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Air Chief Marshal Tyagi talks about role for military

Written by: Staff

Washington, Aug 23: Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi has said the military's role has to be re-designed in the new resurgent India, with its high economic growth and political stability as in today's world, the focus has shifted from geo-politics to geo-economics.

Speaking on ''India's Strategic Environment and the Role of Military Power'' at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) here yesterday, the Air Chief said military power will become a major force to take India on the road to economic prosperity, and to safeguard its energy needs.

According to him another new role for the military could be a diplomatic role.

He said since the army and the navy already participate in major disaster rescue and relief work as well as disaster management all over the world, it could be expanded because India has always played a very responsible role in world affairs.

In this context he mentioned how the armed forces of India helped in the tsunami relief work, the earthquake in Pakistan, besides other natural disasters in Indonesia, Philippines and Maldives.

Referring to political instability in neighbouring countries, Chief Marshal Tyagi said India's democracy has been steadfast but it cannot be said of other countries in its neighbourhood. He said Pakistan is a democracy but with a heavy military influence over it. Afghanistan too is a democracy with an enormous amount of instability from insurgents and militants, while Nepal's democracy is in turmoil as besides the Maoists, the military also plays a role in its affairs.

Bangladesh, again is a democracy, but the influence of extremists elements is fast rising there. Sri Lanka, also is a democratic country, but it is virtually enveloped in a civil war, he said.

He, however, felt that China is stable politically and economically. ''Is democracy in south Asia the final road to political stability,'' he asked, adding that the ''military leaders and planners of India need to see the intentions of our neighbours and their capabilities must be taken into account.'' Although India does not believe in enforcing or selling democracy to the world, the Chief of the Airstaff said it would very much welcome if more countries turned to democracy to bring about political stability in the region.

Pakistan, according to him, is looking for an identity and China is modernising its arms. He also dwelt at length on terrorism and what he called ''non-state actors'' who cause an internal dimension to India's security. The world is no longer unipolar and there are several centres of power, he said. On the relationship between the United States and India, the Air Chief Marshal said it couldn't be closer. ''United States Air Force is our biggest advertiser at present.'' He carefully avoided getting into the pros and cons of the India-US nuke deal preferring to say that India needs nuclear energy to realize its full economic potential.

During his week-long visit to the United States, Air Chief Marshal Tyagi become the first Indian services chief to get a full-fledged classified tour of the American military space set-up and the complex network-centric operations set-up that facilitates strategic force and reach across the services. He will also visit the Nellis Air Base in Nevada to pitch India's keenness to be part of the multinational Red Flags air exercise and Honolulu for operational discussions with the US Pacific Command.

During his visit to the Pentagon for discussions with senior officials he is expected to talk about the purchase of F-16 and F-18 fighters, as also the Hercules C-130J transport aircraft.

Deeply aware of a rapidly depleting fleet that will pull down the IAF's strength to a shocking 28 fighter squadrons by 2012, he has often spoken of the need for India to acquire new fighter aircraft.

He had, earlier, said since it would take 15 years for the 126 new fighters under consideration to be fully inducted and operational, Air Headquarters had told the government that it needed an immediate stopgap acquisition of fighters to tide over the crisis.

The IAF has a sanctioned squadron strength of 39.5 squadrons but currently operates just 32. If that number hits the 28 figure, it would be the forces' lowest ever below sanctioned strength.

The Air Chief Marshal indicated that Pakistan would soon have new American F-16s from next year, and would begin inducting Chinese-made JF-17 aircraft in large numbers. If things don't go the IAF's way, he said, Pakistan will have greater fighter density for a country of its size compared to India.


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