other forces come under CAPFs or Indian Armed Forces. However, this is far from truth. Officially, there is no such thing as 'paramilitary force' in India. The term has not been defined in any acts or by any authorities officially, but the term paramilitary force is often confused with the CAPFs. To end this confusion, the Ministry of Home Affairs released a statement which you can read by clicking here.

The term 'paramilitary force' means a semi-militarised force whose organisational structure, tactics, training, subculture, and functions are somewhat similar to those of a professional military, but is not formally part of a country's armed forces. Even though the Central Armed Police Forces can fall under this definition, they are not exactly paramilitary forces. Calling CAPFs as paramilitary is technically wrong. 

There are 7 forces that come under the Central Armed Police Forces. They are :
  • Border Security Force (BSF)
  • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
  • Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
  • Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)
  • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)
  • National Security Guard (NSG)
  • Assam Rifles

BSF

bsf
The BSF was formed in 1965 with its primary role being to guard the border of the India with Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is deployed both on the International Border and the Line of Control. It also has active roles during times of war.

The BSF currently stands as the world's largest border guarding force and has been termed as India's First Line of Defence. The BSF has grown exponentially from a few battalions in 1965 to 257,363 personnel in 186 battalions as of now. It is headed by an Indian Police Service officer.

CISF

cisf
The Central Industrial Security Force was formed in 1983 and provides security to various Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and other critical infrastructure installations like major airports and seaports across the country It also provides security during elections and other internal security duties and is also trained in VVIP protection.

The Indian Parliament in February 2009 passed a bill that authorised the CISF to provide security to private and cooperative establishments across the country for a fee.

It has a total strength of about 144,418 personnel in 132 battalions including 9 reserve battalions.

CRPF

crpf
With a strength of more than 300,000 active personnel in 239 battalions, the Central Reserve Police Force is the largest of the Central Armed Police Forces and is considered to be the largest of such a force in the world.

It is a highly trained force with its objectives being law enforcement, internal security and counter insurgency operations. It is very active in Kashmir and helps the Indian Army fight terrorism there. Besides this, the CRPF has played a very important role in the conduction of elections in India especially in dangerous areas like Kashmir, Jharkhand and in the North East. CRPF contingents are also being deployed in UN missions.

The CRPF also consists of Rapid Action Force (RAF), a 10 battalion anti-riot force trained to respond to sectarian violence and the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA), a 10 battalion commando force trained to fight Naxalites in the jungles of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

ITBP

itbp
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police is deployed for guarding duties on the border with China from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal Pradesh covering a total distance of 3488 km.

The ITBP was raised in 1962 after the Sino-Indian War when India felt the need of a force that was specifically trained to guard the India-China border. Until 1996, it came under CRPF but the Indian government passed the ITBP Act 1992 in September 1996 and it became an independent force thereafter.

The ITBP, which started with 4 battalions, now has 60 Battalions with 15 Sectors and 05 Frontiers with a strength of 89,432 active personnel.

The ITBP's main role is to guard the India-China border but it is also trained in Civil Medical Camp, disaster management, and to deal with nuclear, biological and chemical disasters. ITBP personnel have also been deployed abroad in UN peacekeeping missions. The ITBP also organises non-military events like ice hockey, skiing and mountaineering competitions.

SSB

The objective of the Sashastra Seema Bal is to guard the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Borders. Before 2001, it was called the Special Service Bureau. At present, it has 76,337 personnel in 67 battalions, as well as some reserved battalions. The force also conducts public welfare programs in the north-east region to inculcate a feeling of national belonging among the citizens.

NSG

nsg
The National Security Guards came into existence in 1984 after operation blue star when India felt a need of a special counter terrorism force. NSG commandos are also called Black Cats because of their black uniform. The NSG is specifically trained in conducting counter-terrorism operations like counter hijacking tasks on land, sea, and air; Bomb disposal (search, detection and neutralisation of IEDs); PBI (Post Blast Investigation) and Hostage Rescue missions.

Since it is a specialised counter terrorism force, it is intended for use "only in exceptional situations" and is not meant to take over the functions of the State Police Forces or other CAPFs but over the years, its role has expanded to provide protection to VVIPs as well.

NSG is a deputation based force which consists of two groups - Special Action Group (SAG) and Special Rangers Group (SRG). The SAG draws its members from the ndian Army and the SRG draws its members from other CAPFs.

Assam Rifles

Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force in India. It traces its origins to a paramilitary police force that was formed under the British in 1835 called Cachar Levy. The Assam Rifles that we know today was formed in 1917. 

Its organisational structure is completely different from any other central police force in India. Even though it comes under the management of Ministry of Home Affairs, the officer cadre comes from Indian Army instead of Indian Police Services. So organisationally it is a CAPF but operationally it is the part of Indian Army.

Assam Rifles is trained perform many roles like conducting counter insurgency operations and border security operations, provision of aid to the civilians in times of emergency, and the provision of communications, medical assistance and education in remote areas. In times of war they can also be used as a combat force to secure rear areas if needed. Since 2002 it has been guarding the Indo-Myanmar border as per the government policy "one border one force".

Important thing to note is that it should not be confused with the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army. Assam Rifles is a central police force and Assam Regiment is one of the many regiments in the Indian Army.




Hi, I am Pranjay Varshney. I am pursuing my B.Sc. (Hons) in Electronic Science from University of Delhi. My dream is to join the Indian Army as an officer and I am very passionate about it. I like to write articles about Indian Armed Forces and various political and economic affairs. I spend my free time doing gymnastics, listening to music or watching movies.

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The Radical - Information That Matters: Indian Armed Forces vs Paramilitary Forces of India || Learn the Difference!
Indian Armed Forces vs Paramilitary Forces of India || Learn the Difference!
Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are the security forces that come under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Their role is to fight with the internal threats of India which are too dangerous to be dealt with by the state police forces. They also assist the Indian Armed Forces in their operations and also help them in border patrolling. They can be considered as the missing link or a bridge between Indian Army and State Police Forces in India.
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