New Delhi: Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari Tuesday said appropriate “non-escalatory” measures were taken in response to recent Chinese air activities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and that return to status quo ante prior to the standoff was key for the situation to become normal in the region.
The Chief of Air Staff said Chinese actions along the frontier including in the Ladakh sector are being monitored constantly and the IAF’s overall preparations are part of continuing efforts irrespective of whether it sees any challenge from China.
He was addressing a press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8.
“The benchmark to say the situation on LAC is normal would be to return to status quo ante and complete withdrawal from all the points all along the LAC. That is the situation that we are looking for,” he said, replying to a question.
His comments came days after Chinese envoy Sun Weidong claimed that the situation along the border is “overall stable” and the two sides have moved from the “emergency response” that followed the Galwan Valley clashes in June 2020 to “normalised” management.
India has been insisting on the restoration of the status quo ante prior to the standoff in eastern Ladakh.
Asked about reports of China’s air incursions and military activities along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the issue was taken up with the Chinese military and that all the activities by the adversary are being monitored.
“As regards to the recent air violations or incursions or increased air activity by the Chinese, we continuously monitor it by continuously enhancing our air defence efforts there. We have increased the presence of radars,” he said.
“Appropriate non escalatory measures have been taken. I think we have been able to signal our intent and… Our state of readiness with the actions we have taken so far,” he said.
Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said confidence building measures are in place between the two sides, but noted that a hotline is yet to be set up.
The IAF chief said recent events on the global landscape have clearly indicated that the presence of a strong military is imperative to ward off external threats through deterrence.
“The armed forces in general and the IAF, in particular, will continue to remain a lynchpin in the national security matrix both as a deterrent as well as a war-winning instrument,” he said.
Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari also said that the IAF has been preparing for all kinds of security challenges including “worst case scenario” and asserted that it is fully ready to face any situation.
“We continue to be actively deployed while at the same time expediting the operationalisation of recently inducted systems like Rafale, Light Combat Aircraft and S-400 among others. Today, as I speak, the IAF continues to be ever vigilant and deployed,” he said.
“Our air defence elements are deployed 24×7, 365 days of the year to prevent any violation or transgression of our national airspace. Our fighters are always on readiness to be scrambled in a matter of a few minutes to counter any emergent threat,” he said.
The Chief of Air Staff also spoke on the depleting number of its fighter squadrons and phasing out of the Mirage 2000s, Jaguars and the MiG 29s.
He said all these aircraft will be number-plated by the middle of next decade. At the same time, the IAF insisted that it would not review its sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons.
He said the process for acquiring 114 Medium Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) was underway.
“We are seeking more commitment from all the OEMs (Original Equipment Makers) for ensuring indigenous contents and ‘Make in India’ provisions. That is a work in progress,” he said.
Asked about the accidental firing of a Brahmos missile in March that landed in Pakistan, he said it was adequately debated at tri-services level to ensure that such an incident never happens again.
To a question on IAF scrambling fighter aircraft after receiving information of a bomb scare on a China-bound Iranian civilian plane on Monday, he said standard operating procedures were followed.
“As per the given standard operating procedure, the response was to scramble fighters,” he said.
To a separate question on whether military supplies from Russia were affected because of the conflict in Ukraine, he said that there was no such impact.
We as an organisation are gender agnostic and recognise merit and performance above everything else.
On recruitment of women into the IAF, he said a high ratio of women officers in the force is testimony to its commitment in providing equal opportunity and a level playing field for every individual irrespective of gender.
He said the IAF would induct women under the Agnipath scheme from next year and the percentage would be around 10 per cent of total recruits.
The Chief of Air Staff also highlighted the IAF’s modernisation drive and operational aspects.
“Air power has the unique capability of undertaking independent strategic operations as well as operations coordinated with sister services and other arms of the national security apparatus,” he said.
“We understand the imperativeness of joint planning and execution in future wars and are keen on integrating the efforts of the three services. We believe that the model of integration that we adopt must be future-ready, it must reduce levels of decision-making, and capitalize on the strength of all three services,” he said.