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HomeFact CheckViral Forward On Daulat Beg Oldie Airstrip Attributed To Ex-Vice Chief Of...

Viral Forward On Daulat Beg Oldie Airstrip Attributed To Ex-Vice Chief Of Air Staff Pranab Kumar Barbora Is Fabricated

Authors

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

Several social media users are sharing a dubious write-up, purportedly written by former Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal (Retd) Pranab Kumar Barbora, describing a sequence of events that led up to the reactivation of the Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip in the Eastern Ladakh frontier with China. 

The viral message reads: 

“After I was appointed Air Chief in 2008, I noticed that the Daulat Beg Air Base project was stalled for 43 years ! 🥺😱 When we inquired about what was happening, we got the reply that our rulers would not give permission for that airbase because they were afraid of China ! But every year an amount is allocated in the Budget, but the Army does not receive the amount ! But I built that air base, without informing the then Government, not even the then Defense Minister, A K Antony ! After the work was completed, when the Chinese Government informed the rulers of India, they got to know the information ! After that, P. Chidambaram, who was the then Finance Minister, “wrote an apology” to China saying that we will not use that air base under any circumstances ! They took action against me for leading the work & its completion ! The Air base that I built then, is most useful for India today, and the present Government is using it ! Today, the Modi Government is doing many things that previous Governments were simply incapable of doing ! So many roads and bridges are being built by the Modi Government on our borders with China and Pakistan ! But today, China fears India ! So strong is India’s Army and everything else related to it ! All this is now possible only because of Modi Ji standing by, with a strong support from the Army in the front and the people of India at the back ! Courtesy –
Former Air Force Chief Pranab Kumar Barbora”.

The write-up is riddled with factual inaccuracies and is also being widely shared on the messaging platform WhatsApp.

Newschecker also received the same forward on our WhatsApp tipline (+91 9999499044), requesting it to be fact checked, prompting us to verify the facts of the claim. 

A screengrab of the viral message that was submitted to Newschecker tipline to be fact checked

Fact check/Verification 

To begin with, Air Marshal (Retd) Pranab Kumar Barbora was not the Air force chief as claimed by the viral forward, rather, he retired as the Vice Chief Of Air Staff. 

We reached out to Air Marshal (Retd) Barbora in an attempt to gain more clarity into the matter, who confirmed to us that he had nothing to do with the viral message, and that it was not accurate in its retelling of the episode. 

He further added that many acquaintances, including those from overseas, had flagged the viral message to him. 

Speaking to Newschecker, Air Marshal (Retd) Barbora narrated the incident, which took place in 2008, when he was “the commander in chief of the western air command” and not the air force chief as was claimed in the viral message.

While it was his responsibility to fulfil the duty of being the commanding officer of western air command and protecting the skies, he narrated, it was also his duty to ensure that “the military and paramilitary personnel posted in hostile environments were well fed and well supplied. On taking charge, one of the first tasks that I took up was to visit as many places as possible.” 

“In my talks with my colleagues, I understood that the Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip was not utilised for 43 years owing to the fact that we did not have a three-engined aircraft, despite it being strategically important,” he explained, adding that no maintenance activity had been undertaken in many years. 

This contradicts the claim in the viral WhatsApp message that the project was ‘stalled’ for 43 years. It also explains the reason for the airstrip not being in use. “A thought struck me- why don’t I look into it? I found reports by scientists, geologists, technical people and air force people that it was not possible (to use the airstrip),” the Air Marshal (Retd) reveals. Which further contradicts the claim made in the viral message, on the reason behind the airstrip not being in use.

He further says, “I insisted that nothing be in writing. This was because people had a general tendency to open old files. One might approach it as, ‘The previous responses were a no, and so we’ll say no this time as well.’ I didn’t want that to happen.” 

Was Daulat Beg Oldie Airstrip ‘built’ without government knowledge?

On not informing the government, Air Marshal (Retd) Barbora said, “It was my responsibility (the landing). I had no responsibility to inform the government unless I was crossing the border.” 

Speaking to ANI in an interview published in June 2020, he said that “the government was informed through proper channels only after the landing was done”, confirming that the claim that the Indian Defence Minister was aware of the matter only after it was brought to his notice by China, is factually incorrect.

In another interview to India TV in February 2021, he said, “After it was done (landing at the airstrip) China said that they would talk to us about it on the phone. They never did. Then they called for a flag meeting… it did not come up there. And after a few days, the Defence Minister had gone to China. Before he left, he asked me, what response would I give if they (Chinese) ask me why we are operating it there- the AN-32… I replied that this is our land. We could do whatever we wanted here. How does it concern them?” And when the Defence minister went to China with the relief material, they did not open their mouths.” This indicates that the Defence minister got to know of the information through the proper channels, and that the matter was not taken up by China as is being claimed. 

As for the claim of action being taken upon Air Marshal (Retd) Barbora, he confirmed that he “did not get into any trouble”. 

Conclusion 

The viral social media post, claiming to narrate the incidents that took place during the reactivation of the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip is fabricated. 

Result: False 

Our sources 

Telephone conversation with Air Marshal (Retd) Pranab Kumar Barbora 
Interview of Air Marshal (Retd) Pranab Kumar Barbora with India TV Interview of Air Marshal (Retd) Pranab Kumar Barbora with ANI


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Authors

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

1 COMMENT

  1. These days all fake msgs r being circulated to blame earlier rulers of this country.Now these fake masters hve started fabricating fake incidence blaming our defence forces.
    Shame on these politically motivated anti Indian rascals who must be brought to justice or caught and handed over to defence forces to court Marshall or torture such Anti Indian Fake masters till they perish.

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