‘Tyagi-itis’ hollowing out the military and the country

Tyagi — literally translates as “someone who sacrifices”. Ironic, isn’t it, that an air force chief by this name (SP Tyagi), reeled in by the Central Bureau of Investigation for corruption and graft, has sacrificed his Service’s reputation on the altar of the “filthy lucre”? It is a precedent of sorts. Other Service chiefs in the past escaped similar fates, often by the proverbial whisker and, on more than one occasion, because the government and political leaders of the day were concerned about the negative impact on the Indian military, and its reputation, of marching off bribe/commission takers among senior beribboned, bemedalled, brass to jail. The tainted lot among the flag-rank officers in the three armed services are known to their comrades and colleagues, and many agencies of the government. Whether military officers should be held to a higher standard pf propriety than politicians, civil servants, judges and, if so why, are issues that have not been discussed publicly or debated widely. Do the armed forces personnel not reflect the flaws and foibles of the Indian people at-large? If the people tolerate corruption, are willy-nilly, parties to it, why should one expect military officers sprung from such a society to be any different?

The haw-hawing “Bundle” Tyagi is easy to pillory. But what about Service chiefs, and two and three star rank officers, who are less brazen, less conspicuous, fly under the radar and take care to spread the loot around to juniors in the loop by way of material goodies and career rewards (good postings, lining them up for promotions), thereby making these downstream beneficiaries at once complicit and less likely to rat on them should scams and questionable transactions during their stints ever get probed by civilian authority, and who have never been collared? And what about Service chiefs who engineer the promotions of junior officers just so a favourite or a close relative is eventually in the running for the top post (which will become evident soon in one of the services), and how the concerned service thus ends up losing some really stellar talent? Or, how about the top boss using his regimental affiliation to use jawans to man his spouse’s textile exports venture?

Worse, if one well regarded retired one-star officer is to be believed, corruption in the military is now so systematized, the higher up one progresses the fatter the monthly “envelope” apparently gets from contractors and sundry types doing business with the army and various commands, say. Is it any surprise that many toppers in the merit list at the IMA, Dehradun, for instance, prefer the Army Service Corps and Army Ordnance Corps as first choice (as civil service entrants do the revenue service, customs & excise, income tax)? The problem became serious enough for Army HQrs some decades back to decide that the Service and Ordnance Corps-wallahs would have to pull time in the front lines fighting insurgents in Kashmir and in the Northeast, rather than cultivating large nest eggs in the rear areas. On this issue, should ASC and Ordnance be at all offered as arms choices for officer-cadets at the stage of passing out?

Or consider that the fount of corruption in the Indian defence aerospace imports sphere — the London-based Choudhrie Family, owes its wrong kind of preeminence to a former chairman of HAL — BK Kapur who used the first of the large combat aircraft import-cum-licensed production deals involving the MiG-21 in the late-’60s to set his wife’s side of the family up — with Shudhir Choudhrie presently in the van, as arms middlemen with intimate connections into the ruling political families. Thus Shudhir’s niece is married to Kamal Nath’s son (see http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-shudhir-choudhrie-india-s-mover-and-shakers-in-defence-deals-1968457). In fact, it is the country’s complete dependence on imported armaments from aircraft to pistols that established a number of middleman “dynasties” in New Delhi, including the late ADM SM Nanda’s son former Lt Cmdr Suresh Nanda, Abhishek Verma progeny of a senior Congress party person, MS Sahni, the Suresh Kalmadi-linked S Mulchandani, SV Khemka, et al (http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/india/indian-arms-dealers-the-defence-dynasty).

It is this umbilical cord between defence-related imports and corruption which is at the heart of all the country’s national security troubles, which I have sought over the years to highlight. The Congress Party regime of Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh was lax in policing for the obvious reasons that many in the ruling dispensation benefited directly from the arms trade. The BJP government of Narendra Modi has no reason whatsoever not to slice off this connection by simply terminating the arms import channel and, as this analyst has been urging for over two decades now, integrating the pubic sector defence industrial infrastructure under Indian private sector leadership and tasking the resulting, preferably, two competing combines to make everything needed by the military and, in the meantime, wielding dexterous diplomacy to balance power in the extended region, Asia, and the world.

After all, with open arms import sluice gates in the last 30 years, India accomplished little by way of hard power nor gained any international standing, but enriched a tiny band of empowered Indians and kept the defence industries of various countries afloat. By taking, even if belatedly, to the path of arms self self reliance — designing, developing, and manufacturing armaments and defence systems of all kinds to meet the country’s military and security needs and for exports, India will gain the stature it deserves. Messrs Modi & Parrikar should not be swayed by the Cassandras in the military and outside, who have grown lazy or fat on the arms commerce who will seek to frighten them. The nuclear-armed A-5s and Arihant SSBNs afford India precisely the safety, security and most importantly, the time during which to speed the build-up of a comprehensively capable indigenous defence industry to design, develop and produce entirely Indian military products for India’s use — without the charade of ‘Make in India’ policy. But this requires the sort of grand strategic vision missing in government.

This solution first detailed by me in a 1999 paper as member of the ‘Technology’ group tasked with Strategic Review in the first NSAB, hasn’t been acted upon since then, and won’t be in the future, perhaps, because too many in the armed services, in the bureaucracy and, of course, in the political class are infected by ‘Tyagitis’ — a malady that’s dragging the country down into the pits and, more significantly, because PM Modi seems to be only ultimately a small risktaker and not one who, demonetization notwithstanding, is a high-value disruptor, when disruption is what’s called for and incidentally something he promised in his 2014 election campaign. Recall his slogan — “The government has no business to be in business”? Ending the import culture, ethos, and milieu generally, which is long entrenched in Lutyten’s Delhi, is necessary because it is at the root of India’s problems. To do this will be to signal a very big change, and that apparently is beyond Modi.

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, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, society, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to ‘Tyagi-itis’ hollowing out the military and the country

  1. “The nuclear-armed A-5s and Arihant SSBNs afford India precisely the safety, security and most importantly, the time during which to speed the build-up of a comprehensively capable indigenous defence industry to design, develop and produce entirely Indian military products for India’s use — without the charade of ‘Make in India’ policy.”

    Apt analysis of how India can use nuclear shield to buy time to build indigenous defence industry. Induct A5 and longer range weapons. Mil budget spending should reflect priorities better. I.e. CI, Nuclear, Navy, Cyber, Border Infra should be high.

  2. andy says:

    “This solution first detailed by me in a 1999 paper as member of the ‘Technology’ group tasked with Strategic Review in the first NSAB, hasn’t been acted upon since then, and won’t be in the future, perhaps, because too many in the armed services, in the bureaucracy and, of course, in the political class are infected by ‘Tyagitis’ — a malady that’s dragging the country down into the pits”

    The timeline of this reccomendation should be an eye opener for the people who think that that @Bharat is dreaming up indegenous arms production as the panacea for Indias great power aspirations only recently.

    The only place for scum like Tyagi is the slammer for long time.Good show by the CBI.

  3. AD says:

    @ Mr. Karnad, Sir two questions –
    1. Is naval design group working any all electric destroyer likes of US zumwalt class featuring extremely level of stealth and capable of firing rail-gun?

    2. Is DRDO working to super-alloy and single crystal blade technology to fix Kaveri engine issue?

    • AD@– 1) Most navies take the lead from the most advanced existing navy, which is the US Navy. But haven’t heard of the IN warship directorate
      designing an all-electric Zumwalt class of ships.
      2) Kaveri should go single crystal, a technology, incidentally, that Russia transferred as part of the Su-30 package which we haven’t
      fully utilized.

      • Single crystal tech that Rusia transferred was only 1st gen tech.That also only the technology to convert the single crystal alloy into single crystal blades was transferred to HAL. Base single crystal alloy comes from Russia. DRDO cannot use this tech in Kaveri!!!!

        Furthermore Kaveri requires 2nd gen Single crystals blades. DRDO has already developed 2 gen single crystal blades, A TECHNOLOGY FAR SUPERIOR THAN the CRAP TRANSFERRED BY RUSSIANS, WHICH IN ANY CASE CANNOT BE USED IN ANY INDIGENOUS PROJECT.

      • &^%$#@! says:


        1. How do you define 1st & 2nd generation SCB’s?
        2. Why does the Kaveri require only 2nd generation SCB technology?
        3. Kindly avoid the use of obscenities on a serious public forum.
        4. Kindly desist from typing in UPPER case. Since you are obviously unaware, UPPER case implies shouting/yelling.
        5. Kindly avoid using the net unless you have taken your medications, and preferably under supervision..

      • Venkat says:

        Inidan navy needs to adopt electric azimuth propulsion system first. Then we can move to all electric ships. I do hope they are evaluating the technology for warships.

      • AD says:

        @ Mr. Karnad, Sir,

        I read somewhere, Russia never transferred full technology in violation to agreement. At times they have sent documents in Russian language rather than English. Are these true facts or just another instance of yellow journalism?

        Plus I also read on web CSIR developed single crystal blade technology, ni-co super alloy. However corrupt government officials suppressed those technology to pave the way for GE engines. Is it true?

      • AD says:

        @ Mr. Karnad, Sir,

        Have a look a the comments from Kaushik Chatterji at the end of this article (I copied the same for quick reference)..http://defenceupdate.in/dawn-jet-engine-indigenization-india-kaveri/..

        Senior Central Govt Standing Counsel at Armed Forces Tribunal
        Actually GTE authorities are bribed by arms dealers so that GTX-35 Kaveri did’nt successed, cause it will reduce India’s option with GE or SNECMA. Otherwise single crystal turbine blade technology, high performance nickel and cobalt super alloys tech. or convergent divergent variable nozzels, valves etc are long developed and tested if CSIR is checked with but the projects are gathering dust due to corrupt officials in DRDO and Ministry of Defence production & research.


      • AD says:

        Success stories of Indian agencies in aero engine technology..http://www.oneindia.com/feature/hal-propels-fortunes-koraput-engine-division-with-gen-next-projects-1590744.html..But the most striking information is another case of Russian hypocrisy in terms of ToT. They never transfer full technology in complete breach of trust and agreement. Most often than not they claim for additional fund for ToT, deliberately delays ToT without any reason. Perhaps these bid daddy bullishnesses have triggered the most unexpected shift in global geostrategic equation. Indiahave been steady but surely forging a motility tie-up with US. However billion dollar question is whether Uncle Sam will do anything good for India. History suggests Uncle Sam does not favour peer to peer relationship.

  4. Karnad sir, Putin disrupted the international order. And became the mightiest man. Even the Chinese admire him.

  5. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    But the A-5 is not a deployed system yet. Nor is th K-4. How can they be counted as of today ? If we do not count them as of today, what do we have that gives us the necessary “time and space ?”

    • Satyaki — you have a point. The premise here is that GOI will have the sense to first firm up the strategic deterrent, that will mean rapid test-firings, induction, and deployment of the canisterised A-5, A-6 ICBM, K-4, and K-5/6 seaborne ICBM.

      • satyaki says:

        A-5 & K-4 agree:doable soon, i.e, next 6 months or so if political will exists. A-6 is not a sanctioned project yet. As for the K-5/6, the platform for these will only be ready in a decade or so, is it not ?

        Maybe A-5 and K-4 (including a land based variant) in numbers is the best way to go.

      • AD says:

        @ Mr. Karnad, Sir,

        What about Surya missile? Lots of old posts are available on web about range and specifications of Surya I and Surya II.

        Is range of A5 over 8000 KM or it is just a chinese media created misinformation to press panic button in the west having a cascading effect on Indian missile program to limit the range?

  6. @ &^%$#
    It is not important how I define 1st or 2nd gen SCB. Come to the point being discussed above that why drdo did not or cannot use the so called scb tech transferred to India by Russians.


    And by the way please use a your name or something to identify yourself while blogging here.I hope it is not Bharat Karnad himself !!!!

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Veerpartap Singh Chohan: It doesn’t appear that you have taken your medications. On one hand, you cite the case of the generation of SCB’s to rave and rant, and, use profanities. On the other hand you cannot defend your arguments on a public forum, and insist that you cannot be questioned. You really are an interesting case.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Re. “why drdo did not or cannot use the so called scb tech transferred to India by Russians.”

      Because the Russians supplied the state of the art that was available with them and most likely they put in conditions that DRDO cannot use the exact same stuff or within the same timelines.

      But what you seemingly cannot wrap your head around is that the whole world including the Russians have moved on from that point, precisely because they do their own stuff instead of haggling about import deals.

      Dekh bhai, Jane de, wahan ja jahan tere jaison ka basera hai. There are a lot of watering holes on the net for you.

  7. Mrigiindra Siingh says:

    Well said. I just want to add, if India really wants to grow to it’s full potential, it will have to ruthlessly reform its bureaucracy, which no politician worth his salt has tried till date. Now in Shri Narendra Modi, we see a ray of hope of bringing in a revolution of sorts to break this country free from the shackles of bureaucracy and bring in specialists as secretaries heading the ministries and similarly at lower levels. Remember this task is not any more dangerous and riskier than demonetization but it is the need of the hour and if any one leader can do it, he is Narendra Modi. But will he do it?

  8. andy says:

    Some good news on the Agni 5 missile,just days after @Bharats write up advocating the same.Coincidence?…wonder..


    • satyaki says:

      Hope GoI does not chicken out this time.

    • This TOI article mentions the same old ‘Strategic restraint’ as reason for not testing A5. As if China will accept India in NSG if India does not test A5.

      If this restraint is not one of the chess strategies then it is not really a strategy. Ha ha ha

      The only restraint strategy is restraining the adversary. Not yourself!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.