Bangalore, April 29: Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne on Saturday said religious fundamentalist groups like the Taliban operating in Afghanistan may shift close to the Indian border with Pakistan, at Wagah, if the situation deteriorated after withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S. forces from the region.
“In case, the situation deteriorates in the Afghanistan region, especially after the ISAF and American forces withdraw, our fear is that we may have them (Taliban) very close to the Wagah border to deal with.”
Air Chief Marshal Browne was delivering the Sixth L.M. Katre Memorial Lecture organised by the Air Force Association here.
While stating that ‘systematic Talibanisation of Pakistan is a matter of concern for India,” he pointed to the statement of Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed, who had recently said at Peshawar that “it is Kabul now that we are dealing with and the moment that [Kabul issue] is resolved, the next is Kashmir.”
As the ISAF and the U.S. forces are proposing to withdraw from Afghanistan during 2013-14, the Air Force chief said this period could actually be a watershed as far as the country's security on the western border was concerned.
Describing unresolved differences over international borders with Pakistan and China as foremost security concerns, the Chief of Air Staff said the border rows were left unresolved, perhaps intentionally.
“China wants this to be resolved according to its belief and not necessarily ours,” he added.
Analysing the situation faced by India, which has two important neighbours (Pakistan and China) with whom the country has conflict, Browne said these two countries had mutual cooperation in the areas of conventional as well as modern nuclear, missile, aircraft and weaponry system technology and development. “I cannot think of any model in the world where you are dealing with this kind of a situation,” he added.
Air Chief Marshal Browne said the IAF would like to have 42 squadrons by 2022 from the present 34 squadrons by acquiring various aircraft, including the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMCRA), and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft.
The IAF is much ahead in utilising funds for modernisation in comparison to the other defence services — the Army and the Navy, he said.
Referring to the anti-Naxal operation, he said the IAF had enhanced its involvement in the operation as it had now deployed six helicopters for this purpose as against the two made available earlier.
In the north, the air chie said, two airfields - Nyoma and Kargil - will be made fully operational airbases soon.
"We have plans to deploy a Su-30MKI fighter jet squadron along with a transport base in Nyoma airbase. The Kargil airbase will have the newly acquired C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft with heavy lift capabilities to enhance the special operations."
The number of air squadrons projected for the year 2022 is 42. While the existing squadrons of MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage-2000 will be upgraded, a good amount of the current fleet will be replaced with Rafale jets, HAL's LCA fighter aircraft and Sukhoi MKIs.
The airlift capacity (transport aircrafts) airforce will be increased three times in ten years. The helicopter fleet will also be expanded by adding the new Apache attack choppers and another fleet of either Chinook helicopters or the new variant of Mi 26s.