Nobody wants war, but neither can we tolerate terrorism: Air Marshal Hari Kumar

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On February 28, the day of his retirement after 39 years in service, Air Marshal Kumar was the target of a smear campaigns on the internet that he had been removed from service.

“What was the task set to us we have achieved it. The rest of it is for the government to decide,” said Air Marshal C. Hari Kumar on Saturday on the air strike on the terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan. Air Marshal Hari Kumar stepped down as Chief of Western Air Command (WAC) on Thursday.

As the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of WAC, he oversaw the Balakot air strike and three days later, on February 28, he retired from the force after 39 years in service.

“Nobody wants war,” Air Marshal Kumar observed but added “neither can we tolerate terrorists killing our citizens.”

“We cannot tolerate cross border terrorism. The message has to be sent that we cannot lose citizens, in uniform or otherwise. Our IAF has the capability to hit anywhere…,” he told

On the evening of February 25 as the Indian Air Force (IAF) was preparing for precision air strikes few hours later on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, there was a farewell for him by the IAF fraternity. Air Marshal Kumar attended the event, met everyone and made a quick exit as he had to get back to the operations room.

“We went through the [farewell] process because the whole thing had to be kept as secret as possible. We had to have some kind of deception. When we are going in for the first time and the whole sector is not activated, we needed to keep the element of surprise,” Air Marshal Kumar said, recalling the farewell.

In the morning on that day the National War Memorial was also inaugurated by the Prime Minister which had a flypast, and that too had kept him busy.

Even as he reviewed a guard of honour on Thursday at the official handing over ceremony, he was the target of a smear campaigns on the internet that he had been removed from service. Pakistani media and journalists said he was sacked as India lost two fighter jets in combat with the Pakistan Air Force. Reality is, he was set to retire in the end of February.

On March 1, Air Marshal R. Nambiar assumed charge as the AOC-in-C of WAC. When reached out, Air Marshal Hari Kumar agreed to talk about the mission without getting onto the details of the operation.

Ahead of the air strike on February 26, Air Marshal Kumar met the pilots on the mission. “I went and met the boys. They were very motivated. They said, ‘You say what has to be done. We will do it’,” he recalled.

In the early hours on Tuesday, a strike package of 12 Mirage-2000 jets which took of from Gwalior and backed by Su-30MKIs, Phalcon and Netra early warning aircraft, IL-78 refueller and Heron drones dropped precision guided munitions on a Jaish-e Mohammed training camp in Balakot, Pakistan.

However, he could not meet the pilots after the mission as the situation changed dramatically. On Wednesday, Pakistan Air Force dropped bombs on few Indian posts which were countered by IAF jets and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s Mig-21 came down across the Line of Control (LoC). A Mig-21 fighter pilot himself, he never got to fly an active combat mission. But under his command, a Mig-21 shot down an F-16 fighter for the first time ever.

Air Marshal Kumar said they had reoriented the forces due to this and were caught up. “On the 28th I left service. I may never meet them again,” he added.

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