The use of the Air Force in the sub-conventional domain was considered a “taboo” in the past and the Balakot air strike was a “paradigm shift”, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria said on Friday.
And Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the air strike “forced the rewriting of many a manual and rule book across the Line of Control [LoC]” regarding support for cross-border terrorism.
Addressing a seminar on ‘Air power in no war, no peace scenario’ organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies, he said, “Balakot was a clear demonstration that there exists a space within the sub-conventional conflict boundary wherein the Air Force can be used for targeting and yet have escalation control.”
Use of air power was discussed in the past but most suggestions in this regard were negative and it was decided better not to use, he stated.
Mr. Singh described the Balakot trike as a singular event of military precision and impact. It taught the leadership to think strategic than tactical. “Our approach to terrorism was and will remain a judicious combination of clinical military action and mature and responsible diplomatic outreach,” he said.
The collective diplomatic and financial pressure on Pakistan to end support to cross-border terrorist was visible with terrorists like Hafiz Saeed being put behind bars. “We realise that this is not enough and unless Pakistan is made accountable, it will continue with its previous policy of duplicity and deceit,” he stated.
Mr. Singh termed hybrid warfare a reality. A mix of kinetic and non-kinetic tools was a genuine threat, he noted.
CDS on credible deterrence
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said that for the Services to undertake the tasks assigned, it was important to “maintain credible deterrence at land, air and at all times.”
He said, “Credible deterrence comes from the will of the military leadership and intent of political leadership while taking the tough decision. This was amply shown after Kargil and the Uri and Pulwama attacks”.
On the Balakot air strike, ACM Bhadauria said, “When undertaking such targets, we need the moral high ground.” The retort by Pakistan on February 27 last year was aimed at its domestic audience and “fundamentally aimed at de-escalation,” he stressed.
On the regional situation, he said the IAF had an edge over the Pakistan Air Force in terms of Beyond Visual Range Missile (BVR) capability at the time of Kargil. “We allowed that to slip and thereafter it took a decade-and-a-half of struggle in the acquisition process to be able to get better capability”. The induction of Rafale jets in a few months armed with Meteor BVR would restore the balance, he stated but added that the 36 Rafale jets were not enough.
Stressing on need for indigenisation, the Air Chief said that if the country had not been able to develop indigenous weapon systems in the last six decades then the “focus has been in the wrong place.” “We will be very happy that in the next skirmish, the weapons and sensors used are indigenous,” he said.