NEW DELHI: IAF Chief Arup Raha on Saturday called the repeated incursions by Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a ‘mystery’, as it coincided with high-profile visits.
“It’s been always a mystery the way incursions take place and the way they coincide with various visits. It’s nothing new, it remains a mystery for all of us,” he told reporters here.
Around 900-1,000 PLA soldiers had intruded into Chumar area of Ladakh last month, while Chinese President Xi Jinping was on a three-day visit to the country. Similar incursions took place in April last in Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh, days before Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang’s official visit here.
“You all know that in diplomacy, a lot of signalling is done, especially so with our Northern neighbour. It could be part of some signalling to my mind. But, I am not going to guess what it really means,” said Raha, replying to a query on the reasons for frequent PLA incursions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, the IAF chief stressed that Indian forces had not ceded ground at the border.
Expressing concern over the repeated delays in the projects, Raha said it was the government’s responsibility to provide whatever was necessary, as “The IAF is the country’s
airforce and not mine”. Raha claimed to have sent a caution note to the government about the IAF’s fighting capability.
“Every project, be it acquisition or design development, is taking longer than it ideally should. We have lost time lines. Time overrun is much more than it should have been. It is a concern,”he added. The IAF chief also expressed high hopes, with the new establishment at the Centre.
“This government (BJP-led NDA Government) means business, as they are reviewing each and every project. I see great urgency in this government. We are regularly meeting the Defence Minister with our issues and nowadays, all three Service Chief are meeting the Prime Minister individually once a month,“ Raha added.
Meanwhile, he also disclosed that the deal for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) would shortly be finalised as the contract negotiation committee had all but completed its work.
Talking about the projects that were caught up in delays, he cited the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which India was developing along with Russia, and also said that there was an urgent need to replace the vintage light helicopters of the Army, as well as the IAF, as their flight safety record was not good.
Meanwhile, in the view of Chinese aggressive posturing on the LAC, the IAF Chief admitted that the IAF presence in the North-East sector was poor. But now, the government has decided to focus on the sector, which was earlier neglected, by approving various projects.
“We are inducting radars and fighters, including SU-30, and Surface to Air Missiles in the North-East. And I believe that in next five years, we would be comfortable and better equipped in the sector,” the IAF Chief said.
The IAF is building six new Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in the North-East sector and the projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2015 to meet any contingency. But, the development of Nyoma airbase in Ladakh will take at least four to five years to be equipped as fighter base.