"There is a threat from such agencies but the nation is prepared for it," Raha said when asked about the al-Qaeda threat regarding the group starting operations in India. He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on the role of the Air Force in the 1965 war with Pakistan.
US media and intelligence agencies said yesterday that al- Qaeda has established a new branch to wage jihad in India, revive its caliphate and impose sharia in the Indian sub- continent. The creation of the group called 'Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent' was announced by As Sahab, al-Qaeda's official media outlet, in a lengthy video posted on social media outlets.
Al-Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the group's leader Ayman-al Zawahiri said 'Qaedat al-Jihad' would take the fight to India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Security agencies feel the video could be an attempt by al -Qaeda to carry out fresh recruitments in the sub-continent as it stares at diminishing influence vis-a-vis the jihadist group ISIS.
Meanwhile, as to reports about the creation of infrastructure, including Su-27 fighter bases and radar stations along the Line of Actual Control by China, Raha said these were "true to a large extent and part of their (China's) preparation. I cannot say that they are not doing it".
Talking about the Air Force, Raha said they were studying a proposal for increasing the retirement age by two years but there has been no proposal yet from their side to the government in this regard.
On whether there were structural defects in the indigenous ALH Dhruv choppers, Raha said, " All these aircraft were checked and many have been cleared. The investigations are on and, so, I cannot say much."
The ALH Dhruv choppers were recently grounded by IAF after a crash in Bareilly in which around five IAF personnel lost their lives. Raha said the Air Force was developing four full-fledged air bases at Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Ojhar in Maharashtra and Kargil and Nyoma in Jammu and Kashmir.
He said as part of infrastructure development, the force was developing Advanced Landing Grounds in the northeast. Raha said the induction of fighter aircraft such as Light Combat Aircraft, Medium-Multi-role Combat Aircraft and Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft would help in the strengthening of the force's capabilities.
Speaking about the 1965 war, Raha said Pakistan Air Force had superior aircraft like the American F-104 and Sabre but the IAF thwarted its attempt to wrest Kashmir from India. He said that aggression by Pakistan 1965 was committed in 1965 as the neighbouring country thought that India had been weakened by its war with China in 1962.
Indian Air Force, which got involved in combat for the first time after Independence during the 1965 war, had a fleet of obsolete aircraft while Pakistan Air Force had modern aircraft provided by the US, he said. Raha said that IAF imbibed the lessons from the 1965 war in full earnest, "which resulted in telling successes in the 1971 India-Pakistan war and the 1999 Kargil conflict.
"The procedures for Army-Air Force co-operation were revamped, resulting in considerable reduction in response time to emergent demands of the fighting ground forces."