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China’s airfields in Tibet lack military infrastructure for offensive ops : IAF Chief

Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, the Chief of Air Staff, on Saturday said China maintains continuous air presence in Tibet but the airfields there lack requisite military infrastructure to carry out offensive operations.

Dhanoa also said India needs to concentrate and build infrastructure for operational efficiency in the northern and eastern sectors, even as the western border along Pakistan remains a challenge to internal security. “China maintains continuous air presence in Tibet, they exercise their aircraft, the strength increases and decreases as per the prevailing exercise,” he said.

The Air chief’s remarks come against the backdrop of the recent Doklam stand-off with China which ended after both the countries disengaged troops following a prolonged face-off.

He said available satellite images reveal that airfields in Tibet are not optimised for offensive operations but more towards ensuring regional connectivity and lack military infrastructure. “If you look at other airfields that are optimised for offensive operations, you will see that there is a difference in ‘airfields in which they mean business’ and the airfields in Tibet,” he said.

Dhanoa was delivering the Air Chief Marshal L M Katre memorial Lecture organised by the Air Force Association, Karnataka, in association with the HAL and the Aeronautical Society of India.

Highlighting that the primary prerogative for India in the northern and eastern sectors is to concentrate and build up infrastructure, Dhanoa said, “This we have to do in order to increase our operational efficiency.”

He said there is a “difference in perception” about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the northern borders, which sometimes results in stand-offs but gets resolved also.

Throughout the stand-off that took place in Doklam there was no violation from either side, he said.

Dhanoa said only transport aircraft are allowed to fly up to the LAC and added that there were no transgressions in the air during the stand-off.

The Air Chief Marshal said during his last meeting with Chinese officials both sides shared the need to continue to “meet on the ground so as to stay away from each other in the air”.

Speaking about the situation along the western border, without naming Pakistan, Dhanoa remarked: “In most countries the state has an army. There, the army has the state.”

“It holds its exalted position in society to the propagation of a threat from us and if peace were to come they would lose all the privileges,” he said.

Pointing to recent debates where people had questioned them (Pakistan) of their capability and performance in past confrontations with India, Dhanoa said, “So it is in their best interests to keep this threat alive and keep the pot boiling with the insurgency in Kashmir.”

He said given the worldwide opinion right now, chances of a large-scale terror attack on a civilian infrastructure like 26/11 or Parliament attack was slightly remote as it would invite global condemnation. “However, the military will continue to get targeted like it happened during Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota. They will try and surprise us by attacking at a totally new location or by using a totally different method of attack or time.”

Suggesting that the biggest challenge is of internal security on a 24×7 basis, he said post Pathankot, IAF had carried out a series of measures to enhance the ability to detect and strengthen the base defence through training to neutralise ‘Fidayeen’ type attacks.

“I have always maintained that our training and preparedness has to be as per an adversaries’ ability, the intentions can change, hence as a service we are prepared for the conflict at a very short notice,” he said.

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