India is ready to engage in a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China, the Indian Air Force chief has said. However, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa played down the possibility of such a scenario.
This is not the first time a top Indian authority has spoken about a two-front war with both China and Pakistan. Earlier, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat asserted that India should be prepared for a simultaneous war with two of its neighbours.
Addressing a press conference ahead of Air Force Day on 8 October, Dhanoa said India has a "plan B" if a war breaks out with both Beijing and Islamabad though India faces a serious shortage of fighter jets.
"The possibility of a two-front war in the current geopolitical situation is low. Our response should be based on enemy's capability because intentions can change overnight," he said.
"We need 42 squadrons to carry out full spectrum of operations in a two-front scenario. It doesn't mean we are not capable of fighting in a two-front scenario as we speak," he added.
Dhanoa also said the IAF is ready to conduct "surgical strikes" across the border – similar to the one previously conducted by Indian forces.
"The air force has the capability to locate, fix and strike across the border.... We are ready to take on any challenge," said Dhanoa, firmly adding that a final decision on such action would rest with the political leadership of the country.
When asked about the recent standoff between Indian and Chinese forces in the border area known as Doklam, he said there was no aerial confrontation between the two sides but only the ground forces were involved. "During the summer months, the Chinese air force always carries out an exercise in Tibet, in which their two main airfields are full. So they were full during the Doklam operations. They will start clearing out once the weather becomes colder," said Dhanoa.
India has fought three wars with Pakistan, two of them over Kashmir. India and China fought in 1962 over the border between the two countries. In the past few months, India has seen tensions rise frequently with both China and Pakistan over a series of cross-border incidents.
IBTimes UK has reached out to the IAF for more information on Dhanoa's statement and is awaiting a response.