The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, December 8, 2002

Air Force should be used to combat insurgency
Rajendra Nath

Air Power and Counter Insurgency: A Review
Air Commodore A.K. Tiwary, VSM. Lancerís Books, New Delhi, 2002. Pages 202. Rs 430

Air Power and Counter Insurgency: A ReviewINDIA is involved in a campaign against Pakistan trained and equipped insurgents in J&K where the Indian Army and paramilitary are suffering constant losses. So far only the Army and paramilitary forces have been used against the insurgents. Why has the Air Force not been used to deal with the growing number of insurgents is not known. That the use of our well-equipped Air Force in curbing the insurgency is a must, is the well-reasoned contention of the author, Air Commodore Tiwari. The author is serving as Head of the Training Team (Air) at Defence Services Staff College Wellington. He is probably the first senior Air Force, or for that matter Defence officer, who has strongly recommended the use of Air Force to support the army in its fight against insurgency.

The author suggests that using the Air Force would help reduce the number of troops on the ground. Besides, if helicopters were used for transportation, the troops would remain in better battle-worthy conditions, as they would be able to avoid fatigue that came from long marches on foot in tough terrain.


When insurgents fire from dominating positions, aircrafts can be used to hit them with rockets or bombs. The time needed for troops to reach insurgentsí positions can be reduced if helicopters are used to transport them. The Air Force can also carry out reconnaissance and surveillance over much larger areas. And this will reduce the number and frequency of foot patrols in difficult terrain.

It is a pity that we have not used our Air Force resources to help the Army even on our side of the LoC. I would have thought that senior Army officers, particularly those serving in J&K, would press hard for effective air support and the Army Chief would strongly support their case in the Ministry of Defence, to save the Army unnecessary casualties. After all safeguarding of the lives of soldiers and looking after their welfare is the duty of the senior officers. Perhaps it would be ideal to hold seminars to discuss whether our Army and paramilitary forces can counter the Pakistan-backed insurgency in J&K without the help and active support of the Air Force under the existing circumstances.

Meanwhile, our country is raising more Rashtriya Rifle Units, infantry battalions and paramilitary forces to fight insurgency in J&K. The manpower-intensive measures which are being introduced suit the insurgents, while the use of the Air Force in a combat role will certainly pay much more dividends and inflict more casualties on the insurgents. The author has met many serving Army officers who have previously served in J&K in anti-insurgency operations. They have all expressed their strong support for an active Air Force role in curbing insurgency.

The truth is that India has been following a reactive policy instead of a proactive strategy. The book describes incidents of successful application of air power to combat insurgency in various countries of Africa and Asia. The Europeans had devised new roles for their air force, whenever they had to deal with in insurgents. Our senior officers, both Army and Air Force, may study these campaigns to learn useful lessons.

The author recommends the use of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) helicopters and slow-flying aircraft to carry out reconnaissance and to support the Army by targeting insurgents. This would certainly affect the morale of the insurgents adversely and help our Army, which would suffer lesser casualties.

The author has recommended changes in the existing system of Air Force-Army cooperation in order to obtain better results and coordination between the two services. Incidentally the existing system of Army-Air Force cooperation is almost 50 years old and could do with some change. This book deals with a live and serious problem and comes up with new ideas and thoughtful suggestions, which should be studied by our Air Force and Army officers.