Dear Friends,

Lot has been spoken about the shooting down of the MiG 21 by Pakistan Air Force and the missing in action pilot in today’s Pakistan’s retaliation to India’s . But for even a second did we think of the combat of unequals in the sky-MiG 21 vs F-16 and even if we feel it was not F-16 then MiG 21 vs JF-17. A 1960s plane which has been has been nick-named the flying coffin has been the reason for many an air disaster for the Indian Air Force.

The last fighter India got was the Su30MKI in the 1980s and since then we have only been caught in exhaustive official rules and processes that are not only unnecessary , have not only delayed results affecting national security but also made a formidable airforce a vulnerable one.

A strong military cannot be maintained with discipline alone. It also needs state of the art equipment. Had we not had delayed decisions by the  UPA government and politicisation of the Rafale deal to have two squadrons of quick purchase decision taken by the NDA government, we could have shot the Pakistani F-16 from our side of the border and would not have to get shot down in a chase and the pilot taken prisoner.

In an era of fifth generation fighters and sixth generation already on the doorstep the nation is still skeptic on getting a fourth generation. Slow pace of modernisation is always suicidal for any security force and more so for a force which has a not-so-friendly neighbour on each front.

Had we not had political rivalries taking over national security the headlines of today’s newspapers would have been different. High time we got the deficit of fighter aircraft squadrons filled and the beginning will be with all parties agreeing to getting Rafale into the force as soon as possible and then getting more fighters as per the IAF’s need so that we can have the 42 required squadrons. In a country where tenders take years to open and decisions to be made decades the only solution is government to government deals.

Today I as a citizen of India and a professional journalist really missed the presence of the Rafale in the IAF fleet. It is the Airforce of my country which feels it will be an asset and not a liability. And hence it is an absolute responsibility of the nation to ensure that the Air Force gets them at the earliest.

We can learn something from our neighbour in news Pakistan. When there was a delay in the F16s purchase deal due to some differences between the two governments, the opposition in Pakistan got together and asked the government in power as to why there was this delay and why purchase couldn’t be made as soon as possible.

Hope some good sense prevails and Rafale is looked upon as a dire necessity and not as a political oneupmanship agenda.

Sangeeta Saxena

28 February 2019.