New Delhi: IAF chief R.K.S. Bhadauria Monday said his force was ready for any conflict with China, including a two-front war, and also emphasised that tensions going on over the last few months in Ladakh did not necessitate air strike, but it is ready if the need arises.
Pointing out that Ladakh is a “small area and small part of our deployment”, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said: “We have deployed to all relevant operational locations required to access this area.”
Speaking at his annual press conference in New Delhi, the IAF chief said his force is very well-positioned. “There is no question that in case of any conflict, China can’t get the better of us,” he said.
On a question about the possibility of a two-front threat, he said: “We are aware they are cooperating closely. There is a significant threat, but so far there is no such indication that they are colluding for a two-front war.”
However, Bhadauria also underlined that the IAF is “fully ready” for any possible conflict, including a two-front war.
“The emerging threat scenario in our neighbourhood and beyond mandates the need to have a robust capability to fight across the entire spectrum of warfare… I can share with you with confidence that operationally, we are among the best… Our capabilities have surprised our adversary. Indian Air Force is transforming at a rapid pace,” he said.
However, Bhadauria added that the adversary cannot be underestimated and especially China, which has made huge investment in military technology over the years.
“Their strength lies in surface-to-air systems they have put up in the area. They also have long-range missile systems. We cater to those in our matrix… we can take on that threat,” he said.
‘Current progress of talks with China is slow’
Asked if there was any moment when the IAF came close to launching a strike in Ladakh, the chief replied: “If you are asking me whether we came close to striking, then no. Were we prepared? Yes.”
Talking about how he feels the next three months will play out in Ladakh, the IAF chief said that it depends on how the military and diplomatic talks progress.
“The talks towards disengagement, followed by de-escalation, are on. We hope that the talks will progress along the lines,” he said, adding that the current progress is slow.
“What we see is an increase in the effort to dig in for winters, in terms of forces on the ground, in terms of deployment of air assets in airfields close by,” he said.
‘We acted swiftly’
In response to a question on whether the armed forces were surprised by the Chinese aggression in Ladakh, the IAF chief said: “We acted swiftly and it will not be correct to say we were surprised.”
He explained the month of May is the time when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carries out its military exercise. The only surprise was that they moved towards the Line of Actual Control this time, he added.
“But we reacted very swiftly as soon as we realised the Chinese move,” he said, adding that the Chinese “did have the first element of surprise”.
The IAF chief said his force has worked closely with the Army, and has been very critical in ensuring movement of troops and equipment with the help of its large fleet of transport aircraft and helicopters.