India will strongly retaliate at a time and place of its choosing if Pakistan attempts to use drones or indulges in `hybrid warfare’ of any kind to target Indian civilian or military assets, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat warned on Friday.
Investigative agencies are probing whether the small explosive-laden drones used in the terror attack on the Jammu air force station on June 27 were launched from Pakistan or from within the region, and whether the intent was to deliver a message of a new capability or actually cause damage on the ground, said Gen Rawat.
“We do not yet know the ultimate intention. But let them (Pakistan) attempt to do something to damage our assets, and the reaction from our armed forces will be very different. The political will is there. Our armed forces are ready,” he said, speaking at a webinar here.
“A strong message has to be sent that anything of this nature, grey-zone tactics or hybrid warfare, if it damages our assets and affects our national security, we reserve the right to respond at a time and place of our choosing and the manner in which we wish to respond,” he added.
Referring to the border truce with Pakistan since February, the CDS said the mere stopping of cross-border firing on the Line of Control was not enough. “If you (Pakistan) are going to use indirect systems to disrupt harmony and cause damage, it amounts to a violation of the ceasefire,” he said.
Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, on his part, said IAF did have a limited number of “soft kill” jammers to disrupt the command-and-control links of small drones and “hard kill” counter-drone systems but they had not been deployed at the Jammu air station because it did not have “critical assets” like fighter jets.
“What happened at Jammu was essentially a terrorist act which attempted to target our assets (Mi-17 V5 helicopters) there. The attempt failed. Two explosives, one HE (high explosive) in nature and the other fragmentation, were used,” said the IAF chief.
IAF is closely working with DRDO on its anti-drone systems, which have directed energy weapons like lasers and will soon finish their trials. “It’s a new kind of threat. Many of the projects have already been undertaken and some of the systems were already fielded,” he said.
Gen Rawat said the armed forces will have to dynamically keep on adapting to new threats because the next attack could well be through rockets, as was seen in the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, and not drones. “Grey-zone warfare can involve anything and we have to be prepared for it,” he said.