As government contemplates use of air power against Maoists, Home Minister P Chidambaram favoured the Indian Air Force firing on naxals while the Air Chief P V Naik said the rules of engagement in such situation will be stringent.
With the Cabinet Committee on Security set to consider the IAF's request for permission to fire when under attack by naxals, the Home Minister told a press conference the Force will take adequate counter-measures to protect its choppers and pilots from naxal attacks.
However, he refused to reveal any detail, recalling that an IAF helicopter was fired at by the Maoists a few weeks ago in Chhattisgarh.
Naik, who personally disfavoured use of defence forces for internal security, said the issue was under consideration.
"Decision will be taken only at the highest level. Conditions under which my air crew are going to fire are very very stringent. We put up a set of Rules of Engagement, RoE, as it is called. And these RoE are very very stern. No excessive force, no collateral damage, positive assurance, positive identification, only then," the Air Chief told a TV channel.
Defence Minister A K Antony appeared to suggest that such an engagement may be unavoidable when he said ".....actually, we were to minimise armed forces operations for the internal security".
The Defence Ministry is understood to have taken the decision to put the demand of IAF to CCS as the Ministry's stated position was that it could not take offensive action against the Maoists who are Indian citizens.