India’s chief of defence staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat on Friday said that despite some cases of novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19 in the Indian armed forces, the military was fully prepared to take on any possible challenges to the country’s security.
Addressing a rare press conference alongwith the chiefs of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, Rawat also outlined plans by the armed forces to honor those on the frontlines of India’s battle against the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes covid-19 which has sickened some 35,000 people in the country and claimed more than 1,100 lives.
In his remarks, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said that Indian Naval ships and Air Force transport aircraft besides Air India aircraft were on standby to bring back Indians wishing to come home from the Gulf region in the wake of the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic. While the plan will be put into operation depending on the details worked out by the Indian foreign ministry, Singh said that the Navy had readied itself for the possibility of making multiple trips to the region.
“We have a large diaspora in the Gulf from where we get a lot of remittances,“Singh said. “We were told to be ready for the evacuation. We have kept ships ready. When we get the go-ahead, we will go ahead,” he said.
When asked whether the Sars-CoV2 virus was a biological weapon, Rawat said it was too soon to conclude whether it was or not.
On the preparedness of the armed forces, Rawat said none of the Indian military personnel on the frontlines were affected by covid-19 and they were “fully capable of performing their duties.”
“None of the operational tasks have been affected or will be affected by this virus,” Rawat added.
In the case of the army, the Indian army chief, Manoj Mukund Naravane said that there were 14 cases of covid-19 in the ranks with five of the personnel cured.
In the case of the Navy, Singh said that those detected with covid-19 last month – about two dozen sailors – were quickly isolated. Most were asymptomatic with only two showing symptoms of covid-19.
Outlining plans to express gratitude to those on the frontlines of India’s fight against covid-19 – ie doctors, nurses, police, sanitation and other municipal workers, Rawat said the Indian Air Force would be conducting fly-pasts, showering petals on hospitals treating covid-19 patients and illuminating naval vessels.
“The entire world is fighting the menace of Coronavirus. Like everybody else, our nation is too affected. On behalf of Defence services we have decided to express our gratitude to our Corona warriors and every person who has been involved in providing support to the nation to ensure that everyone remains safe. We have seen the manner in which the medical professionals have toiled day in and day out to ensure that all those affected by the virus recover in the fastest time frame,” Rawat said adding “We are grateful to all Corona warriors. We are going past this phase in a deliberate manner.”
The Indian Air Force will carry out fly-pasts from Srinagar to Thiruvananthapuram and from Dibrugarh in Assam in the east of India to Kutch in Gujarat in the west. Fixed wing and fighter aircraft of the IAF will participate in the fly-pasts, he said.
The Indian Navy would line up some of its frontline warships at sea in a special formation while the Indian army would conduct mountain band displays at some of the hospitals specially designated to treat covid-19 patients, Rawat said. On its part, the Indian army’s mountain bands will visit some covid-19 hospitals in almost every district of the country, he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Rawat’s plans to honour the medical, sanitation and other staff.
“I welcome the announcements by the Chief of Defence Staff today. India has waged a strong fight against COVID-19 due to courageous frontline warriors who have cared and cured many. They are spectacular. India applauds them and their families,” Modi said in one of two Twitter posts.
“Our Armed Forces have always kept the nation safe. Even in times of disasters, they are out there helping people. Now, our Forces are, in a unique way, saying a big thank you to our frontline COVID-19 warriors for their endeavour towards making India COVID-19 free,” Modi added.