A Pantheon of Holy Cows

A brilliant column by Harish Khare in The Hindu (quite certainly one of the most sober, eloquent and insightful columnists in the country today) is a must read. It’s a reflection on the World Cup disaster and why an emotion-crazed nation cannot expect the world to lower its standards to cater to the Indian team’s mediocrity. No one could possible accuse Mr Khare of half-baked views. Khare’s true craft is his remarkable ability to use the metaphor of the immediate subject if his column to investigate the Indian condition at large. I have read Khare for years, and not once has this exercise ended without insight. Anyway, the reason I mention his column today is a chance reference he makes to DRDO (!). Make what you will of it. I already have:

“We are happy to create a pantheon of holy cows and then ensure that no questions are asked about them. For instance, it would be impermissible (if the brand manufacturers have their way) for anyone to propose that Sachin Tendulkar is too old to lead our 2011 World Cup campaign. Or, we would invite the charge of treason if we were to ask a few hard questions of our scientists in the Defence Research and Development Organisation. And, it would definitely be sedition if we were to ask the Atomic Energy Commission to explain the massive gap between its promises and its performance.”

Excerpt ©The Hindu

2 thoughts on “A Pantheon of Holy Cows”

  1. As per the latest statements by CAS of PAF, Mr. Tanvir Ahmed, the PAF shall procure 200-250 JF-17 fighters.
    It was also stated by him that the matter of RD-93 engines has been resolved “amicably”.

    In my view, what may be evident is the extremely close co-operation, co-ordination and mutual planning between the PAF and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra. In fact the PAF Chief always represents or makes statements on behalf of PAC. His statements regarding the cost of the JF-17, its exports, etc. are indications that PAC Kamra has high level of interaction with the PAF. Same may be said between the Pak Army and the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT).

    This level of co-operation is unlike that in India, where a “step-motherly” relation may exist between the IAF and HAL/DRDO, which is evident from a statement of CAS Mr. Tyagi : “DRDO let us down”.
    This may be impossible in Pakistan.

    It is well-known that the development of the JF-17 was a closely synergised effort between the PAF and PAC (although the total effort being limited to funding and specifying parameters to CAC, Chengdu only). Such working is more pronounced in the case of the Al-Khalid which was developed in co-operation between the Army and HIT (though again with Chinese input).

    There may be many reasons for this like a military rule, which oversees development activity. Also there is obvious co-operation when state-owned firms build hardware for the armed forces.
    Such co-operation is unfortunately completely absent in India.

    It may be said with certainty that there are definitely “bad” relations between the HAL/DRDO and the armed forces, when the CAS makes a “scathing” public statement that, “DRDO let us down”. The development of the Arjun tank, Tejas etc. has undergone extremely poor co-ordination and co-operation. This is despite both of them being state-owned firms, which are meant to produce hardware for the Indian forces; in contrast, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon etc. co-operate substantially with the armed forces at every stage of the project cycle.
    In case of the Tejas, only stating the ASRs and sending test-pilots for flight-testing may be inadequate. In case of Arjun, as told by a member at a discussion board, the initial requirement was for a 105mm gun, which was changes after many years to 120mm. Upto 1998-2000, the requirements and equipment were changed numerous times, so much so that at many stages, almost new projects may have been said to have been initiated.

    There were also many critical comments made by Army officials in media regarding the Arjun. Some officials from DRDO also refuted by claiming that the army has no trained personnel to drive a modern tank like the Arjun.

    The HAL/DRDO may be to blame also, because the interactions between the armed forces and them may “reek” of “ego” matters.

    Thank you.

    References :

    Note :
    1] The statement of Mr. Tyagi may not be “justified”, because the specifications of Akash have been revised. If the IAF can keep revising its own strategy and plans based upon the ageing Pechora or Igla missiles, then I think that a block-1 Akash missile(which is more advanced than Pechora) can be accepted before a longer-range version is developed.

    2] The IAF has announced that a team will be sent to facilitate development of the Tejas, however I think that this must have been many years earlier.

  2. The following articles in ‘THE WEEK’ magazine are a comprehensive article that in its words, “tell DRDO’s side of the story”.

    As per the article, the services especially the IAF and IA are also largely to be blamed for their non-patronizing of indigenous systems.

    1) Rigorous tests for indigenous systems are laid, but the requirements from foreign systems are considerably relaxed if prices are reduced.

    2) Many changes in the requirements are made mid-way of the project. Case in point :- In 2004, the IAF requested that changes be made to Tejas’ composite wing structure to in IAF’s words, “to cater to weapon definition changes”. This was done after Tejas had logged a few hundred test flights.

    The Nag missile has also been delayed in part due to the “sudden” increment in range demanded by IAF and IA.

    3) From point 1, there is clearly and undeniable “contempt” of indigenous equipment.

    It is true that most members of the English media may find a quicker rapport with the “Sherwood-style” IMA Dehradun educated, non-technical and liquor “afficionado” Army (and also IAF) officers. There is indeed a cultural cohesiveness between the service officers and the (neo-secular) English Media, that is not unnoticed.

    This is in contrast to the mostly traditional and cultural atmosphere at ISRO (whose scientists send a satellite for Tirupati darshan), and the “Indianised” atmosphere at DRDO.

    This in my view, is complete unjustified bias of the highest order not just towards DRDO, but also towards journalistic ideals also.

    It may thus be hoped that the media is completely unbiased and has the best interests of Indian defence not just “problems” of the IAF and IA”.
    I may also say that Nationalism is not entirely a negative ideal; in moderation it is beneficial and desirable.

    Thank you.

    References :

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top