No threat to Indian skies from China: EAC chief

Kolkata: The Indian Air Force on Tuesday allayed fears of a threat from China in the eastern skies and said it was fully geared to give the necessary protection. "Personally, I don't see any aggressive postures (from China) that we need to go hyper about. We are, however, fully prepared to protect our skies. Our eastern skies are secure," Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Air Marshal S K Bhan told a press conference on the occasion of the Eastern Air Command's (EAC) golden jubilee.
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Asked how many cases of violation of Indian airspace by the Chinese airforce has been recorded this year, Bhan said, "truly speaking, none to my notice. Our radars have also not picked up any such movement. I have also checked with the army and they confirmed it." He said the EAC was planning to induct more radars and upgrade the existing ones. "Besides, an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) is now in the country. Whenever the need, it is available to us. If the number of the AWACS increases, some will surely find a place in our sector," Bhan said. Declining to comment on the Union Home Ministry's terror alert in Kolkata which is under EAC jurisdiction, Bhan however, said the Command was keeping constant vigil in the skies and had inducted automatic security systems for better surveillance. He also said the Air Force was willing to lend Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to track down Maoists in West Bengal if the state government made a request. Bhan said the Air Force was already in the process of developing Advance Landing Grounds (ALGs) in some remote areas of north-east for air maintenance activities. "We are now looking at whether there are any encroachments on the land and whether there is any need to acquire more land to expand the ALGs. These done, we will resurface runways and develop the infrastructure," he said. The ALGs were primarily for military purposes, but the Air Force was also willing to allow them to be used by civilian aircraft, Bhan said. He said the biggest challenge to the EAC was the unpredictable weather in the territory under its jurisdiction. "Therefore, there is a need to upgrade the airfields to keep them operational 365 days of the year. We cannot have modern aircraft without modern infrastructure," he added. Set up in 1959, EAC is the country's only air command to cover airspace along the border with five countries -- Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Its jurisdiction include the north-eastern states, Sikkim, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of Bihar. Pointing out that air maintenance and flood relief are EAC's main peacetime activities, Bhan said since last year, he had initiated training camp for civilian relief workers and this has yielded good results, especially during the breach of the Kosi embankment last year.

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