Always a celebratory issue, this year the shadow of China looms over the Indian Air Force special edition. Perhaps, this was to be expected. With the crisis in Ladakh remaining unresolved and the possibility of any kind of honourable resolution in the near future diminishing by the day, a sense of inevitability has gripped the armed forces. Not of war, but a near war-like situation, in which the troops deployed on the erstwhile Line of Actual Control—now called Border Areas—will have to remain in the state of readiness at all times.
Of course, the troops will be from the Indian Army. But their deployments will have to be sustained by the Indian Air Force. To say that IAF’s responsibilities have increased manifold would be an understatement. For a technology-intensive service, induction of new equipment and remaining at the cutting edge of technology is an operational requirement. Volatility of the national economy sets back this process, opening gaps in air force’s war preparedness.
This then is the tenor of the IAF special issue. The pleasure at the induction of Rafale fighter is tempered by the realisation that the road ahead is marked by several uncertainties—each more worrying than the other. The lead article, written by a former C-in-C, underscores this gap between planning and execution. His sobering observation is that even if everything works to the plan, IAF may still not be able to reach the target strength of 42 fighter squadrons even by 2040!
In another article, an air veteran minces no words in saying that ‘India’s ambitions to be an aerospace power and its indigenous capability are a pitiable mismatch’. Yet another draws attention to China’s deployment of a bomber aircraft in Tibet Autonomous Region. If the Ladakh crisis is taken seriously as a wake-up call, we can start the process of rationalisation and modernisation in a more pragmatic and result-oriented manner.
In the India and the BRI section, we look at Thailand this time, a country flanked by the Andaman Sea on one side and South China Sea on the other. Both its geography and history makes it an important partner for India and China. How Thailand balances the two relationships would determine the security of India’s island territories.
On another note, the FORCE books section has been received very well. We are getting a lot of response from publishers, authors and readers. We will continue to add variety to it. Do send in your feedback as well as reading lists.
Happy IAF Day!