Saturday, June 25, 2011

Anti-Naxal Ops: IAF Special Forces Brought In, UAVs Out

The Indian Air Force (IAF) today said it has deployed Garud Special Forces commandos and four choppers for anti-Naxal operations but withdrawn the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operating in Maoist bastions in Chhattisgarh.

To protect its choppers from Maoists attacks, the IAF chief said Garud Commandos have been deployed on these helicopters to retaliate whenever such a situation arises.

"Four IAF choppers are operating in Raipur, Dantewada, and Jagdalpur areas. We also used to operate UAVs in these areas to track the Naxals but they have been withdrawn," IAF chief P V Naik told reporters here.

The IAF chief said the choppers "carry a Garud Special Force member on board who mans the gun, which is not the integrated part of the helicopter."

On the withdrawal of UAVs from anti-Naxal operations, Naik said, "beyond a certain season, it loses its surprise element... And these UAVs were not meant for what they were being used for."

He said the IAF withdrew the UAVs after it found that it was not able to meet the requirements.

On the Rules of Engagement (RoE) in Naxal-affected areas, the IAF chief said very "stringent" rules have been provided to the IAF for firing back when its choppers come under attack from the naxalites.

"We follow very stringent rules as we don't want any collateral damage to take place in our own territory and we can fire only at the source of fire which is determined by the captain of the chopper," Naik said.

After the IAF lost one of its personnel in Raipur during the last general elections, it had sought rules of engagement from the government for tackling the issue.

On who was the bigger threat for India between China and Pakistan, Naik said, "I have stopped using the word threat and started using the word challenge. We go for capability specific rather than threat specific. As far as your query about China and Pakistan, it is not a concern for me."

"Concerns are what are the capabilities that are required. We analyse the country or a group like LeT, then look at capability that has to be acquired," he added.

The IAF chief said country's armed forces were not "chunnu munnu" (weaklings/kids) and were capable of meeting any challenge to country's security.

On the geopolitical situation arising in view of the exit of US forces from Afghanistan by 2014, Talibanisation of Pakistan and the current situation in Kashmir, he said in future whether Afghanistan stabilises or destabilises, India would be "up the pole".

"If Afghanistan doesn't stabilise, there will be problem for the entire world as it will be Talibanised. If it stabilises and the Taliban are defeated, then their unemployed cadre are likely to head our way. In either case, we are up the pole," he said.