The government on Thursday said the request of the Indian Air Force to use fire power in retaliation against naxalites would be discussed but ruled out enlarging the scope of engagement of the armed forces in dealing with the naxal issue.

“The Ministry is examining the request …we do not want to enlarge the work of the armed forces [in fighting naxalites],” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told journalists at a reception hosted by Air Force Chief P.V. Naik on the occasion of Air Force Day.

Mr. Antony’s comment came on a day when the Cabinet Committee on Security discussed the naxalite problem at length. The government view is that the issue of dealing with naxalites should be left largely to the police.

During the last few days, the government has been stating that it does not want to use the armed forces to launch offensive operations against naxalites. The Air Chief was categorical on Thursday in stating that.

“We are against the armed forces being used for internal security. We are there to defend threats from across the borders. However, if the State requires our help we will… We are not attacking [naxalites] with helicopters or weapons on our aircraft,” Air Chief Naik said during an interaction with journalists after the Air Force Day parade at Hindon station, Ghaziabad.

The Air Force, he said, sought permission from the government to use retaliatory fire only to protect its personnel and helicopters being used in casualty evacuation, reposition, extraction or insertion of paramilitary forces and the police in naxalite areas.

The Air Chief said the IAF helicopter had come under attack from naxalites last year while carrying out casualty evacuation in Chhattisgarh last year resulting in the death of an air warrior.

In any case, even if the government gives permission to fire in self-defence, the option would be exercised under the clear command of the Captain of the helicopter and is the last of stringent steps. “We will use minimum force and cause minimum collateral damage,” he said.

“It will not be a free-for-all and not like a Rambo,” he said.

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