Operation Pawan- The First time Action of MARCOS Commandos

Opeartion Pawan

Guys in our Article: The Famous Political Murders in India you have read about the Assassination of the former Prime Minister of India- Rajiv Gandhi. But do you know why he was assassinated ? He was assassinated because of India’s intervention in the SriLankan Civil War. The Operation launched to neutralize the offensive capabilities of the Tamil Tigers within the Jaffna peninsula was named Operation Pawan.

It was also the first time when the Naval Special Forces- The MARCOS Commandos went into action. At that time they were known as the IMSF (Indian Marine Special Forces).

In this article you will know all about Operation Pawan.

Background of Operation Pawan

The Sri Lankan Civil war began on 23 July 1983 between the minority Tamil population and the majority Sinhalese. There were many tamil organizations opposing the majority sinhalese among those The LTTE (also known as Tamil Tigers) had emerged as a leading rebel faction with an aim to carve a Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

Their clashes with the Sri Lankan military led to high civilian casualties from both the Sinhalese and Tamil population. India intervened in the civil war through diplomatic and military means.

Following lengthy negotiations, the Sri-Lankan Accords were signed in Colombo on 29 July 1987. The accord stipulated that the Sri Lankan government would give the nation’s provinces more autonomy and power, while withdrawing its military. The Tamil rebels on the other hand were to surrender their arms.

The accord was not accepted by many Tamil groups as they had not participated in the talks and refused to surrender to the Sri Lanka government. Their refusal led to active confrontation with the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force). Soon the Indian military engaged in a police action against the Tamil Tigers in order to enforce the Sri Lanka Accords.

Eventually the rebels would make their stand at Jaffna on the northern coast of Sri Lanka. To take Jaffna, the IPKF would launch operation Pawan.

Operation Pawan

Operation Pawan was launched to neutralize the offensive capabilities of the Tamil Tigers within the Jaffna peninsula. Like every other operation Operation Pawan also has objectives.

Objectives of Operation Pawan :- 

By 7 October, the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) had issued directives to the IPKF, laying down its operational parameters. It was to:

  • Destroy or Seize enemy communications networks such as TV and radio stations.
  • Raid LTTE camps and checkpoints.
  • Capture and question key LTTE personnel to gain information.
  • Carry out further actions to consolidate key holding gained by the IPKF in the region

In eliminating the command structure of the LTTE, it would leave the rebels directionless in the face of an assault on LTTE by the IPKF

On 10 October the Indian 91st Brigade led by Brig. J. Ralli also began its push into Jaffna.

Events of Operation Pawan

The first move of Operation Pawan was to attack the Jaffna University which was the headquarters of the LTTE. The attack was led by a detachment of the Indian Para Forces on the night of 12 October. 

The initial plan was to capture the LTTE leadership in a swift commando raid and link up with the 4th battalion of 5 Gorkha Rifles of 72 Brigade and the Sikh Light Infantry groups on the ground

The helidrop ended in a catastrophe when the LTTE intercepted radio transmission of the commando force. The helicopters came under intense anti-aircraft fire forcing them to abandon the mission halfway through. The commandos lost two of their number out of the total 17 and while the supporting Sikh Light infantry lost 29 out of 30.

 Battle for Jaffna

As the battle for Jaffna progressed, the IPKF advance came under intense and vicious opposition from the Tigers. Fighting in built-up and an as-yet unevacuated Jaffna, the Indian High Command insisted that the slow advance was, in addition to Tiger resistance, more a result of reluctance on the part of the IPKF to use heavy weaponry to clear LTTE defenses.

The Tigers also made extensive use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) which could be remotely detonated from over a kilometer away. During this time Eastern Command of the Indian Navy, supported by the Coast Guard, was key in establishing a 300 miles (480 km) long blockade around northern Sri Lanka from October 1987 to disrupt the Tigers’ supply and communication routes.

It was at about this time that the MARCOS forces (Marine Commandos) of the Indian Navy first went into action. Detachments of the IMSF (Indian Marine Special Forces, as the MARCOS was then known), along with a battalion of the 340th Independent Brigade of the Indian Army, provided beach reconnaissance around Jaffna and Batticaloa. 

On 15-16 October the IPKF stopped its advance to stabilize the front. Reinforcements and vehicles were airlifted into the warzone by the Indian air force including T-72 tanks and armored personnel vehicles.

After being reinforced, the IPKF resumed their operations. Although the tanks gave much protection from anti-personnel mines, the advance slowed down in the face of withering sniper fire from LTTE guerillas. They would target Indian officers and signalmen. Soon the IPKF adapted quickly, removing their officer pips and wearing slouch hats to pass of as common infantrymen

IPKF communication lines were extensively mined by the LTTE, which further compounded the sometimes perilous situations that the Indian troops faced.

In the end, the IPKF wrested control of Jaffna and its major cities, but most of the LTTE retreated to the jungles in the south.

In the Jaffna sector, the LTTE harassed the IPKF’s efforts to consolidate its positions. The IPKF later changed its tactics under Brig J.S. Dhillon relies on small highly mobile units instead of large static formations to combat LTTE’s guerilla tactics.

Consequences of Operation Pawan

Rajiv Gandhi Operation Pawan

Even though the Operation Pawan resulted in victory India paid a huge amount for this victory. India lost its 1,200 soldiers and more than 3,000 were wounded and went missing. These brave soldiers are the pride of India. They gave their lives to maintain peace and we are proud of them. We the team of ENCYCLOINDIA salute the ultimate sacrifice of the soldiers. 

After the Operation Pawan India’s former Prime Minister- Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. At 10:10 pm, a woman later identified as Thenmozhi Rajaratnam approached Gandhi in public and greeted him. She then bent down to touch his feet and detonated a belt laden with 700 g of RDX explosives tucked under her dress.

The explosion killed Gandhi, Rajaratnam, and at least 14 other people. The assassination was captured by a 21-year-old local photographer, whose camera and film were found at the site.

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