Chaudhari told an annual news conference ahead of Air Force Day on October 8 that the IAF had taken “appropriate non-escalatory measures” in response to the activities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force along the LAC. China’s actions along the border are constantly monitored, he said.
“The benchmark to say the situation on the LAC is normal would be to return to status quo ante and complete withdrawal from all the points all along the LAC. That is the situation that we are looking for,” he said in response to questions regarding the situation on the frontier.
“As regards the recent air violations or incursions or increased air activity by the Chinese, we continuously monitor it by continuously enhancing our air defence efforts there. We have increased the presence of radars…and appropriate non-escalatory air defence measures are taken always on time,” he said.
“I think we have been able to signal our intent and…our state of readiness with the actions we have taken so far,” he added.
Chaudhari’s remarks were in marked contrast to Chinese envoy Sun Weidong’s recent claims that the situation along the LAC is “overall stable”, and the two countries have moved from the “emergency response” that followed the clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020 to “normalised management and control”.
India and China have been locked in a military standoff in the Ladakh sector since May 2020, when Beijing massed troops along the LAC in violation of several agreements and protocols on border management. External affairs minister S Jaishankar has insisted that the overall relationship between the two countries cannot be normalised until there is peace and tranquillity on the border.
Following the recent withdrawal of troops at Hot Spring, India has called on China to take forward the dialogue to ensure disengagement and de-escalation at remaining friction points such as Depsang and Demchok.
Asked about reports regarding China’s air incursions and military activities in the Ladakh sector, Chaudhari said the matter was taken up with the Chinese side, and all such activities are closely monitored. Confidence-building measures between the two sides are still in place though a hotline is yet to be set up, he said.
Replying to a question about the IAF scrambling fighter jets in response to a bomb scare on a China-bound Iranian airliner on Monday, Chaudhari said combat aircraft were scrambled in line with standard operating procedures.
“The response was to scramble fighters – initially two of them from a base in Punjab and thereafter another two followed this aircraft all the way till it left Indian airspace,” he said.
Asked whether military supplies from Russia and Ukraine were affected because of the war in Ukraine, he said the IAF has not faced any shortage of spares or components. Supplies were still being received, and the IAF has been procuring 62,000 spares and components from domestic sources as part of its indigenisation drive, he said.
Chaudhari said recent events on the global landscape have indicated a strong military is imperative to ward off external threats through deterrence.
“The armed forces in general and the IAF, in particular, will continue to remain a lynchpin in the national security matrix both as a deterrent as well as a war-winning instrument,” he said.
The IAF has been preparing for all types of security challenges, including a “worst case scenario”, and is fully prepared to face any situation.
“Our air defence elements are deployed 24×7, 365 days of the year to prevent any violation or transgression of our national airspace. Our fighters are always on readiness to be scrambled in a matter of a few minutes to counter any emergent threat,” he added.
Referring to the depleting number of fighter squadrons, Chaudhari said the Mirage 2000s, Jaguars and MiG-29s will be phased out by the middle of the next decade. At the same time, the IAF will acquire 114 medium-role fighter aircraft (MRFA).
“We are seeking more commitments from all the OEMs (original equipment makers) for ensuring indigenous contents and Make in India provisions. That is a work in progress,” he said.
Asked about the accidental firing of a Brahmos missile in March that subsequently landed in Pakistan, Chaudhari said the matter was adequatelty debated within the three services to ensure that such an incident never recurs.
On the recruitment of women into the IAF, he said a high ratio of women officers in the force is testimony to its commitment to providing equal opportunities and a level playing field for every individual, irrespective of gender. He said the IAF will induct women under the Agnipath scheme from 2023, and their percentage will be around 10% of total recruits.