'Don't blame Tyagi, but complex rules for foreign buys'
It is too premature to point a finger at former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi. India's mind-boggling acquisition procedure is so complex that no foreign agency can handle the deal without involving a middleman, Air Marshal (retired) B K Pandey tells rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa
Allegations have been flying thick and fast in the bribery scandal pertaining to the sale of VVIP helicopters by AugustaWestland to India.
Air Marshal (retired) B K Pandey says that as long as there are mind boggling procedures, there are bound to be scams and middle men getting involved.
Talking to rediff.com, Air Marshal Pandey, who was a classmate of former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi, says that he does not believe that the former IAF chief was personally culpable in this.
"First of all one should understand that this is not a defence deal. The air headquarters comes into the picture only because of the expertise involved and in a deal such as this; the controlling authority is always the government and the Defence Acquisition Council. It is improper to say that the mistake lay with the air headquarters. The Chief of the Air Staff is not usually kept in the loop in such deals."
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Image: Former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi
'We have such a mind-boggling acquisition procedure'
"Tyagi's name appears in the Italian investigation in which the Tyagi brothers are also named. Whether Tyagi received the money or not is something that the Central Bureau of Investigation needs to find out. During the pendency of such a probe by the CBI, it is unfair to put Tyagi in the dock."
"The other question that one needs to answer here is why are there kickbacks in such deals done with foreign countries? The Indian government is very clear that there shall be no middlemen. The problem is that we have such a mind-boggling (acquisition) procedure, which is so very complex that no foreign agency can handle the deal without involving a middleman."
"The procedures in such deals can be compared to an impregnable wall, which lures foreign companies to depend on middlemen. I would suggest to the government of India that it should make the procedure simple. If this cannot be done, then they have to deal with the middlemen."
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'Why should we buy helicopters from abroad, especially for the VVIPs?'
"The other thing that I fail to understand is why we should buy helicopters from abroad, especially for the VVIPs. This whole issue of getting fancy helicopters to fly the VVIPs does not sound right. There is an urgent need to scale down this VVIP culture. Instead, why not take pride in our own product, which will boost our industry."
"I can understand when we enter into deals where our defence is concerned or when it comes to weapons. This equipment needs to be sophisticated and our industry does not have the expertise."
"But when it comes to a VVIP helicopters, I am sure that our own industry can provide for the same. We have given a great fleet of helicopters and if the VVIPs feel uncomfortable using our helicopters, then amends could be made to make the product better."
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'Tyagi's name should not be dragged in right away'
"The Italians putting out such a report is quite strange. They are doing nothing but hurting themselves. This deal will be called off and they run the risk of being blacklisted by India."
"There appears to be a political conflict of some sort in Italy, which has prompted this report. One group over there is trying to hurt another. We need to understand the compulsion by the Italians in putting out such a report which will only hurt themselves."
"I feel that Tyagi's name should not be dragged in right away. Let the CBI probe the case and find out if the middle men actually passed on the money to the Air Chief Marshal."
"I have known Tyagi for a very long time and according to me there is no question of him being personally culpable in this. Let us first establish the case before pointing a finger."