Jagdalpur: Cautioning against any “knee-jerk” reactions to Tuesday’s “savage” attack by the Maoists, Union home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said the government may have to “revisit” the mandate on use of Air Force in the offensive against Naxalites.
Maintaining that a “war” has been thrust on government, he told a press conference here that “at this moment we must remain calm and hold our nerves” in our campaign to rid India of the grave threat of Maoists and to save democracy.
Timeline: Red Terror
Chidambaram, who flew in here to pay respects to the 75 CRPF personnel and Chhattisgarh Police head constable who were killed by the Maoists in Dantewada forests on Tuesday, first ruled out any proposal to use army in the fight against the Naxalites.
“There is no proposal to use army. We think the state police assisted by central paramilitary forces are sufficient to overcome the Naxalite threat. It is our present assessment of the threat,” he said.
“This will be a long, drawn-out struggle. It will take two to three years but we must hold our nerve and remain on course,” he said.
The government has repeatedly rejected suggestions that the Maoists can only be defeated militarily.
However, answering another question, he said, “at present there is no mandate to use the Air Force or any aircraft. But if necessary, we will have to revisit the mandate to make some changes”.
Chidambaram was accompanied by governor Shekhar Dutt and chief minister Raman Singh.
IAF chief not in favour of use of air power
Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik on Wednesday said he was not in favour of use of air power in anti-Naxal operations.
As a stunned government took stock of the situation and mulled various strategies, Naik said the IAF will be ready to join the operations against the Naxals if a decision is taken in this regard.
He said the military is trained for lethal operations to inflict maximum lethality.
“The military--Air Force, Army and Navy--are not trained for limited lethality. The weapons that we have are meant for the enemy across the border.”
“Therefore, I am not in favour of use of Air Force in situations like the Naxal problem,” the air chief said.
Naik said it is the prerogative of the state when the Naxal situation reaches that level to involve the Armed Forces.
“They can order us in at any time. At the present moment, we must leave it to the para-military forces because they are trained, they are slowly being equipped. They have the intelligence also to undertake these operations,” he added.
Naik also visualised a scenario if the IAF is called in.
“Let us say that Air Force is called in for attack in Naxal locality and it needs to fire a rocket, which is fired at a minimum distance from 1500-1800 metres ... from that distance we are not able to visualise what the target is,” Naik said.
“Unless we have 120% intelligence that they (Naxals) are enemies, it is not fair to use Air Force within our borders. The basic thing is Naxals are our own citizens,” he said, when asked if it was time for the military to join the anti-Naxal operations.
Home secretary Gopal K Pillai had also ruled out use of air power in the fight against Naxalites.