Distinctive optical forces and torques arise between nanoparticles irradiated by intense laser radiation. These forces, associated with a pairwise process of stimulated scattering, prove to enable the possibility of producing significant modifications to both the form and magnitude of interparticle forces, with additional contributions arising in the case of dipolar materials. Moreover, such forces have the capacity to generate unusual patterns of nanoscale response, entirely controlled by the input beam characteristics- principally the optical frequency, intensity, and polarization. Based on quantum electrodynamical theory, a general result is secured for the laser-induced force under arbitrary conditions, incorporating both static and dynamic coupling mechanisms. Specific features of the results are identified for pairs of particles with prolate cylindrical symmetry, e.g., carbon nanotubes, where it is shown that the laser-induced forces and torques are sensitive functions of the pair spacing and orientation, and the laser beam geometry; significantly, they can be either repulsive or attractive according to conditions. For nanoparticles trapped in a Laguerre-Gaussian laser beam the results also reveal additional and highly distinctive torques that suggest further possibilities for nanomanipulation with light. The paper concludes with a discussion on several potential applications of such forces. © 2005 The American Physical Society.