New Delhi: The outcome of the 1962 war with China would have been different had the Air Force been used in an offensive role, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said today on the conflict in which India suffered a humiliating defeat.
He said the Kargil conflict of 1999 would have dragged for another three months had the IAF not been used. “Yes, no doubts about that. If air power was used at that time, the outcome would have been totally different,” he said when asked if the result of the 1962 war would have been different had air power been used. The IAF chief was addressing the annual Air Force Day press conference.
The issue of IAF not being used in the 1962 war is still debated by military historians and experts and there is no clarity as to why the air force was not used in that war. Browne said IAF was not allowed to be used in an offensive role and confined only to provide transport support to the Army and said “these are open and glaring lessons we should have imbibed”.
“But this time, I can assure you there will be no such limitation. The IAF will play a leading role in not just against that or any other sector but anywhere,” the IAF chief said.
He said a seminar will be held on October 26 to discuss if the result of the 1962 war would have been different had the IAF been used and “we are convinced that that it would have been different.”
Taking credit for ending the Kargil war, Browne said, “If IAF had not got into the war at right point of time offensively, the Kargil conflict would have continued for another three months at those impossible heights for our young jawans and officers to be climbing up and losing lives.
“It is air power, which concluded that war.”
Asked if it was “a blunder on part of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to not use the air force”, Browne said, “It seems you have read the book ‘Himalayan Blunder’ and I don’t want to add to the confusion to that.”
“In the hindsight, one can learn lessons from the history and these are open and glaring lessons we should have imbibed,” the IAF chief said. The IAF Chief said the armed forces were focussing a lot on the northeastern sector a number of projects to upgrade the infrastructure there were going on. “We are focusing a lot in northeast in terms of infrastructure,” he said.
Listing the steps taken by the IAF to strengthen its presence in northeast, Browne said six new C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft would be deployed in Panagarh in West Bengal to take care of the Eastern sector and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands territory.
He said two squadrons each of the frontline Su-30 aircraft and the yet-to-be-procured Rafale combat fighters would be deployed in the northeastern sector. Browne said the Government has also cleared a project worth Rs 1,750 crore to upgrade the Advanced Landing Grounds and helipads in the northeastern sector but that was not moving speedily due to various reasons.
He said the IAF wants these ALGs to be capable of operating aircraft such as the C-130J and the C-17 heavylift transport aircraft as operating only helicopters would not be of much help. Defence Minister A K Antony refused to react to the statements made by Browne about IAF’s possible role in 1962 China war, Antony said, “I will not answer any hypothetical questions.”
The Defence Minister was asked if he would have deployed the IAF in an offensive role in 1962 war had he been in the same office then. Meanwhile, when asked about Army’s plans to raise a Mountain Strike Corps in the northeastern sector, the Air Chief said at the press conference that there is a proposal in this regard which was being examined by the committee of three Services chiefs.
“Yes, there is a proposal by the Army for mountain corps and this is being examined by the chiefs of staffs. The entire case is being examined and there are certain recommendations that will go to the government. It will be a big and complex proposal and that will be discussed,” he said.
The Army has sent a proposal to raise a Mountain Corps in offensive roles for borders along China but it has been returned to the Defence Ministry for further consultations on it.
Commenting on IAF’s plans in the next year, Browne said the force will take part in two major exercises at home and in a multinational one.
“In February, we will have the Ironfist exercise in Pokharan where we will demonstrate our firepower capabilities and then in March, we will take part in the Ex Livewire,” he said.
“In July, we will move out to take part in the Red Flag multinational exercises at the American Nellis air base,” he said. The IAF had last taken part in these American wargames in 2008.