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Balakot strike has dispelled taboo on use of air power, says Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/balakot-strike-has-dispelled-taboo-on-use-of-air-power-says-air-chief-marshal-bhadauria/article30940638.ece

The use of air force in the sub-conventional domain was considered a “taboo” in the past and the Balakot air strike was a “paradigm shift” in that, said Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria on Friday.

Stating that the use of terrorists was a low-cost option for Pakistan, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the air strike “forced the rewriting of many a manual and rule book across the Line of Control (LoC).”

Addressing a seminar ‘Air power in no war, no peace scenario’ organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies, ACM Bhadauria said, “This (Balakot) was a clear demonstration that there exists a space within the sub-conventional conflict boundary wherein air force can be used for targeting and yet have escalation control.”

Use of air power was discussed in the past but most suggestions in this regard were negative and it was decided better not to use, he stated.

Political will

Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said for the services to undertake the tasks assigned, it was important to “maintain credible deterrence at land, air and at all times.”

“Deterrence comes from keeping every personnel trained and motivated. The credible deterrence comes from the will of the military leadership and intent of political leadership while taking the tough decision. This was amply shown after Kargil, Uri attacks and Pulwama attack,” he stated.

Talking of the IAF’s actions in the Balakot air strike, ACM Bhadauria said, “When undertaking such targets, we need the moral high ground.” Stating that the target chosen was on a hill to minimise collateral damage, he said they could otherwise have doubled the aircraft or taken other measures.

He said the retort by Pakistan on February 27 last year was aimed at its domestic audience and “it was fundamentally aimed at de-escalation.”

On the regional situation, ACM Bhadauria said the IAF had an edge over the Pakistan Air Force in terms of Beyond Visual Range Missile (BVR) capability at the time of Kargil. “We allowed that to slip and thereafter it took a decade and a half of struggle in the acquisition process to be able to get better capability,” he said, adding the induction of Rafale jets in a few months armed with Meteor BVR will restore the balance.

Stressing on the need to adopt indigenous weapons and systems, he said over the last few decades the “focus has been on the wrong place.” “We will be very happy that in the next skirmish the weapons and sensors used are indigenous,” he added.

 

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