Indian air force sees threat from neighbours

IAF chief Air Marshal Arup Raha.—AFP/File

NEW DELHI: India does not have territorial ambitions except to possibly reclaim land it lost to unnamed neighbours as a consequence of history, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said in Bangalore on Saturday.

Reports quoted him as speaking of Indian vulnerability because of a hostile neighbourhood left by colonial policies.

“India has no territorial ambition, except for recovering the territories that we lost, because of the history that we had, to our neighbours,” he was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying. “So we might like to recover those. But otherwise we have no intention of any territory being occupied by us from our neighbours or otherwise,” Raha said.

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Delivering the Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre memorial lecture, he said: “But we have a hostile border, with the legacy of the British rule and the conflicts we have had in the past. So we are vulnerable in terms of our security.”

India had to have the capability not to wage war because its aim was to avoid conflict, “but to deter an adversary from launching operations against us or waging a war against us”, he said, adding that the air force could play a key role in it.

“So who is going to deter? What sort of capability do we re­quire which will give us this deterrence against our adversaries?”

Stating that there should be striking capability deep into the enemy’s heartland, Raha added it could be provided “through aerospace power, air forces of the country. That is how we can explore the vulnerabilities and criticalities of any adversary”.

“That means we have to build up our striking power which would deter an adversary from launching any offensive against the country,” he said. “To my mind that national instrument which will provide the best defence and deterrence would be in the shape of aerospace power of the nation.”

Speaking about the geopolitical environment which determines the role Indian Air Force should play in mitigating threats, Raha said, “If we take a broad scan we will realise that the strategic gravity has shifted in the recent times from the West to the East.”

Raha said that China was now asserting itself in making claims on international waters and island territories and the international airspace in South China Sea and East China Sea.

They are claiming new air defence identification zones, new areas of influence in the open ocean.

“It has got into conflicts with all its littoral neighbours. We are also having problems in terms of intrusion along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Leh-Ladakh sector as well as in Arunachal Pradesh.

So the situation is not very good for the environment that is there, and peaceful rise of China may remain a distant dream if the things go the way it is happening now,” he added.

Quoting from the article written by a prominent security analyst from Hong Kong, who mentions China is developing its capability to fight five important conflicts in the next 30-35 years that includes annexation of Taiwan, occupying Spratly Islands, annex south Tibet that is Arunachal Pradesh from India, get hold of Senkaku Islands from Japan and recover large territories in Russia and Mongolia, Raha said, “I hope it is not true, but there are doubts whether the rise of China is going to be peaceful or not”.

“But we have no option but to be prepared to meet such a challenge in the near future,” he added.

Raha said Afghanistan and Pakistan regions were also an issue. “We all know that Pakistan had been a fountainhead of terror though it is part of global war on terrorism, but it is also encouraging terrorist activities and today with the withdrawal of American and western forces from Afghanistan, I think the situation is going to be very, very delicate in terms of sub-conventional threats to India.”

He said “the ISIS which has grown with strength in Iraq and Syria and in the Middle East is going to be another challenge to the world”.

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