Thursday, April 8, 2010



There is a confusing debate in our electronic media about the pros and cons of using air power against the Maoist insurgents. The debate has been triggered off by remarks made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P.Chidambaram about all options remaining open, including the use of air power. These comments were made after the Maoists succeeded in butchering 75 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force plus one member of the District Police in a deadly ambush in the forests of the Dantewada District of Chattisgarh on April 6, 2010.

2. There are three concepts involved---use of air power, use of air strikes and use of the Air Force in the operations against the insurgents. Air power is a wide term implying the use of air-borne assets such as aircraft, helicopters and armed or unarmed Drones (pilotless planes) for performing various operational tasks such as intelligence collection, electronic monitoring of ground signals, logistics, humanitarian relief and attacks on the ground positions of the insurgents.

3.Air strike is a restricted term meaning the use of air-borne assets only for the purpose of attacking the insurgents' ground positions.Use of the Air Force means using the air-borne assets of the Air Force.

4. In the history of India's counter-insurgency, we have used air strikes by the Air Force only once----in 1966 when the Mizo National Front (MNF), in a surprise attack, overran practically the whole of Mizoram, including Aizawl, its capital. To dislodge the MNF insurgents from Aizawl, air strikes by the Air Force of a limited duration were ordered. Apart from that we have not used air strikes by the Air Force for dealing with internal security situations. A basic principle followed by many countries is that one cannot resort to air strikes in one's own territory against one's own people.

5.Air strikes on one's own nationals tend to aggravate an insurgency situation by causing casualties of civilians, damaging the environment in forest areas and driving more people to join the ranks of the insurgents. They also attract the attention and criticism of international human rights organisations such as the Amnesty International and humanitarian relief organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

6. There are cases of some nations resorting to air strikes by their Air Froce against their own nationals for dealing with an insurgency.Examples: Pakistan's use of its Air Force against the Baloch nationalists and the Pakistani Taliban, Russia's use of the Air Force against the Chechens and Sri Lanka's use of its Air Force against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In Pakistan and Russia it has aggravated the insurgency problem. In Sri Lanka, the air strikes helped in crushing the insurgency, but it has been facing an embarrassing sequel in the form of international demands for an enquiry into the way it crushed the LTTE.

7. The use of air strikes by our Air Force against the Maoist positions on the ground would be inadvisable. It could brutalise our counter-insurgency operations. Over the years, India has made for itself a name as a role-model in its restrained counter-insurgency approach. We have dealt with serious situations without resorting to air strikes and the use of heavy artillery. We should not deviate from our exemplary record of the past in dealing with alienated sections of our population who have taken to arms against the State.

8. Use of air power without air strikes is permissible in counter-insurgency situations. We are already using air power for dealing with internal security situations. For special interventions for terminating a terrorist attack, we use aircraft under the control of the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), a civilian organisation, piloted by Air Force officers taken on deputation by the ARC. They go into action not on behalf of the Air Force, but on behalf of a civilian wing of the Government (the ARC). Similarly, even in Dantewada on April 6, we used air power for logistics and humanitarian purposes such as the evacuation of the injured.

9. Similarly, for years, we have been using the surveillance aircraft of the ARC for intelligence collection purposes while dealing with an insurgency through methods such as aerial photography, electronic monitoring of ground signals etc. It is totally in order for us to continue to use air power for such purposes. It will be equally in order for us to undertake a post-mortem of the adequacy of the airpower available for use in counter-insurgency situations. If there are deficiencies, how to remove them?

10. There are two ways of removing the deficiencies--- augment the air power of para-military organisations such as the CRPF and the Border Security Force (BSF) and supplement their air power by using the air-borne assets of the Air Force. After 1966, we have not used the air-borne assets controlled by the Air Force in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism situations. If we want to use the assets of the Air Force in future on a regular basis, procedural complications might arise because the assets of the Air Force were sanctioned and acquired for use against external adversaries and not for use in internal security situations. That is why the Air Force chief seems to have some reservations on this issue.

11. A correct solution, which will not prove controversial, will be to undertake a crash programme for augmenting the air power of the para-military forces and the ARC.

12. Barring the example of Operation Blue Star in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984, we have avoided using the Armed Forces for counter-insurgency situations in areas away from the border. In the bordering areas, the cross-border dimensions make the use of the armed forces for an active role become unavoidable. But we do avoid in other areas. We should continue doing so. We would not like the Maoists, who have taken to arms against the police and the para-military forces, to start looking upon the armed forces also as their enemies and begin attacking them.

13. The Armed Forces should be used only in a desperate ground situation. The situation in the Maoist-controlled areas is serious, but not desperate. Chidambaram's image as a no-nonsense professional to the core has taken a beating after the way he mishandled the case for the extradition of David Coleman Headley, of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), and the Maoist insurgency . Instead of drawing the right lessons from the set-backs suffered by him so far, he is tending to lose patience and embark on even more escalatory methods. This could prove counter-productive. ( 9-4-2010)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


ambi said...

I was really disturbed to hear Air Force Chief’s comments that Maoists are our own people. If other people in the higher echelon are sharing this view, than we are done.
No sir no! They are not our own people. No body butchers our own in such a brutal way. Just because Maoists are Indians, use Indian names are born & live here, does not make them our own. They don’t believe in New Delhi, its constitution, its system.

Let there be no dilemma. They are not our own. They have already started getting military training, modern & lethal weapons from Nepal & China. Is New Delhi waiting for the time, when Naxalites procure fighter jets & tanks?

Of course they are no match to Indian force, & they will be eliminated. But at what cost? How much blood we will have to shed for that. How many of my boys will bleed because of the negligence of New Delhi? Until & unless we are not rightly seeing them as soldiers of PLA we are not going to get success against them. As the dialog in the movie ‘Few Good Men’ goes. “Your shoulders are not strong enough to handle the truth.” Its time for us to handle the truth, how ever painful that is.

The truth is:

Maoists are not our own.

They are soldiers of PLA.

In Mahabharata, when Arjun did not want to fight his own brothers & relatives. This is what Lord Krishna tells him, that today or tomorrow you have to fight them. So fight today when you have advantage on your side.

Our minds should be undeterred in our goal. We should not shy away from using airpower if need arises. Fight them to finish. That means elimination of Maoists should start from India & should go to Mao’s tomb in PRC via Nepal.

Let there be no doubt that for India LET & Maoists are same, & hence should be treated accordingly.

Aviano1 said...

(As the dialog in the movie ‘Few Good Men’ goes. “Your shoulders are not strong enough to handle the truth.” Its time for us to handle the truth, how ever painful that is.)and the truth is maoists active in the so called red corridor are indians (with or without indian names).Apart from interactions with the Nepali maoists, is there any evidence that arms are being supplied by the chinese. If so, why hasnt GOI been able to stop it.Mr. Raman has rightly pointed some changes required in our strategy in his previous article, which put to use can deliver tangible results.Use of Airforce for offensive operations isnt going to change much in the long run. Our paramilitary forces will have to go in and do the job and blood will be lost. This is the cost we as indians have to pay for the lax attitude of state and central governments present and past, who had the chance to resolve this issue long time before it actually gained such momentum.

ambi said...

Dear Aviano 1. I am not an expert, hence I may be wrong. But can you explain why Beijing recently hacked a computer in which sensitive info regarding operation Green Hunt against Maoists was stored?
Earlier Beijing was using Pakistan to engage India. But as Pakistan has screwed up itself, it can’t rely on it for this. They have to look other options to engage Indian forces. & that to fast

Aviano1 said...

Dear Ambi. I am an indian, so i cannot explain nor do I have knowledge of what the chinese do or plan.I only said there is no evidence (yet) of chinese supplying arms to maoists.Somewhere in this blog there was a mention about a chinese analyst talking about balkanisation of india. So in that regard and looking at other instances before, one can conclude that there is al ill will towards india by the chinese.
getting back,my post was on the use of IAF for combat operations. At the end of the day, don't you think that ground forces will need to secure areas liberated from maoists? It really makes sense to use air assets for gathering intel and providing logistical support, till the paramilitary wings acquire this capability. That all said, the major problem requiring to be solved is that of the tribals, who are the footsoldiers on the maoists. Why would a tribal living in peace want to do away with the indian state? the people who take advantage and incite violence to a level as seen a few days ago are the intelectuals who lead this organisation.
P.S: I am no expert in these issues, just my opinion.

ambi said...

Hi Aviano1! Thanks for replying to my comments. India has just got two armchair experts in u n me. ha ha ha. Cheers! Just kidding mate!
I am not saying that we should use air force, but what worries me is that calling Maoist our own people, which I feel they are not. For that matter even Mr. Jinnah was considered our own before 1947, but now we know that he was not. What heavy price we paid for that? Ideology of Maoism is absolutely opposite to Indian Constitution. Ek mayan mein do talvarein nahin rah sakti.

鄭珮瑜 said...


MANAS PAUL said...

In Vairangte in Mizoram ( almost on Silchar-Mizoram border)the Indian Army runs a facility for counter insurgency operations and jungle warfare...where even the USA Special forces were trained before they were dispatched to Afghanistan.
The motto of the institution is simple--Fight 'Guerrillas like a Guerrilla'.
This facility besides army men also train paramilitary forces. In Tripura we have elite combat force Tripura State Rifles (TSR) which succeeded in containing tribal militants who were better trained and better equipped than those Maoists. TSR was trained in Vairangte and they also have their own similar facility in Tripura.I believe there are many other forces who are trained in counter insurgency and jungle warfare. They should be used to flush out and eliminate those Maoists. CRPF I believe were not that much trained and experienced in CI ops. They are the best in policing matters and providing security. TSR should be immediately deployed in Maoist region. They have India Reserve Battalions raised by centre's fund which are actually meant for duties outside Tripura whenever required. Believe me they are the Best state force in India as far as the counter insurgency campaign is concerned.ask any army or paramilitary official who had served in Tripura.. They have proved it ...Visit the NSG headquarters you will find the achievements of the TSR personnel during commando trainings. Some of them were still considered the Best. for example in NSG 26 obstacles clearance TSR jawan German Baksy made a record in 1991 which, if I am not mistaken, could not be broken till date.(You may please also read a post in response to Mr Raman's another blog '...Black day' where I sought to explain other points in favor of TSR deployment in Maoist areas)

shaan said...

A different issue. Just for your information. இந்திய எல்லைக்குள் சென்ற படகை இலங்கைக் கடற்படை சிறைப்பிடித்தது, இந்திய கடற்படை மீட்டது. Requires font download.

balaji said...

I agree with Mr Ramans analysis that we should not use Air force Mr Paul in the above comment has stated that Indias sucess in Mizoram,to a limited extent in J&K in maintaining the peace has gone a long way for the Indian constitution to bear fruit in these areas.Air strikes may decimate the Maoists but it is almost impossible to do it without collateral damage and we simply couldnt afford that.IF that works then we would have done it in J&K two decades ago.By the way Mr paul why are the American who train with us and we give them all the info and then they protect a terrorist(a supposed agent) Mr Headley who was responsible for the murder of hundreds in Mumbai including Americans.The irony is that the LET terrorists were infact targeting foreigners particularly American Jews(Chabad House) in Mumbai.Ultimately for USA any attack on India is not their concern even if Americans die.What an absurd strategy by the US they will never win the war on terror