IAF in Naxal-hit areas but no `Rambo style offensive’
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Last Updated: Friday, October 09, 2009, 00:24
Zeenews Bureau

Hindon (UP): The IAF on Thursday said it will deploy its commando units to defend its helicopters and men on board in Naxal-infested areas, but made it clear that they would not carry out any "rambo-style" operation against the Maoists.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik told reporters here that the Garud special forces would be present in the helicopters flying in Maoist-hit areas for rescue operations and would defend their personnel and equipment by warding-off attacks by Naxals on them.

"It is not a free for all like 'Rambo' that we will go and fire in the countryside. The helicopters operating for casualty evacuation will be mounted with guns and the Garud force will man them," Naik said on the sidelines of the 77th Air Force Day parade here.

There are laid down procedures. You have to ensure minimum use of force, minimum collateral damage, firing has to be permitted by the captain of the helicopter and so on, Naik told reporters.

Asked about the IAF request to the government to allow opening of fire in self-defence, he said the Cabinet Committee on Security will decide the matter.

"I want to reiterate that I am totally against armed forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- being used in internal situations. We are meant to defend threats from across the border," he said.

Naik, however, said, "If the states requires any help we are always there to give it in terms of casualty evacuation and insertion (of security forces)."

IAF helicopters providing air support and non-offensive roles in Maoist affected areas have been fired at in the past. The IAF has carried out surveillance, reconnaissance and casualty evacuations during anti-Maoist operations.

On Nov 14 last year, the IAF lost an aircrew when Maoists fired at a Mi-8 helicopter in Pedia in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region. Referring to the killing, Naik said this made the IAF request the Defence Ministry to permit it to open fire in self-defence.

He said the request was to ensure that the IAF could protect its personnel and platforms and suppress the fire coming on to a helicopter.

The IAF has sought permission from the defence ministry to fire in self-defence. "We are not indulging in armed offensive against the people of India. We are trying to protect our men, women and crew who fly these machines," said Naik.

"In the helicopters going for anti-Naxal operations the measures will be taken in self defence. The first being armour, then body armour for the crew, tactical manoeuvring and sanitisation of place before taking off and landing by the local agencies," said Naik.

However, once permission is granted, the IAF will mount guns manned by Garud, the IAF's special force, the chief revealed. He maintained that the Air Force was not deploying its armed helicopters or aircraft to bomb any area in Naxalite- affected regions.

IAF not part of any anti-Naxal offensive: Govt

Government tonight said use of IAF helicopters in any offensive against Naxals is not part of a strategy in its new plan to deal with rising Maoists' violence.

Shortly after the Cabinet Committee of Security(CCS) approved the Government's new action plan to combat Naxals, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said it was not contemplating the use of Air Force helicopters for any offensive purposes even in self-defence.

"We are not contemplating the use of Air Force helicopters for any offensive purposes even in self-defence, because we will be able to...We have worked out strategies that will ensure that...we would ensure that the Naxalites are not able to fire at the helicopters as they come in for landing," Pillai told a news channel.

He said the strategy for using Air Force helicopters is primarily for three purposes -- one for casualty evacuation, two for surveillance, and three for mobility.

Pillai's comments came even as Defence Minister A K Antony said it was studying an IAF proposal to open fire at naxals in self-defence.

"However, the Ministry doesn't want to enhance the role of the armed forces in the anti-Naxal operations more than what it is doing at present," Antony said.

Pillai also said the basic strategy now will be for the security forces to go into areas where civil administration is not functioning to dominate the area.

First Published: Friday, October 09, 2009, 00:24

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