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‘St. Antony’ versus unruly army generals

I had written a fortnight back that the 16-billion dollar deal for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft is unravelling. This is exactly what is happening, as the latest developments indicate — with Defence Ministry officials raising questions about the manner in which the decision to award the contract to France’s Dassault was taken. 

This is an opportune moment for Defence Minister A.K.Antony to have a rethink about the MMRCA project on the whole. Is there a niche that France’s Rafale aircraft is urgently required to fill in? If there is, do we need to introduce an entirely new weapon system, or can we do with buying more of what we already have? Besides, can it be that by expediting India’s joint programme to develop a fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the air force’s need can be met? 
At any rate, putting the MMRCA back on the track is going to be time-consuming and complicated. The political credibility of the transaction has been badly affected. Dassault’s western competitor Eurofighter is certainly going to raise a lot of noise to try to come back into the consideration zone. Besides, Uncle Sam is also waiting to see if a lateral entry can be made into the MMRCA project with his F-35 fighter aircraft, which is being developed. The US badly needs funds for developing F-35 and India’s participation will make the project viable. 
The western arms manufacturers are capable of squabbling like mad when it comes to lucrative deals such as the MMRCA. France, Britain and the US may be allies alright, but money is money and everything is fair in securing business. In sum, we are going to witness a mad scramble in Delhi with all these protagonists jumping into the fray — that is, if they haven’t already played a role behind the scenes in instigating a reopening of the award of the contract to Rafael.
This is becoming a Greek tragedy. That all this has to happen under the stewardship of Antony is the tragedy. Without doubt, Antony is a rare statesman of impeccable integrity. Antony’s mistake lies in his naive faith in his capacity to clean up the Aegean stables without realising that the odds are heavily stacked against him. The manner in which the army generals are slinging mud at each other and shouting each other down resembles the high drama in a fish market. 
There are interested parties who will exploit the present climate to train their guns on Antony. The heart of the matter is that Antony hasn’t exactly been the darling of the western arms companies. He also annoyed the United States with his dogged refusal to sign the pending agreements on logistics, etc. A motivated campaign against Antony is just round the corner. 
But this campaign should be firmly countered. Antony is not the issue here, This is not even a matter of civilians versus the military. It is military versus the military. Army chief V.K.Singh’s abominable conduct underscores that cleaning up the mess in the armed forces is going to be a long haul. No matter the right or wrong of the issues involved, Singh should never have stooped to the level of a street fighter. He should know that he is destroying an institution that is sacred for the nation and to which he himself owes everything in his life.
Alas, the rot has set in deep. The crisis has snowballed and it is going to be extremely difficult to separate the strands of rampant corruption, breakdown in discipline, the lack of accountability and so on. The government is on the backfoot since sensitive matters of corruption have appeared. Antony should try to invoke his role model V.K.Krishna Menon while straightening out the quarrelling bunch of generals today. 
The first thing Antony should do is to summon V.K.Singh to his office and ask him to go on leave. Today itself. We don’t want an army chief of this character. Maybe, the opposition party, BJP might try to make some political capital out of the removal of V.K.Singh but the public opinion will understand. Let V.K.Singh carry on his quixotic campaign as a general-on-leave rather than as an army chief. 
On a broader plane, the events show up that as a rising power India stands on feet of clay. The hubris in the Indian strategic mindset has been vacuous, after all. There are no short cuts to greatness. The journey should begin with setting the house in order. China used to be the biggest buyer of arms. Then, some 10 years ago, it decided that it won’t do to keep buying, and China should instead develop and manufacture the weapons it needs. And China has gladly surrendered the number 1 rank as arms buyer to India through these past 10 years.
India is not facing the threat of an external aggression at the moment. This is an opportune time for Antony to turn his back on arms procurements from abroad and switch to indigenous development of weapons. BrahMos shows that we can do splendidly well if we want to. If China can do it, so can India. Antony’s lasting legacy should to be to seize the moment to clean up the rot and reorient Indian military’s modernisation programme by developing the country’s own capabilities.  

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15 Responses

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  1. Dipak Bose says

    Generals are the people who will fight, not any Krishna Menon or any other Menons.

    Of course France got the deal of the century because both the wife and mother of the French President ( not a real French at all but Hungarian) are Italians.

    That has rubbed India’s link with both Russia, and USA badly. India will gain nothing from these waste of money, but the italian mafia will gain substantially.

  2. Jena Bharati says

    Mr Bhadrakumar left me sppechless. VKK and nehru brokethe backbone of miltary by promoting cronyism in military ( read himalyan blunder again, and TN kaul episode). This level of cronysim only communists and their community can tolearate it. Wish sardar patel have been alive, and kashmir problem would have been solved then and there. You have earned your free red beer Mr bhdrakumar, 15 year of forein policy under nehru dismal, dismal. sonner you get out from it, faster the country’s power and prestige improves.

  3. Ramanathan Umapathy says

    As things stand with perception of Aam Admi for India, Pak the western sector, may go quite-if Indo-Pak joint details work out Kashmir..Make Kashmir Autonomous with joint Indo pak armies guarding the frontiers in North/South and west sector should be opened for all out trade sector with multiple check point for entry/exit for goods and make south Asia thrive in business/Industries.
    The Armoured columns/infantry will go quite on western sector-armoured column may not be required any more–We need strike corps =Mountain divisions for North East /South East facing Chinese..With pak- down 3years- both countries will dilute on western /northern sector and may go jointly in to Pak-Af-Iran borders affairs to make extreme south/North for both countries safe
    We need most advanced Missiles/Aircraft-Brahmos is not going to change war sector-It is long range missile -ICBM to strike out Military Industrial complex of China will pay
    Arunachal/Ladhakh/Karakorum sectors will require mountain corps with artillery of most modern designs/Range to hit
    India should scrap Rafale and go for US F22 F35 developments immediately Pour money on advanced design developments and NOT fourth gen Aircraft
    Antony shd embark on futurist planning with special Think Tank groups-Indian Army generals can not make as most are Below calibre avg.guys unlike Think Tanks of USA
    Less foot soldiers on Pak fronts -divert surplus to Maoists areas to curb internal wars
    Less armoured columns but more high calibre Mountain artillery-High lift Modern Helicopters/aircrafts-More Missiles-short /long range/ICBMs/SLBMs/conventional -Nuclear
    convert existing foot soldiers to Mountain warfare specialists-to create 5-8 divisions to fight in mountains against Chinese
    Go for complete FGFAs to safe guard Indian sky in north/east/North East sectors-Let Tejas-Mk-II Sukhoi-30MkII to safe guard low level -airspace-Country to go for F22;F35;Sukhoi 45-all FGFAs
    Create Indian Seals to fight behind enemy lines-we have Magar Mach division-create additional 4-5 Magar Machs of 1Lakh men-rather pouring money on ordinary foot soldiers of Western sectors-We need foot soldiers on pak Border Jointly with Pak against Terrorists
    Antony with his integrity is only MOD who can implement with clear conscience unlike other politiocs!!
    God Save India from such rotten Army Generals and Middle men
    Create Military Industrial complex-Bring in Private sector as JV with reputed US defence contractors/manufactures-keep Out DRDO //Ordinance factories/HAL-who are infested with business sharks=middle men
    Antony has the last Legacy to make Indian Military Industrial complex by bringing in Private sector with JV of modern armament Manufacturers.He is avoiding under pressure of congress shenanigans.the Jvs need not be bound under special rules/investments/single window operations
    Jai Hind

  4. pankaj kanwar says

    Gen V K Singh, especially being a serving General, has crossed all the limits of how an army officer should behave in public. His latest salvoes seem to be with ulterior motives only. He has not taken any action against corrupt officers for the last two years and now suddenly, when he is about to retire, he is firing salvoes. The way he is behaving, he should be immediately asked to step down and go on leave as you have rightly mentioned. I feel that all these cases of senior officers getting involved in corruption are happening because they have been promoted for reasons other than their excellence in external role(excellence against the enemy during the war). It can be seen that only 5% of officers of the rank of brigadier and above have experience of enemy and you will find that most of them have been decorated with only peace time medals like VSM, AVSM, PVSM having no experience of enemy. A down to earth General will never behave like that.


    It seems M.K.Bhadrakumar is a dyed in the wool bureaucrat from the MoD brand who happen to be the most devious, ostrich headed, obtuse, machiavellian and manipulative in their demeanor atleast in India. Arms purchase from abroad is not dictated by the Defence Services. It is most sought after by political parties, bureaucrats and officials for the massive kickbacks if offers under the garb of national security. Yes, some defence service personnel may well be involved in the loop. It is a well know fact that indigenous organisations like DRDO and several others are absolutely hopeless when it comes to high tech reliable products for the Defence services. To be fair, these organisations were deliberately made and maintained worthless to aid unhindered foreign purchases

    Instead of trying to address the real issues, Bhadrakumar is trying to obfuscate the matter by trying to present warring Generals as the reason for the current malaise. It very much reflects the parasitic and jaundiced view of someone trained by MoD vintage. Now, is AK Antony a saint ? Personally, he may be honest, but he has to facilitate unhindered kickbacks to his political masters and The Family to avoid being thrown out of his chair


    Indigenous development is a weird term in the Indian context. What we need is a credible military industrial complex (MIC)and not a semi academic institution like the DRDO. Defense indigenization does not just mean missile systems. It means milgrade electronic hardware, milgrade precision motors and so on. We dont even make commercial grade products in these areas so military technology is a far shot. We dont even run our defense systems on our own operating systems. What we most definitely dont need is a civilian bureaucracy running the defense department at the center. Today our forces have second world war vintage equipment. Do we want them to fight wars with that. I guess corruption is still a lesser evil than defense vulnerability. Defense internationally is super corrupt ( You just need to go to a eurosatory or our own defexpo to realize that.) And till we have our own MIC we have to depend on the international defense market. So we cant do away with this corruption

  7. Thiyagarajan subramaniam Iyer says

    Bhadrakumar is obviously a Keralite and there is no doubt that he has made Antony’s inept handling of the COAS be it his DOB or the alleged bribe offer by Lt Gen Tejinder Singh as his virtues Mr Antony single handled destroyed the institution of Army of its pride and reputation What steps he has taken to confront BEML/TATRA-VECTRA link in charging Army an exorbitantly high price for the sub standard truck? Take any procurement for defence starting from Bofors in 1987 till TATRA-VECTRA trucks All are mired in one or other controversy with rampant corruption. Since Gen VK Singh is a stumbling block for the UPA-II Chairperson (to whom this Kerala Slave St (?) Antony is indebted for his political career) to milk the commision/bribe out of all defence purchases the scoundrels have managed to ease out the COAS one year ahead of his attaining superannaution The privileged communication from COAS to PM via DM has been obviously leaked out of either Antony’s own MoD or PMO as both are known for leaking information and secret letters/memorandum etc in the past ! No sane person will believe DM when he says that he will ensure severe punishment to those who have arranged for this leak ! Can he punish his own staff or PMO’s staff! We salute you Gen VK Singh in your fight against these corrupt colleagues and politicians from the ruling party ! The entire nation will hold you in esteem and remember you for ever with gratitude if you expose these scoundrels

  8. modernengineering limited says

    it is really funny that we allow 100% import of arms from foreign countries but do not allow 100% FDI in the defense industry for local manufacture ,this would create jobs

  9. R S Chakravarti says

    The Govt didn’t deny any of the leaked statements about the shortages in the Army. So there must be some substance in them. Compared to that, the misconduct of those who leaked the information is a minor matter. Because of the leaks, the Army may get what it needs!

    It is interesting that you suggest V K Krishna Menon as a role model for Antony at the same time that Col Athale predicts a Chinese attack in June! If I remember right, VKK was the Defence Minister in 1962.

  10. razor hero says

    so to make it simple.. its an open invitation to China to come and take this country over.. its a shame and we cant even buy a pencil for the armed forces without corruption..

    God save this country!

  11. Paradox says

    So far we have depended on imports and then came the indegenisation wave.. Nothing works out at the pace we want and so it’s been a slow affair. Our public sectors are white elephants that are just dragging their feet without taking decisions.

    I think it’s high time we change the strategy. When our businessmen are going out and buying out businesses, why cant we buy the defence units and move the manufacturing to India? Leave it to the business houses. It was heartening to know that the Tatra trucks which is the eye of the storm is today owned by an Indian.

  12. Vivek Jaiswal says

    Fail to understand why you and so many others are bent upon pinning the mess of the Politicians on the serving General(s).

    Fact of the matter is that the Army is ill equipped and the Head of the Army has reported that to the Ministers. That letter got leaked to the Press which is making a big issue.

    So should we focus on the how the Indian Army is ill equipped to fight the enemy
    Should we focus on WHY the Head of the Army is writing a letter and that is incorrect so let us boot out the Army Chief!!!

    India needs another war by China.
    Let the Indian Army get defeated due to the incompetence of the Bureaucrats and the Politicians in New Delhi and then we will learn our lesson.

    Or maybe at that time the Press and the Politicians will again blame the Army for not having morale and running away from the battle field.

    The ones to quit should be all the politicians and the bureaucrats.
    I do not see any politician fighting on Kargill.
    Nor do I see any politician policing and getting blown up in the jungles of Chattisgarh due to Naxalites.

    Let us equip the Army and give them good equipment so they can defend the country.
    Let us not find fault with the Army Head just because he is pointing out the deficiencies in the Army’s equipment. These deficiencies are caused due to very incompetent bureaucrats and some corrupt Politicians who will not let anything go forward if they do not get their pound of grease.

  13. chanderbalaji says

    Respeted Sir,

    I am a college student and have been reading this blog for a long time. At times I have found the space here insightful and at times i don’t quite agree with your point of view.
    This is the first time however that I am appalled.

    You may be right on MMCRA, however i feel if MMCRA comes with comprehensive ToT (industrial tech manufacturing practices) it is worth the price. Especially if we can use that technology to become self reliant in form of AMCA and Tejas MK2 or perhaps even MK3 version (based on modern manufacturing technology and technique)

    However, your point of view on current general is beyond me. You have given full honesty, integrity bonus points to Defense minister but somehow same are not extended to a highly decorated and honest officer like general Singh. If General Singh is guilty of leaking the top secret letter, I’ll support you but until the culprit is found, please don’t call for hanging the man who exposes the filth of corruption for all to see. Personally I do not believe that General Singh leaked the letter. heck even now, AKA says in parliament that Army chief has his full confidence. I think this time, action against the corrupt should be taken with no mercy as ex Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor has asked for,

    Character assassination of Army Chief VK Singh is not going to help Sir. That is all I have to say. Calling for Defense minister to show arrogance and high handedness like controversial ex defense minister V. K. Krishna Menon used to would be the last thing that we need.


  14. Prakash Chandra says

    Yes, the solution is not increasing the budget,the solution is to privatize weapon industry because our public sector is becoming a menace due to a corrupt and inefficient govt.

  15. rockytorque says

    sir general singh may be more politically adept than politician a skillful handling of matters may be needed.he probably represents more a weakness of central authority than anything new happening in military.solution may probably lie not in appearing strong but being strong.military tactics and strategy should be based on weapons we have rather than dictating weapons we should have except in cases of force multipliers.if indeed there is a threat of conventional war then many more pressing priorities in military modernisation can be found then mmrca.

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