Former vice-chief of Indian Air Force (IAF) Air Marshal P K Barbora, 72 years old, passed away Monday (30 October). He was undergoing treatment, at the Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi, following an illness.
Air Marshal P K Barbora (Retd), is known within the IAF for his pivotal role in re-opening the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) airstrip in 2008, despite resistance from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
This airstrip had been closed for over four decades and faced skepticism from both the government and the IAF itself at the time.
At the time of reactivation, Air Marshal Barbora was leading the Western Air Command. DBO, situated near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and east of Siachen, is the world's highest airfield.
He also played a significant role in activating the Fuk Che Advanced Landing Ground.
Born in Shillong on 10 December 1950, Air Marshal Barbora was the first officer from the northeast to rise to such a high position within the armed forces.
He was commissioned into the IAF as a fighter pilot on 13 June 1970. He had actively participated in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.
Air Marshal Barbora was a member of the IAF team that introduced the first Jaguar squadron and the IAF's maiden Air Combat Simulator, the first of its kind in Asia.
He was a recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal and Vayu Sena Medal, as well.
Upon his appointment as vice-chief on 1 June 2009, a Ministry of Defence press release highlighted his achievements, noting that the WAC, under his leadership, had achieved high aircraft utilisation rates. Night operations by fighter and transport aircraft had also seen a substantial increase.
Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO)
The UPA government was reluctant to open the airfield, as it did not want to upset the Chinese.
Barbora's decision to sidestep the formal channels was born from a history of bureaucratic hurdles, as various attempts to reactivate the airstrip had been met with rejections over the years.
The former Vice Chief Air Marshal recounted his strategic approach to circumvent the red tape.
"When I wanted to reopen the airstrip, I spotted five files. But after examining those, I realised that if I created another file and put up my request in writing, I won't get a go-ahead. All the earlier files had ended with a 'No' for various reasons", Barbora explained.
"So, I decided to reactivate Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip without any written permission. I decided, let's not create any file, let there be nothing in writing. After all, if you ask for permission, all the old files will be called, and the result will be another No," he added.
"Since there was nothing in writing (about reactivating the airstrip), the government was informed through proper channel only after the landing was done and I returned from there," Barbora told ANI in 2020.
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