Tuesday, October 08, 2019

As IAF turns 87, merge HAL with it

As the Indian Air Force completes 87 glorious years on October 8, that was attained through “blood, sweat, toil and tears”, it cannot afford to rest on its laurels and past glory. It must aspire for and pursue ceaseless brilliance, along with the heartbeats of 1.3 billion Indians.
From all accounts, though the professionalism of our air warriors is par excellence and exemplary, yet a major reduction of its assets over the years, owing to gross failure of successive Indian governments to do proper advance planning constitutes a major self-created threat to India. Indians have failed the IAF, thereby pushing the country into a state of despair, in the face of a multi-dimensional Sino-Pakistani threat. Air Chiefs have come, and Air Chiefs have gone, yet India’s air warriors, with their imported, vintage machines continued, and still continue, undaunted. There lies the singular achievement of the IAF.
Reality, therefore, bites — as all fighter aircraft (barring the still “under-trial” indigenous Tejas) of the IAF are of foreign origin. All of them have been imported at a huge cost to the exchequer, paid in foreign currency, out of sheer compulsion. Of course, not all news is bad news. The twin-engine French Dassault Rafale multi-role fighter is being inducted into No. 17 Squadron on IAF Day, October 8. Yet, the fact remains that at 87, the IAF still looks outwards to foreign manufacturers. This is not desirable for operational preparedness, or for the overall security of the state.
I recall having written two years ago that the IAF also stands for “Imported Air Force”, and that the sooner Indians try to come out of their present “flight envelope” of being a “buying” to a “building” force, the better it would be for safety, security, technology and economics of a state of 1.3 billion heads. In this context, one could emulate Chinese enterprise, notwithstanding the fact that Beijing still isn’t an ideal neighbour. The erratic frequency of Beijing’s gross irrational behaviour on the high table as well as hostile acts in hot terrain doesn’t inspire the desired level of trust, faith and confidence — the enhanced and increasing bilateral economic, banking, commercial and trade intercourse along with one-way profit accrual to China notwithstanding.
08/10/19 Abijit Bhattacharyya/Deccan Chronicle
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