India plays an important role in establishing peace in the region, a senior officer of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has said, even as he stressed that the armed forces are essentially meant to avoid war.
“India has an important role in establishing peace in the region… India has gone through tremendous strife during its existance,” Air Vice Marshal Andrew Turner, the Air Officer Commanding of No.22 Group, told IANS.
“The whole point of armed forces across the world is to avoid war… to be prepared and ready for it but to avoid it if we can,” he added.
Turner, however, refused to comment on the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan.
Turner was in India with the RAF’s Red Arrows aerobatic team that performed at the 84th Air Force Day at Hindon Air Base near Delhi on Saturday. While the team could not perform for the spectators during the main event due to poor visibility, it took to the air later as the visibility improved.
Turner stressed that bringing the Red Arrows also symbolised the government’s Make in India initiative.
India has so far purchased 123 BaE Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs) — that the Red Arrows fly — 99 of which have been built under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd with material supplied by BAE Systems and engines supplied by Rolls Royce.
The team had arrived at Hindon Air Base after a performance in Karachi.
Turner also stressed that defence forces are as much about building intellectual capital, as well as business.
“Our air forces have got very deep connections. The RAF was formed back in 1918 and a lot of air forces of today are built on that model. The Indian Air Force is one of those. Of course, it has had a very different history. The Indian subcontinent is a very different place but what is clear is that Indian Air Force has operated with great gallantry and courage, and with humility and team spirit,” Turner said.
“We have really deep bonds, this is about cementing these bonds, growing them and deepening them.”
Turner also highlighted that a lot of British soldiers have received training in India.
“There are so many people in this garden tonight who were trained by Indian Air Force, its Made in India. It is a really big deal. It demonstrates what we think how much United Kingdom believes in India as a key partner and how much we value your training,” he said.
One of the British officers trained in India was Group Captain Fin Monahan, the commanding officer of Red Arrows.
“It’s an absolute honour to be able to come to the Air Force Day. I served in India and I was trained by the Indian military. I did a year at the Defence Services Staff College (Wellington) and it is marvellous to be back with my team. This is a demonstration of how close the Indian military is with the UK military and, indeed, an example of how close the United Kingdom and India are,” Monahan told IANS.
He also counted the visit of the Red Arrows as an opportunity for pushing business ties between the two countries.
“It is an opportunity for us from Britain to go out and tell the world we are open for business, we are a global country. Britain is ready for business with anybody in the world and, of course, a partner with whom we have done so much in the past and would like to do so much in the future,” he said.
The Red Arrows team is currently on a two-month-long tour to Asia with more than 20 shows in India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait.
This will also be the first time the team will perform in China, taking the number of countries across the world they have performed in since 1965 to 57.