Leveraging India’s air power: A force to reckon with

Source– The post is based on the article “Leveraging India’s air power: A force to reckon with” published in “The Indian Express” on 29th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations. GS3- Internal Security

News– The article explains the increasing significance of airpower for India in context of Chinese national security strategy.

How is India recognising the importance of the air force?

The concept of national security is evolving from being limited to the land and sea domains. It is moving gradually towards a forward-looking strategy that encompasses multiple domains.

The involvement of the Indian Air Force in the regular border discussions with the Army signifies a significant advancement.

The agreement to procure 26 naval variants of the Rafale combat aircraft underscores the crucial role of air power in maritime settings.

It increases the interoperability between the land-based air capabilities of the IAF and the carrier-based air capabilities of the Navy.

New Delhi seems to recognize the pivotal role the Air Force plays in safeguarding India’s national and regional security, and its foreign policy objectives.

This is evident from the participation in seven air exercises this year alongside the air forces of the US, France, Japan, UK, Greece, the UAE, and the upcoming 12-nation mega air exercise planned for October-November.

It also signifies international acknowledgment of the IAF’s professional capabilities and the broader significance of air power in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific regions.

Why is the air force becoming a strategic necessity?

The capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force are increasing. Therefore, the utilisation of Indian air power for diplomatic signals and coercive actions in disputed aerial territories is necessary.

It’s a strategic necessity to deploy Indian air power in the Indian Ocean. It is a vital conduit for India’s trade, business, security interests, and regional stability.

China is persistent in its strategy of expansion to reclaim its historical territories and maritime areas. So, India’s border disputes with China are expected to become more intricate.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, hold great significance for Beijing.

These corridors address its Malacca Strait dilemma. From India’s standpoint, these routes provide China entry into the Indian Ocean and allows it to strategically enclose India’s eastern and western coastlines.

Both countries similarly recognize the strategic importance of the Gulf of Aden, Malacca Strait, and Sunda Strait.

What are the factors shaping the strategic outlook of China?

The United States’ utilisation of aircraft carriers has been politically influential in coercive diplomacy. It seems to have influenced China.

China’s economic power emanates from its ports and the two seas it borders.

Its security perspective is influenced by the strategic interests of nations, including the US, that traverse the regional waters and airspace for reconnaissance under the banner of “freedom of navigation.”

China aims to acquire aircraft carriers to surmount its geographical limitations, pursue its Taiwan reunification strategy, counter maritime assertions in the South and East China Seas, and safeguard its Pacific region sea routes.

What are the potential benefits of airpower for India?

Leveraging air power yields several advantages.

It includes establishing a distinctive hard power deterrent in the South China Sea, ensuring maritime and aerial freedom across the Indian Ocean region, and enabling aerial access to strategically positioned air bases in friendly neighbouring nations.

It also grants India the option of utilising its soft power by extending humanitarian aid and providing disaster relief.

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