Rot of Corruption and the Regional Instability
Momin Iftikhar
5/27/2013

 

Filing of corruption charges against ex Indian air chief (2004-2007), Air Marshal Shasi Prakash Tyagi in a mega defense scandal, has once again, brought under sharp focus the endemic corruption pervading highest levels of political and military leaderships. It has also bared the quiet , but humongous induction of weapon systems that threaten to inject instability not only in South Asia but in South East Asian Region as well where Indian ambitions are assuming a confrontational mode against Chinese territorial position; particularly in South China Sea. Much like the 1980s vintage corruption scandal involving kickbacks in the purchase of Bofors guns, Tyagi’s disgraceful conduct has not been bared by the Indian investigators but surfaced during investigations in Italy , where corruption has emerged as a major issue in the run up to the impending elections. According to the Italian media, prosecutors had named Tyagi as one of the Indian recipients who shared a booty of 28 million euro, that were paid by the Italian defense hardware and aero space giant Finmeccanica , in working out the deal for purchase of twelve AW101 helicopters produced by its subsidiary unit; Agusta Westland.

The bribery allegations against the Indian Air Chief , in the $ 750 million helicopter deal were formally reported a month ago after the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, chief executive of Finmeccanica, was booked for violations of Italy’s corruption and bribery laws. This latest saga of corruption brings out two major aspects to ponder.
First, if the protracted CBI conducted investigations in the Bofors case are any guide, Tyagi may be playing a sacrificial role to cut out access to his political masters without whose compliance he wouldn’t have had the power to negotiate a tailored deal with Augusta Westland. It is worth noting that in the Bofors case, in the eighties , the trail led investigators to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who remained comfortably beyond the grasp of the CBI sleuths despite availability of solid evidence incriminating him , because of the latent support of the Indian establishment . In the Augusta helicopter case it ought to be remembered that the deal was cleared by the Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony and the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Under such a comprehensive political oversight it remains inconceivable as to how could the general service requirements for the under consideration helicopters could be obligingly modified to provide a deciding tip to the Italian helicopter from among a pack of intesnsely striving competitors’ pack by IAF Chief alone. Presence of a godfather is prominently given away by the fact that when the transcripts of tapes relating to the Indian beneficiaries of the kickbacks were handed to Indian authorities by their Italian counterparts, the references to a key name was conspicuously withheld. It is not too hard to ascertain that this person who held the power to make or break a deal could only have belonged to a figure at the highest rungs of the political power in India. There are reasons galore to conclude that Tyagi might have made a good buck but there was certainly a godfather at highest echelons of political hierarchy who had staked his own claim to a pound of flesh from the deal makers. The chances are that the CBI investigations notwithstanding, the world will never see the face of this charlatan.
Secondly, the episode adequately illuminates mammoth expenditures on military hardware by India , which quietly and steadily are transforming her military capabilities. Despite its manifest inadequacies to challenge the Chinese military might in the near future, the galactic shift has commenced and only serves to heighten Pakistan’s concern for maintaining a credible deterrence in face of steadily worsening odds. Unpalatable though but we can ill afford to close eyes to the high end military acquisitions by our overbearing neighbor, eagerly facilitated by US, Israel and Russia.
Even as the US companies lost the intense competition for acquiring the $10 billion contract for the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA),[French Rafale got the ultimate nod] yet Lockheed Martin got the contract to sell further six C-130 J-30s to the IAF. In addition, Boeing successfully concluded a $4.1 billion contract for supplying 10 C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters; US’ largest ever defense deal with India. Boeing is also in the process of providing Poseidon P-81 maritime patrol aircraft to Indian Navy and is well poised to win India’s heavy attack helicopter competition with its AH-64D Block III Apache.
Following US, Israel has also removed all stops in tending to Indian military hardware needs. She is providing India with two more A-50EI Phalcon airborne early warning and control systems mounted on Russian Il-76 aircraft for an estimated $800 million and announced that India would begin receiving Pilatus PC-7 tandem-seat turbo trainers by mid 2013. Despite diversifying its sources of military acquisitions India’s defense ties with Russia have continued. India announced a $295 million development contract for a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) based on the stealthy Sukhoi T-50 prototype in Oct 2011; announcing of plans to induct 214 FGFAs by 2017.In late September the IAF began to receive the first of 80 Russian Mi-17V-5 weaponised helicopters while a further 59 are under consideration for induction. Moscow is also supplying MiG-29 Ks for the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramditya (ex Admiral Gorshkov).
The humongous scale of Indian military build up threatens to destabilize the Region; forcing other countries to undertake measures to maintain a credible balance of military deterrence vis-à-vis India . No wonder that while chronicling ten most overlooked events and trends of the current times which will have a major impact in shaping the global geopolitical environment in the immediate future , the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine has rated India’s stupendous military spending and rising military profile on top of its thought provoking list published recently. While it will be sometime before India develops the wherewithal to militarily confront China , her anointment as the power-to-be by the US leadership and Indian ambitions to develop corresponding military capabilities are a major source of concern for the Regional countries. Pakistan can ignore the gathering threat to its own peril. As the inflammatory and impulsive anti-Pakistan rhetoric in the aftermath of the attack on an Indian camp this month indicates, the long investment in CBMs can prove ephemeral; wishfully dependent on whims of an adventure prone and corrupt Indian politico military leadership.