India should comprehend the situation along its unsettled western and northern borders as a ‘two-front’ contingency and prepare for it accordingly, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said on Sunday, referring to the possible challenge from a collusive military threat from China and Pakistan.
In an exclusive interview to PTI, the Chief of Air Staff said India could be attacked on all fronts, starting from military standoffs to information manipulation and blackouts in the future and its security doctrines and capabilities will have to cater to such possibilities.
To a specific question on whether Russian aggression against Ukraine could encourage China to take more aggressive posturing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), he said the effect of global events and geopolitical developments on India’s engagement with Beijing are being assessed continually across wide-ranging domains ”at all levels”.
”As a nation, we need to identify our immediate and future threats accurately so that necessary capability responses can be developed to counter them,” he said.
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Asked about China’s rapid deployment of its air assets along the LAC in eastern Ladakh amid the lingering border standoff, he said the ”IAF can deliver the desired punch when required within a very short time-frame.” Listing the rapid geopolitical upheavals, the Chief of Air Staff noted that any future conflict will require the integration of all elements of the national security apparatus to make it an ”All-of-Nation-Approach”.
”We have certain challenges on our western and northern borders, primarily due to unsettled borders. It would be prudent for us to comprehend our situation as a ‘two-front’ contingency’ and prepare for it accordingly,” he opined.
The chief of Air Staff said that India’s military operational plans, capability enhancement and training should always cater for a wide spectrum of threats emanating from either or both fronts.
Several top military officials including India’s first Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and former Army Chief Gen MM Naravane had flagged concerns about the possibility of a coordinated threat along the northern and western fronts.
But it is for the first time that a serving chief has called for a detailed plan to deal with such a threat.
”We are also cognisant of the need to be prepared for an event-based short-duration operation which necessitates quick planning, rapid deployment of assets and swift action,” he said.
”IAF is working intricately on all these aspects to build a credible force to cater to all contingencies,” he added. The comments by the IAF chief came in the backdrop of a greater realisation among India’s national security planners that the country must have a comprehensive security architecture in the face of rapid geopolitical turmoil as well as the strategic reality of the long-term militarisation of the LAC by China.
”We must take a longer-term view and look at the manifestation of hostile forces on our national interests rather than compare threats as per the present state of affairs,” Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said.
”We face a different adversary on our western and northern borders, both in terms of its nature and numbers. As defence forces, we remain ever vigilant to respond to any threat and to safeguard national sovereignty at all costs,” he said.
The chief of Air Staff exuded confidence that the Indian armed forces have provided enough deterrence to preclude any ”misadventure on our borders”.
On China expanding its military infrastructure along the LAC, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the IAF continually keep abreast of the capability development across the borders and take actions to mitigate any threats that such developments may cause.
”I am happy to see the pace of our infrastructure up-gradation in order to meet the requirements of our new inductions and operational imperatives,” he said, adding the Chinook helicopters have started operating from one of the two earmarked bases in the east with infrastructure development nearing completion at the second base.
The IAF chief said the infrastructure for the second Rafale squadron and subsequent operationalisation has also been completed in the eastern sector.
He said existing Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in the North-Eastern region have been upgraded by putting in place additional resources and equipment.
”Further, we realise the inherent attributes of air power that allow us to rapidly concentrate effects over wide geographical areas in very short timelines,” he said.
”While I would not comment upon our actual deployment, it would suffice to state that the IAF can deliver the desired punch when required within a very short time-frame,” he added.
Asked what role the IAF can play in the Indo-Pacific, the Air Chief Marshal said it is committed to playing its part in ensuring freedom of navigation and progression of a rules-based order in the region in line with the country’s foreign policy.
”There is a requirement of maintaining peace, tranquillity, freedom of movement and most importantly equal rights for all nations in the region, irrespective of their size and might,” he said.
”India’s growing stature has seen its convergence not only with like-minded nations but also with global stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.