With an eye on the two-front threat posed by China and Pakistan, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning for Gagan Shakti, a country-wide training exercise, scheduled to take place during April 11-21, the Indian Express reported Saturday, April 7.
The exercise will be conducted in two separate phases for western and northern borders across India and deep over the Indian waters. More than 15,000 IAF personnel, including 300 officers, will move from their bases during the exercise which will see the involvement of over 1,100 aircraft. This would mean 3,000 to 4,000 sorties per day during the exercise.
IAF sources were quoted as saying that the first phase of Gagan Shakti will see practice by forces deployed along the western border (with Pakistan) while the second phase will be for practice along the northern border (with China).
As per the existing protocol, Pakistan has already been intimated of the exercise.
IAF sources said that although Gagan Shakti, a force level exercise, is conducted every two years, this is the first time indigenously manufactured Tejas LCA fighter jets will participate in the exercise. IAF had raised one squadron of Tejas in 2016 but it awaits the full complement of HAL-made fighters for its fleet.
Two-front war not a good idea, says Indian general
Interestingly, Lt. Gen Surinder Singh, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, said last March that a two-front war is not a "smart idea".
Lt. General Surinder was alluding to the statement of Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat who said in June 2017 that the Indian Army was ready for a "two-and-a-half-front war" (China, Pakistan & internal security requirements simultaneously).
Speaking on the concluding day of a seminar on "Geo-strategic manifestations in Pakistan and Implications for India" at Panjab University in Chandigarh, Lt Gen Singh said India needed to improve relations with China in order to gain the best possible leverage over Pakistan.
"It will also help us secure one side of the border. People keep talking about a two-front war. It is never a good idea, never a smart idea to fight a two-front war," he said. He added that there were various options, including re-negotiating some treaties, to bring about some pressure on Pakistan.
"In Pakistan, military's writ runs. Therefore, sooner or later, we have to talk to their military. I am convinced that on our side also, military diplomacy plays a very important role. Therefore, there has to be a greater role to military diplomacy so that the militaries of the two nations can work with each other and bring about greater confidence in each other and we can go forward," he said.
Referring to China, the Army commander said the relations were manageable. "There is not that sort of enmity, from people to people or from entire polity on one side and the polity on the other side. There are differences on demarcation of borders. I think this can be worked out. If we can improve our relations with China, we can develop the best possible leverage with Pakistan in times to come," Lt Gen Singh added. "Working with China will secure one side of border," he said.
The general also emphasized that Pakistan's nuclear deterrence had reduced the window for conventional conflict. "You can only push them conventionally to a limit and not beyond that. And no nuclear nation can be browbeaten beyond a particular stage. It is for that nation to lay down the red lines as to what is the limit of the punishment they will take," he said.
China objects to India's 'transgression' in Arunachal
The massive Indian Air
Force exercise comes amid tension on India's northern in disputed border in Arunachal Pradesh
The Chinese military has strongly protested against what it called the Indian Army's transgressions into the strategically sensitive Asaphila area along the disputed border in Arunachal Pradesh.