Tyagi’s performance

Former IAF chief ACM SP Tyagi’s being perplexed by the Italian Court’s verdict on the payoffs for the Rs 3,500 crore Augusta Westland helicopter (to shunt VIPs around) deal was disingenuous even as TV performance (notwithstanding the uninformed questioning by Rajdeep Sardesai — who should keep to cricket and such other puffery, as he seemed entirely ignorant of how the armed services are run or the background of the subject at hand). Tyagi’s exculpatory case for himself rested on three points. One, that the VVIP helo deal was in the works from Vajpayee’s time with NSA Brajesh Mishra apparently objecting, per Tyagi, to IAF’s role in the selection of this aircraft — an attempt to drag in the BJP antecedents of the deal and muddy the waters so much that the investigation quickly congeals into a sticky political mess, and the “Fratelli Tyagi” are saved. Secondly, that his indictment means the DCAS and other senior air staff at Vayu Bhavan stand indicted too. And thirdly, that the timing of payouts suggests he was long out of office and hence not involved.

The involvement of Mishra and Vajpayee’s BJP regime is an interesting twist but in no way absolves the Tyagi brothers with the ACM in the van of pocketing commissions — some 10.5 million Euros according to court documents– Wow! While the underway CBI investigation may bring out the details, those who served on his staff know of CAS Tyagi’s role in trying to bring the deal to fruition. He won’t be able to get away pleading innocence.

Re: The second reason — it is astonishing for Tyagi to maintain he alone cannot be indicted for a Vayu Bhavan decision. The facts are otherwise, most centrally, that in the extant scheme of things the service chief as both administrative and operational head of an armed service has extraordinary powers of reward and punishment, with all senior postings, including the prized ones as theatre commanders, for instance, being decided by the air chief and only the IAF chief. Officers in posts from previous regimes can be moved around at his will too. So strong is this leverage that the service chief can virtually get the General Staff to do pretty much what he wants. So a DCAS and officers at that level are unlikely not to fall in line with the chief’s wishes on procurement or anything else for that matter. A whole list of pet projects and hardware acquisitions can be sourced to newly installed chiefs over the years. So this doesn’t work for Tyagi.

And the third reason about the payoffs schedule not overlapping with his tenure — he must be daft to believe this exonerates him. There’s such a thing as honour among thieves and foreign vendors are scrupulous in paying out the agreed amounts of bribes especially to helpful service chiefs instrumental in getting deals through. Paying up is bread & butter to them, which they will not shy away from come what may, because future deals depend on the certitude of payoffs and any damage to their reputation on this score has wholly negative financial repercussions for them, and is hence not tolerated. So, if a service chief helped a deal along he’d be paid even if 20 years after the fact. So, this doesn’t support Tyagi’s case either.

But Tyagi’s indictment if confirmed by a CBI investigation will raise still another issue. Can he continue to enjoy his pension and other post-retirement perks after being held criminally responsible of taking a bribe? He will be the first service chief to be caught out. There have to be consequences and to make an example of him the minimum punishment should be his demotion to below “flag rank” — Group Captain, say, or even lower, and the complete withdrawal of pensions and other benefits. GOI/MOD better begin thinking along these lines rather than deciding what to do after CBI lowers the boom on SP Tyagi.

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 arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, corruption, Culture, Defence Industry, domestic politics, Europe, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Military Acquisitions, society, South Asia, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Tyagi’s performance

  1. ~!@#$%^*()_+ says:

    Modi govt. must be seen to be acting on this.

    1) To send a clear message to the aspiring chiefs.

    2) Because the Main Stream Media fed on ceaseless funding of accumulated losses over the years has developed a loyalty to the old system. And this MSM+Old Boys Network will come to bite back when you least expect it. Already the Congress party has proffered the rationale that it was Congress which had referred the case for investigation and that Modi govt. in fact has reinstated the accused Companies vendor credentials. Such things if not acted upon have the potential to bounce back even years afterwards. That is why even the Congress asked for CBI investigation. They must have sensed something amiss at the Italian end.

    3) It is given that there would be several such cases where the weapon system itself may be ok (like Bofors guns). A timely action will also per force be a measured action and the country may be spared a de-armament on the sly by a culture of wild accusations.

    4) It is also given that a lot of unnecessary &/or worthless weaponry is imported at the prompting of foreign governments and foreign companies. They too need to be made aware of what walks the talk. They cannot just presume that they will escape if they somehow are able to extract money in time. They must know that there names can be black-listed or they may be dragged to the courts, even several years afterwards.

  2. kankirajesh says:

    Mr.Karnad,Do you think the Manohar Parikkar has at all reformed the defence procurement system.And is it at all possible to eliminate such dealings in a industry like defence which doesnt follow market forces atleast like other industries and without a legal and formal system of lobbying?

    • Parrikar is trying and some institutional correctives have been inserted, but not enough to eliminate the embedded practices that virtually mandate corruption. Would a formal lobbying system help? Not sure, considering we have a system where agents/representatives of foreign arms companies have to register with government.

  3. MS says:

    While I am not for beating a guy to death, and so it seems neither you are-you are not recommending him to be demoted to Airman’s grade, for white collar crime. How could someone take such an action that it sets the right example though.

    People in IAF who are promoting Rafale would know they can’t pocket a penny.

    I may seem being obssessed about it-but this 10 Billion Rafale thing if scrapped could help us build airports, state of the art medical research and treatment facility like in US, and could take us forward.

    Who could tell IAF-Don’t give me a war scenario with PAK, take Sukhoi amd move on.

    We like the French but we just do not have the 10 billion to prepare for a war scenario with Pakistan.

    • andy says:

      As per Ajai Shukla of business standard, if procurement cost of 36 Rafale is ₹ 59000 crores then cost of operating the same over its life cycle of 30 years would be anywhere between 6 to 10 times the initial cost or ₹354000 crores to ₹590000 crores.Cost per year of flying these white elephants would be from ₹11800 crores to ₹20000 crores.India could build a whole lot of the facilities you mentioned for ₹649000 crores(initial cost plus life cycle cost) by scrapping this insane deal.

      • MS says:

        We might still bear the cost if the fighter were supreme and had usability across China border, and the additional cost meant no forex outgo but based on indigenous effort/manufacturing.

        It appears these figures are mostly the forex outgo. I would rather see our foreign secys have a meeting with Pakistan every week over mangoes and sharbat than buy these Rafale then. And of course, have lethal weapons ready should someone dare to wage a war.

        May be we could turnaround while letting the 10 Billion be on the table but ask for nuclear barracuda instead. Just a suggestion since we need underwater bodies.

  4. &^%$#@! says:

    If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t S. P. Tyagi thumping his chest awhile ago claiming that an Italian Court had absolved him?

  5. quickboy says:

    Sure he was, It was India Today , the same channel now touting Tyagi’s innocence interview, which said all blah, blah then too.

    And Bharatji, if you think the TV anchor et all has no idea how to ask questions, well rethink, This channel works day and night 24X7X365 to save the skin of their masters. The interview is nothing more than some staged Drama to try and confuse things, But it will be hard to hide, Now that a foreign court has made the judgement finding the accused guilty. Now the Indians named therein will have to get their names removed in an appeal. This is in fact more damaging than Indian UPA propaganda against Modi in the west.

  6. andy says:

    Corruption is endemic in India,be it any govt department & everyone is on the take, be it the highest ranking officer or the lowliest of peons who charges ₹500 just to move a contractors file from one table to another.Being a govt officer or employee is entitlement to indulge in loading ones own pocket. Higher the rank, bigger is the cut ,so not a big surprise that Tyagi has been caught with his pants down ,but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

  7. &^%$#@! says:

    I for one do not expect anything to come out of this Tyagi episode. Wasn’t a senior member of an industrial house known to be very close to Modi (and possibly one of the prime beneficiaries of Modi’s Australia trip) named in the “Panama papers”? What happened to all the hot air that was spewed during Coalgate and 2-G scams? What happened to Modi’s RSVP bs.? Nothing! There is no difference between the NDA and the UPA. They inter-marry among themselves (I personally know instances where one member of a family is a BJP leader and the other a Congress leader), they socialize together, and for all purposes NDA2=UPA3.

    This is just the stench emanating from a country in advanced post colonial decay, having never found a rationale for its existence since it never truly fought for its independence. OTOH, say for example in China, after fighting a bloody campaign against the Japanese, during the civil war, the KMT used to throw Chicom prisoners alive into the furnaces of steam locomotives, and the Chocim’s used to respond to such tenderness in kind. IMHO, the very notion of India is a British colonial concept to streamline what was possibly the worst human and economic oppression, exploitation, and genocide in human history.

    Unless Indians both collectively and an individual level find a sound rationale for an Indian Nation, and develop a National Ethos, this nonsense is just going to repeat over and over again……………These scams are just another episode of a soap opera still playing decades past its expiry date. Sigh…..

    • &^%$#@! says:

      As an addendum, while I find S. P. Tyagi to be thoroughly deserving of severe punishment, this episode concerning him pales in comparison with a former NSA (S.S. Menon) joining a foreign think tank, and the serving head of the India branch of a foreign think tank (S. Gokarn) serving in the MMS-led NSAB, and the fact then being proudly announced on the NSAB’s official website! These raise a number of questions concerning National Security. For example, was the Sharm-el-Sheikh incident which was a singularly humiliating incident for India and wherein Menon was a prime figure motivated by “extraneous causes/reasons/forces////”????……….The list is endless……………

    • quickboy says:

      I do agree with you verbatim on this one, We have never found our own identity as a Nation, Also we have no idea as to what this Nation stands for, What are it’s principles and what is our Goal. All that we currently know that we can rule this Geographical portion , which we call India, provided we can keep Pkis and Chinese away, Our Govt can neither take any strong stand or action against any incursions from either of the above countries, You should know that there are both Paki and Chinese sympathisers making merry in this very own countries, And since our politicians never realised or tried to establish that India is one country in any way. DO we have a common civil code?. Do we even realise we have a National identity apart from Caste and language. Trust me the very first amendment of our constitution was not made to further it’s progress. It was simply made to help the Tamilnadu (then Madras) congress to gain support of some particular castes and their votes. It is true that the same racial and caste discrimination finally led to congress becoming “exstinctum genus” in that state. However the Caste based politics followed by a more destabilising minority religion politics have made sure we cannot progress an inch.

      • andy says:

        You have certainly touched a raw nerve by bringing in the uniform civil code into the discourse. Even 68 years after independence India still doesn’t know wether it’s a secular or a sickular country.

        In order to be completely secular, laws should have nothing to do with religion. All we have right now is different factions of the population governed by different laws.True implementation of India’s secularism would be made by enacting personal laws outside the purview of religion. Only then can all Indians be truly equal ,regardless of their religion. If all Indians have the same law governing them,then the politicians will have nothing to offer any particular community in exchange for votes.

        The supreme Court has time & again reiterated the importance of enacting a uniform civil code.The directive principals of state policy under the Constitution of India also mandate that the state shall pass a uniform civil code.

        Every modern nation that has really embraced secularism has an uniform civil code.Till the time this comes to pass ,India will remain a sickular rather than a secular country.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        To give a further example of the hypocrisy in India, take for example Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Few people know that Dr. Ambedhar was dead against it. He reportedly told Sheikh Abdullah: “You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it.” . (Ref.: http://wwwDOTambedkarDOTorg/jamanadas/KashmirProblem1DOThtm)

        Ambedkar also tried to make Sanskrit the official language of India. It is a known fact that portions of the Indian Penal Code are not applicable in J&K. By this, the Indian Govt. tacitly confirms that J&K is not a part of India. Then why does every every Indian regime parrot the same lie over and over again that Kashmir is an indivisible part of India, without doing anything about expunging Article 370?

      • andy says:

        There is the provision of “state subject” in J & K,wherein all residents of the said state are provided a document confirming their citizenship by the state govt. Travelling to J&k is basically like visiting a foreign country without a visa ,because no Indian citizen can buy any property there unless he’s a state subject, one can go travel around but no buying any property, problem is that the opposite is not true, there is no restriction on a state subject of J&k buying property any where in India.Talk about double standards or is it double citizenship?

      • quickboy says:

        Would like to add a single line, what I heard on TIMES NOW yesterday, They have an expose stating the “INDIAN MEDIA” well hope you heard that right, The “Indian Media” may have been managed in defence deals. It has come out at least in the VVIP chopper deal that Augasta signed a Contract to the tune of about 300 crores to manage and monitor Indian Media and to bulunt any “Hostile Reporting”. That to me is the answer I was looking for. AFter Bahrain AIR-SHOW when the “THREE-LEGGED-CHEETAH” as our baby was called in our own media showed it is in fact capable of flying much better than most of foreign rivals or at least equal to that, Our media went into a self-imposed censorship about Tejas.

  8. &^%$#@! says:

    @BK: Suggesting that criminally corrupt persons be “demoted” the rank to Gp. Capt. would be an insult to any serving or retired competent and honest holders of that rank. Apt punishment would be either Tihar, or part of a chain gang in some forgotten place, or the nearest lamppost.

  9. Gopal Sharma says:

    He should be arrested, interrogated and tried along with his co-associates . In such cases demotion even to the lowest rank is not appropriate . Being the chief of Air Staff, it is a criminal and treacherous act on his part for which even a life imprisonment is very lenient punishment. But as all know, all regimes are hand in glove in such big deals and they hardly act the way they should.

  10. &^%$#@! says:

    This is a must-read by Mohan Guruswamy that provides a glimpse of the penetration of foreign think tanks into India, under the patronage and “watchful eye” of a so called “nationalist” regime:


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