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In laser drilling of a thin stainless steel sheet in air with Nd:YAG laser pulses of 0.5–1 ms durations it was observed that the 0.5 ms duration laser pulse was more effective in drilling a through-hole than the relatively longer laser pulses with proportionately more energy. Further, laser drilling could be readily done when the sheet was placed at the focal point of the lens and below it but not above the focal point. On the other hand, the underwater laser drilling could be done when the sheet was placed above the focal point. An attempt has been made to explain these experimental observations considering various processes involved in laser drilling in air and underwater. While the recoil pressure of the vapor and plasma played an important role in laser drilling in air; the radial gradient of recoil pressure of evaporation, the Marangoni force induced by the surface tension gradient in melt pool and the cavitation effect of bubble collapse were believed to be responsible for the material removal in underwater drilling process.