The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IAF seeks green light for Red Flag
A US F-15 takes off from Nellis air force base in Nevada during a Red Flag exercise. File picture

New Delhi, Oct. 5: Prakash Karat and comrades have raised the Red Flag over India’s military relations with the US, but ironically it is another Red Flag that will signal the intimacy that has been bred by war games with American war-fighting principles.

The Indian Air Force has sought government permission to participate in an exercise hosted by the US for its own and Nato forces next year, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said today.

The IAF wants to send a contingent of its fighter aircraft and ace pilots to an edition of the Red Flag in the US Air Force base in Nellis, Nevada, in 2008. The Red Flag exercise held in Nellis is considered the toughest combat air exercises by western forces.

The political import of the Red Flag exercises in India concerns the Left. The nature of the drill, on the heels of the Malabar exercises last month that they protested against, will be interpreted to illustrate a growing military alignment between India and the US.

The Left is apprehensive that such intimate military ties will draw the Indian forces in American-sponsored armed conflicts such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We have bid for Red Flag Nellis,” said the chief of the IAF. “We hope the government will give us the nod. We expect to learn from all exercises and expect Red Flag Nevada to be a good experience.”

Although the air chief marshal said the IAF had sought the Centre’s nod, it is known that the US has been persuading the IAF since 2004 to send its most modern Sukhoi30 Mki aircraft to the drill.

Major said the IAF’s maritime strike aircraft had also participated in the Malabar drill last month that were conducted with Nato standard operating procedures.

“There is nothing superhuman about Nato procedures. During multinational drills, they allow for a common communication, command and tactical requirements. We need to appreciate Nato standards for interoperability,” he said.

So far, senior Indian military leaders have shied away from admitting that India has adopted Nato procedures in international war games because of the possible political fallout.

India swears by a non-aligned foreign policy, but the grooming of the Indian military into Nato procedures that began in 2002 has been an open secret till the air chief marshal talked about it on the record today.

Major qualified his statement by saying that adoption of Nato procedures during war games would allow his pilots to learn more from international experiences. Nato standard operating procedures were also mandatory for other exercises, such as COPE India, that the IAF had participated in with the US.

In the Red Flag exercises, the countries expected to participate are either Nato members or those that have adopted Nato procedures such as Australia and Singapore.

The objective of the Red Flag is to train pilots from Nato countries to operate jointly in combat situations.

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