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The Indian Air Force is capable of effectively countering any threat from China while engaging in a two-front war also involving Pakistan, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said today and indicated that tension still prevailed between Chinese and Indian troops in Dokalam.
The IAF chief said Chinese troops were currently present in the Chumbi valley, which is in the Dokalam Plateau, and added that a peaceful resolution of the issue would be in the interest of both countries.
"The two sides are not in a physical face-off as we speak. However, their forces in Chumbi Valley are still deployed and I expect them to withdraw as their exercise in the area gets over," Dhanoa told reporters ahead of IAF Day, which is marked on October 8.
Asked about concerns over Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons and whether the IAF would be able to disarm Islamabad of its nuclear arsenals if necessary, Dhanoa said his force had the capability of locating, fixing and striking across the border.
Asserting that the IAF was capable of a two-front war to counter China and Pakistan, he, however, said the possibility of such a scenario was "low". At the same time he added that India's response had to be based on the enemy's capability as intentions could change overnight.
"We need a strength of 42 squadrons to carry out full spectrum operations in a two-front (war) scenario. It does not mean that we are not capable of fighting a two-front (war) as we speak. We have a plan B," Dhanoa said.
Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat had said last month that the country should be prepared for a two-front war, insisting that China had started "flexing its muscles", while there seemed to be no scope for a reconciliation with Pakistan whose military and polity saw an adversary in India.
Currently, the IAF has 33 fighter squadrons and Dhanoa said the force would get the authorised strength of 42 fighter squadrons by 2032.
Asked whether the IAF was ready for a surgical strike across the border, he said it was ready to deal with any challenge and a call on such an operation would have to be taken by the government.
"Surgical strike is a decision that has to be taken by the government. The IAF has the capability to carry out the full spectrum of air operations," he said.
He said a war-like situation may arise if the IAF crossed the border.
On whether the IAF provided any support to the Army for the surgical strike last year and during the Dokalam face-off, the IAF chief said, "Whatever was asked from the air force was provided". He refused to share further details.
The IAF chief, however, said no air force assets were involved during the Myanmar operation and the surgical strike across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir last year.
"The IAF is prepared to fight at a short notice in full synergy with the other two sister services should the need arise," he said, adding that the force was in a high state of readiness to fight a war.
About a possible confrontation with China, he said India's air power was "adequate". At the same time, he talked about what China could or could not do from Tibet.
"Our capability is adequate," he said.
The IAF chief also spoke on a range of issues including steps being taken to enhance the strike capability of the force including the acquisition of S-400 'Triumf' long-range air defence missile systems from Russia and 36 Rafale combat jets.
He said the contract for five S-400 missile systems would be signed soon and their delivery would start two years after the deal was struck.
Dhanoa said a proposal for 83 indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft Mark I was being finalised.
"These men and women under my command are confident of taking on any threat and are fully prepared to undertake the full spectrum of air operations and respond to any challenge in the most befitting manner," said Dhanoa.
When asked about the Army chief's two-and-half front war comment also referring to internal security threats, Dhanoa said, "As a democracy we don't use kinetic air power against our own people.
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