New Delhi, Oct 6 (ANI): The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, told the media ahead of IAF's 78th anniversary that fifty percent of the Indian Air Force's equipment is obsolete, but claimed that it was still capable of defending the country from any threat.
The Air Chief then gave details of modernization plans for the service; the aircraft that the country is going to buy, the missiles it was going to install and the fighter aircraft it was going to develop.
He also disclosed that the Indian Air Force was short of 550 to 600 officers in the flying branch alone.
Talking of any threats, the Air Chief referring to Mauryan administrator Chanakya said the country was keeping a watch on her neighbours, including China. Presumably the suggestion is that the Indian Air Force has constructed a new airfield and made it operational in Ladakh. The Government is being asked to permit the stationing of the Sukhoi fighters there.
My mind switched back to the days during which I had functioned as a spokesman for the Army and later the Armed Forces. The basic rule that was told to me was that we should not give out any information that would give the strength or weaknesses of our Armed Forces to our adversaries and should not release any information that would disclose the specific nature of the formations deployed, particularly in the forward areas.
As a young public relations officer, I used to feel awkward reporting even sports functions held in Jalandhar or Ambala with the date line "somewhere along the northern border", and persuade the newspapers to publish them.
Once, in l963, I spent half-the morning trying to persuade the military intelligence directorate to permit me to release a photograph relating to the setting up of the Rezang La memorial near Chushul. The memorial was being set up to commemorate the battle in which a unit of the Kumaon Regiment led by Major Shaitan Singh fought to the last man. A Chinese post was overlooking the location of the memorial, but the release of a picture of the event was questioned as it was in a 'forward' area. Eventually I succeeded in releasing the photograph and the story.
Later, when I headed the Directorate of Public Relations, the practice was that the three Service Chiefs would address the media on the anniversary of the particular service project, its strength and high morale of the officers and men.
The Indian Armed Forces have always had some 'obsolete' weapons, but they came out successful in battles. In 1965, the tiny Gnat of the Indian Air Force posed a challenge to the Pakistan Air Force equipped with the most modern aircraft, including starfighters gifted by the United States.
I also had the privilege of taking American correspondents to the graveyard of Patton tanks which became a casualty to the Indian Armoured Brigade located near Bhikhiwind in Punjab. The Armoured Brigade made mincemeat of the Patton tanks with World War II vintage Shermans and Centurions.
Again, the Indian Armed Forces did not wilt when Pakistan, which had the moral support of the United States, cracked down on East Pakistan in 1971 with millions of refugees fleeing to India. In the war that followed, the Indian Air Force neutralized the Pakistan Air Force in East Pakistan and ensured the safety of its skies throughout the 12-day operation. The Indian Army converged on East Pakistan, which saw the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani solders in Dacca. The Pakistan Armed Forces did ossess superior equipment, but that did not help them.
Indian battleships were able to bomb the Karachi harbour and effectively block the Pakistan Navy. The Indian Navy sank the lone submarine of the Pakistan Navy in the Bay of Bengal.
During the Kargil operations in 1999, the determination of the Indian Army and the Air Force officers and personnel frustrated the attempts of the adversary to occupy strategic areas along the Line of Control.
The basic discipline of not disclosing the strength or weakness of our Armed Forces remained a cardinal principle. Why is it changing?
As a communicator for the Armed Forces, my experience has been that the Government or the country has never denied the supply of modern equipments to the Services. For decades after independence, India depended on United Kingdom for armaments, but international developments put pressure on that country not to sell sensitive equipment to India. The Soviet Union became our main supplier and the situation is slowly changing now.
Our defence industry too is developing fast. We are manufacturing guns, tanks, ships, combat aircraft and modern short range as well as inter-continental missiles.
True, the Armed Forces would like to have the best weapons available, and the latest. The country has not so far said 'no' to their demands if resources permit. One gets the feeling that 'communications' within the South Block and the interaction between South Block and North Block, where the Finance and Home Ministries are located, can be improved without the help of the mass media!
Meanwhile, many Happy Returns to the Indian Air Force! By I. Ramamohan Rao (ANI)RECOLLECTIONS OF A COMMUNICATOR