The manner in which the crew, including two IAF special forces commandos, left behind an injured policeman to make their way to a security camp has bigger repercussions for a force that is looking at developing capabilities for a role beyond national borders. The policeman is now critical, with the doctors removing his small intestine.
It has also shocked many in the military who live by the ethos of not leaving a man behind in battle. Worse, by crawling their way to safety, the elite IAF commandos not only invited questions about their capabilities but may have also emboldened Naxals who till now have stayed away from specifically targeting armed forces.
In fact, Naxal intercepts analysed after the crash reveal instructions by its commanders not to approach the chopper as it was heavily armed and had special forces on board. It can only be guessed how the rebels will react if such an incident occurs again.
However, instead of an introspection into whether the treasured “officer-like qualities” were displayed by its crew, the IAF has gone all out to defend their actions. It has also cited that the police have commended them, ignoring the fact that an armed police heavily dependent on it for critical medical evacuation can hardly do otherwise.
The disconnect that the IAF has with the police is also evident from a detailed press note issued by the force from Delhi, defending its officers. It mentioned the injured policeman as a CRPF jawan — he belongs to the Chhattisgarh Armed Police.
What is evident is that that the entire picture surrounding the incident is not clear. Defence Minister A K Antony publicly admitted to asking for information from “other sources”.
A question that the IAF also needs to answer is would it have left behind one of its own if he had been injured, instead of the policeman? Its own chief floated the motto — not to leave “your men and machines behind” — a few months ago.
Manu is a special correspondent based in Delhi