Rajnath asks IAF to stay prepared for any eventuality amid border row
Amid the border row with China, defence minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to be prepared for any eventuality, saying the rapid deployment of aerial assets at forward locations in eastern Ladakh had “sent a strong message” to the adversary.
The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, said his force was poised to counter any aggressive action by the adversary.
Singh was addressing IAF’s top commanders on the opening day of a three-day commanders’ conference.
In his inaugural address, he said the professional manner in which IAF conducted air strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot last year and the rapid deployment of aerial assets at forward locations in response to the prevailing situation in eastern Ladakh has sent a strong message to India’s adversaries.
The country’s resolve to defend its sovereignty stands firm on the faith its people have in the military’s capability, he said.
Singh appreciated IAF’s “proactive response” in bolstering operational capabilities over the past few months. He assured the IAF’s top brass that all needs of the armed forces will be fulfilled.
In his speech, Bhadauria said the IAF was well prepared to counter short-term and strategic threats and its units were evenly poised to counter any aggressive action by the adversary. He emphasised on the need to focus on the ability to handle situations at short notice for a robust response.
The conference is being held days ahead of the IAF inducting its first batch of five Rafale combats jets acquired from France. They will be inducted at Ambala airbase on July 29.
IAF is inducting the jets against the backdrop of heightened tensions with China. It can deploy the new Rafale jets in Ladakh sector as part of India’s overarching plan to strengthen its military posture in the region, where Indian and Chinese forces have been locked in a tense confrontation for months. A protracted process of disengagement began recently and is still ongoing.
India-specific enhancements on the Rafales include cold engine start capability to operate from high-altitude bases.
India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016, as an emergency purchase to arrest a worrying slide in IAF’s combat capabilities.
The possible deployment of Rafale fighters in Ladakh could be discussed at the commanders’ conference, where the air force brass is expected to focus on the border row with China, IAF’s preparedness and new purchases that have to be made quickly.