Armed vs Paramilitary – UPSC GS3

Compare and contrast the structure, mandate, role and abilities of India’s armed forces with that of paramilitary forces. (200 Words)

The paramilitary forces were defined in 2011 as the organisations that provide particularly close support to the Indian defense forces and have a sizable portion of the regular defense forces. Currently India has three Paramilitary organisations.
Paramilitary Forces
  1. Assam Rifles – Assam Rifles has the distinction of the oldest paramilitary force in the world. Assam Rifles operates in the North Eastern part of India and complements the Indian Army in countering the insurgency and guarding the borders. It comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  2. Special Frontier Force – Raised after the 1962 war, the SFF consists of soldiers of Tibetan lineage. It is tasked with guarding the borders with China as well as certain intelligence gathering activities. It reports to the Intelligence Bureau.
  3. Coast Guard – The Coast Guard is a naval paramilitary force. It deals with the security of India’s coast and focuses on preventing smuggling and protecting the territorial waters.
Earlier forces like Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) etc. were also known as paramilitary forces. However, these are now known as Central Armed Police Force (CAPF). The three paramilitary forces mainly aid the armed forces in guarding the land as well as maritime borders to prevent any unwanted intrusion.
Armed Forces
On the other hand the armed forces are tasked to ensure the safety and security of the nation against any foreign power. The defense forces are divided into three components –
  1. Army – India has the largest volunteer standing army in the world with more than a million personnel. The army is tasked with guarding the borders of the country. It is also deployed in a counter-insurgency role.
  2. Navy – The navy guards the maritime interests of the country. It also protects India’s economic interests by protecting merchant convoys through piracy infested areas.
  3. Air Force – They ensure that Indian air space is protected against any unwanted incursions and also provide a supporting role to other forces.



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