Need to strike at the root of terrorism: Ex-IAF Chief
‘Need numbers & must be prepared for extensive and intense war’
Air Chief Marshal (retd) Anil Yashwant Tipnis took over as the 18th Chief of Air Staff in 1998 and retired in 2001 after completing 41+ years in uniform. His tenure saw the first deployment of Indian Air Force combat aircraft in action since the 1971 war. When the fighting at Kargil erupted, the IAF was deployed to attack intruders’ positions in the high altitude areas. Throughout the course of operations, he was deeply involved in overseeing the conduct of operations. In Dehradun to attend an event recently, the former IAF chief shared his views on issues ranging from terrorism to nationalism and substance abuse in a conversation with Paritosh Kimothi of The Pioneer.
What is your opinion about the Balakot air strikes carried out earlier this year?
It has been my view for long that India has been amiss in not categorising terror attacks as acts of war committed without declaration of war. There are three scenarios in terror- one in which it is state sponsored, the second in which the state turns a blind eye to it and the third in which the host state does not want the terror elements to operate from its land. In order to eradicate terror we must target the root- the volcano itself instead of tackling fires. Balakot was a miracle- apart from the preparation, skill and intelligence including real time inputs, it also took political leadership and will. By going about his seemingly routine activities despite facing criticism after the Pulwama terror attack, the Prime Minister effectively camouflaged our plan and helped us catch the terrorists unaware. It is vital to target their think tanks because there is nothing like eradicating the heads of such operations.
Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman was flying an upgraded MiG 21 when he shot down a Pakistani F-16 and had to bail out too. You too have flown the earlier version of this fighter- your views on it and whether it should be decommissioned?
What Abhinandan did was commendable- when he realised that he was on the fire radar of the enemy fighter he ended up taking one of the enemy fighters down with him. The MiG 21 Bison is considerably upgraded than the earlier version. As far as its decommissioning is concerned, one must understand that one doesn’t throw away a thing just because it’s old. Unless one has something better to use, it is practical to use what is available.
India has enhanced its air capacity with Apache strike helicopters and 36 Rafale fighters are also expected. How will these bolster India’s military strength?
The State of the air force is not encouraging. The Apaches and Rafale will definitely augment our capability but we need numbers. While in service I had flown the Rafale in France during 2000. It has terrain following radar, better missiles and is quite superior. But at that time, I had asked for about 126 Rafales, what will a mere 36 do? The Apache strike helicopter is also good but suited more to the battlefield. In the scenario we are facing- that of terrorism rather than conventional warfare, we need more numbers.
We need the numbers because we also need to take decisive action against the root of terrorism. In addition to other measures, we need to be militarily strong to fight an extensive and intense war. Mind you, the purpose of the armed forces is to be a deterrent but we have to be prepared.
For India, militarily speaking Pakistan seems to pose challenges. How do you view this and consider India’s position?
We shouldn’t gloat over our victories over Pakistan in the past. They have a capable army and air force too. The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A from Jammu and Kashmir was okay and separating Ladakh was a masterstroke but we shouldn’t let the situation remain static for long. If we want to take back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, we must ensure that the people are with us. We won the 1971 war because the people of Bangladesh were also with us.
We already have some women qualified to be fighter pilots, do you see scope for more women joining the IAF to become fighter pilots?
One must understand that war is not glamorous- it involves considerable emotional trauma and physical pain for the person involved, family and society at large. It is not like they show in the movies. Even the psychological effect of a woman being captured and mistreated by the enemy is much more. Many want to be patriotic but we must understand that joining the armed forces is not the only way to be patriotic. We must accept biological limits. I have reservations on this issue but I think that rather than stopping it we must leave it to the ladies to decide.
In recent years there has been a rising trend of nationalism even as a segment espouses liberalism and looks down upon nationalism. What is your view on nationalism?
I believe nationalism is an essential requirement because you can’t feel for something unless there is an emotional attachment. We have family culture, school culture and also national values. We have a great culture and our philosophy is very deep but we don’t realise its depth and value.
What would you say to the youth at a time when an increasing number is falling prey to substance abuse?
People must understand that they shouldn’t ruin their lives for a momentary high. Those who encourage substance abuse, do so in order to exploit the addicts. Good health is vital- the ability to function at optimal level. Substance abuse deprives one of this.
Monday, 07 October 2019 | Pioneer
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