Prime integrator

APJ Abdul Kalam was a good man, a surprisingly soft man but with a core as hard as Damascene steel. On the several occasions I met and talked to him he reinforced this impression without revealing that kernel. He came to prominence for heading the Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) project, which he successfully developed because he did such a good systems integrating job. The SLV ever since has been the mainstay as the first stage of the Agni missiles and ISRO rockets. It brought him to the notice of Indira Gandhi who appointed him to lead the Integrated Guided Missile Development Project (IGMDP) — which, with the Agni-5 in the van, has saved this country’s strategic goose. Because as I have maintained — for good reasons that nuclear stalwarts like the late PK Iyengar and other renowned stalwarts of the N-programme too believed — ever since the truncated Shakti series of tests in 1998 however much anybody tries to talk up the N-part of the deterrent, the 20KT atop our missiles are just “firecrackers” impressing nobody. But we’ll learn this lesson yet, God forbid! This bit of bitterness because for me Kalam stood out for his attitude when he helmed IGMDP in the face of the strictly enforced US-headed technology denial regime. The standout “take you on” attitude of Kalam’s was encompassed in his fighting words from that time: “If some one tells us not to do it, we will do it”!!! It is precisely the “in your face” attitude and approach GOI should have always displayed but has failed to muster. The stirring words denote readiness to take on any challenge and the resolve of not being dictated to by anyone. No one before or since showed such fortitude. GOI led by the habitually obsequious, such as Manmohan Singh, used to genuflecting before all and sundry — Indira Gandhi and subsequent party bosses, found little wrong bowing and scraping before the US and the West or anybody else giving orders. Kalam’s disruptive attitude is what GOI needs desperately to imbibe. Every time I contemplate him, these words and the stance it represented is what comes rushing to my mind.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Culture, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Politics, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, society, South Asia, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Prime integrator

  1. Siddappa says:

    was expecting some fireworks from you.
    After all the kudos, Kalam oversaw the Indigenisation Dream go down the drains.

    With all the respect for working hands, If DRDO Labs looks like a classroom of Tamil students, Kalam too had a hand.
    I recall rediff reporting it some time under the heading “Chinks in the armour”.

    Presidency came as lucky for this good-man, but With all that life bestowed him, I’m sure, he would have wanted to see something better under him. After all, not many can boast of serving ISRO, DRDO & PMO (as scientific advisor)

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