Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said on Thursday that air power had not been fully utilised by the Indian government till the 1971 war and indicated that Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK) would have been India’s had the country gone for a military solution rather than taking a “moral high ground”.
In unusually candid remarks, the Air Force chief termed Pakistani-occupied Kashmir as a “thorn in our flesh” and said India did not follow a “pragmatic approach” to security needs.
He said India’s security environment is vitiated and aerospace power, as part of the military power, would be required to deter a conflict in the region and also ensure peace and tranquillity.
“Our foreign policy was enshrined in the charter of the UN, charter of the Non-Alignment Movement as well as Pancsheel doctrine.
“We have been governed by high ideals and we really did not follow a very pragmatic approach, to my mind, to security needs. To that extent, we did ignore the role of the military power to maintain conducive environment,” Raha said at an aerospace seminar in Delhi.
He said India as a country was “reluctant” to use military power, especially air power, in deterring adversaries, in deterring a conflict and when involved in conflict the country has been drawn into several times in the past.
He said when hordes of raiders attacked Jammu and Kashmir in 1947, it was the transport planes of the IAF which helped Indian soldiers and equipment to reach the battleground.
“And when a military solution was in sight, taking moral high ground, I think we went to UN for a peaceful solution to this problem. The problem still continues. PoK remains a thorn in our flesh today,” he said.
Raha said that in 1962, air power went under-utilised because of the fear of a skirmish.
“In 1965 conflict, we did not use air power against East Pakistan because of political reasons despite Pakistani Air Force operating from East Pakistan attacking our air bases, infrastructure, aircraft on ground. We had severe setbacks but we never retaliated,” he rued.
The IAF chief said the only time when air power was fully utilised was in 1971 war and the three forces blended completely resulting in the creation of Bangladesh.
“But the situation has changed. We are ready to use air power to defend ourselves and deter a conflict,” he said.