New Delhi: India’s area of responsibility stretches beyond the Indian Ocean region and the armed forces were building capabilities to meet security challenges well beyond the Gulf of Aden in the West and the Malacca Straits in the East, a top military commander said Monday.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) would build such a capability by 2022, its chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne said, hastening to add that the Indian military would not operate in “expeditionary forces” mode, fighting somebody else’s war in areas beyond its immediate reach.
“As far responsibilities are concerned, first obviously we have to see our security interest…that is defending the air space within our country and there after look at where are our strategic interests lie,” Browne said at his first annual press conference as IAF chief ahead of the October 8 Air Force Day.
Indian strategic thinkers, including serving military officers, have all along held that India’s area of responsibility vis-a-vis global security was limited to the Indian Ocean region, its backyard.
“Earlier, we have been talking of our strategic interest starting from the Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Straits. But as the global footprint of India increases, certainly IAF will be called upon to serve India’s interests where ever the capacity or whatever our capacity lie,” Browne said.
“No, we are not going to go a fight someone else’s war for someone else. That is not our role, that is not our mandate. There is a difference between strategic interests and expeditionary forces,” he said.
Noting that IAF was modernising at a very fast rate, he said no other air force in the world had attempted this kind of an exercise in such a short period.
“So the modernisation plan will have to cater for the fact the strategic interests of the country will be serviced by the IAF irrespective of place, location and time and we must achieve that capability in the next 15 years or so. I expect that at least by 2022 we are capable of taking care of India’s interests not only at home, but also abroad,” Browne said.
The IAF has a 15-year modernization plan under 11th, 12th and 13th Five Year Plans that began in 2006 and will end in 2022.
“We are already completing the first part of the 11th plan and next year, we move on to the next plan. We hope to complete this process by the end of the 13th plan. Not that the process will come to a stop after the 13th plan. We will continue to develop and grow.
“The major transformation will come in the end of the 11th and beginning of the 12th plan. By the middle of the 12th plan we will be in a fairly comfortable position and there on accelerate the process,” Browne said.
Asked to explain the capabilities required to secure India’s strategic interests, Browne referred to the recent Libyan uprising when IAF and Indian Navy were tasked to evacuate Indians stuck in the North African nation.
“When we develop an air force vision, you have to work to a certain plan. That plan cannot work without funds, it cannot work without being approved, so on and so forth. So, we have this perspective plan that takes us right up to 2027 or the 14th Five Year Plan.
“Now, we need to acquire a set of certain capabilities where India’s strategic interest lies. In 2020, our strategic interests will be quite different from what it is today or it will be tomorrow. I should have those capabilities to secure the country’s interests then and I cannot say I will only take care up to the Gulf of Aden and I cannot do anything beyond that,” he added.