Tyagi was on Track-2 to bundle army out of Siachen heights
By Saikat Datta & Pradip R Sagar
Feb 14, 2013
Before the allegations of accepting bribes in the chopper deal hit the former IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal SP ‘Bundles’ Tyagi, he was battling a furious reaction from the retired community of soldiers for discussing a mutual withdrawal from Siachen in a series of Track-2 discussions that began last year.
While it is unclear whether there are any allegations against ACM Tyagi in the ongoing investigation in Italy, the former air chief was jet setting between continents meeting his Pakistani counterparts in a dialogue that seemed to have the blessings of the establishment in New Delhi and Islamabad.
Several such meetings took place between a delegation of retired soldiers led by ACM Tyagi and their retired Pakistani counterparts headed by former army chief General Jehangir Karamat. The delegations met in Dubai, Bangkok, and Lahore where the delegations discussed a range of issues including a possible withdrawal from the Siachen glacier.
While the Indian delegation took pains to point out there was nothing official about them, it is a fact they were briefed by two senior officials from the ministry of external affairs before they left for the Track-2 meetings.
Interestingly, sources in the government told DNA, the external intelligence agency, R&AW was kept out of the loop on these discussions.
It is believed that ACM Tyagi also claimed to his fellow-delegates that he had met a “very senior official in the PMO” before setting up the dialogue. However there is no independent confirmation of any such meeting having taken place. When DNA met ACM Tyagi he refused to discuss the issue saying: “I am preoccupied with these allegations and I cannot speak about anything else.”
The Track-2 dialogue started under the aegis of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, an organisation under the National Defence University of the United States of America and the Ottawa University. A key person pushing the dialogue was Shuja Nawaz, the younger brother of former Pakistani army chief General Asif Nawaz.
Once word about the Track-2 discussions was leaked out, a furious storm raged through the strategic community as scores of senior retired military personnel reacted with outrage at the “selling out” on Siachen. Many of them pointed out that India was at a strategic advantage in Siachen and except for one area in the Central Glacier, India was in a commanding position.
“Any change in this would mean a major strategic blunder,” wrote Lt Gen PC Katoch, who had served as a Siachen brigade commander. He also pointed out that none from the Indian delegation had ever served on the Siachen Glacier.
In one of the briefing sessions that was organised in Delhi to assuage these fears, former army chief General NC Vij reacted with horror when the delegation was briefing the group.
“Why should anybody be discussing Siachen at all with the Pakistanis, and nor should we be discussing our Cold Start Doctrine with them,” he told the delegation.
Throughout the discussions on Track-2, ACM Tyagi continued to draw considerable flak from the majority of the retired strategic community.
Key middleman’s confession: Met ex-IAF Chief S P Tyagi 6 to 7 times
Feb 14 ,2013
New Delhi : A Swiss-based middleman who was allegedly instrumental in fixing the IAF’s controversial VVIP chopper deal has confessed to Italian authorities that he had met the then Air Chief S P Tyagi 6-7 times and had discussed the technical specifications for the contract with him.
The middleman, Guido Haschke, has also said that he received 20 million euros as commission and of this, 12 million euros were passed on to S P Tyagi’s Delhi-based businessmen cousins Julie Tyagi, Docsa Tyagi and Sandeep Tyagi.
The confession was recorded before prosecutors in November 2012, and included in the 64-page investigation report filed on Tuesday for the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for his suspected role in arranging bribes to bag the Indian chopper contract.
The Indian Express was on Wednesday the first to report that the Italian investigation report also alleged that Finmeccanica bribed Tyagi when he was Air Chief to swing the chopper deal in favour of its subsidiary AgustaWestland.
Tyagi, however, has denied the allegations and demanded a probe. He said the alleged move to favour AgustaWestland — by changing the technical specifications to allow it to enter the bid — had taken place in 2003, a year before he became Air Chief. He said he had learnt this from his colleagues and friends.
“I am not just ready for an inquiry but I want an inquiry. I can say that the Air Force did not change any requirements when I was the Chief,” Tyagi told reporters on Wednesday.
The former Air Chief also dismissed Haschke’s claims about their meetings and said his statements were not true.
In his confession, Lugano-based consultant Haschke — one of the two key middlemen in the deal along with Christian Michel — has said that his commission of 20 million euros or 3.5 per cent of the chopper deal, was received through bogus engineering contracts.
He has also claimed that he met Tyagi several times, both before and after the technical requirements of the contract were allegedly changed.
Of the 20 million euros, Haschke has claimed that 60 percent or 12 million euros was passed on to the three Tyagi brothers, the Delhi-based businessmen who have been named in the investigation report.
The remaining 8 million euros, Haschke says, was divided between him and his partner Carlo Gerosa who had been active in the Indian business sector for several years.
This is the first time a key middleman in the deal is admitting to receiving and distributing kickbacks. Italian prosecutors suspect that a total of 51 million euros was paid as kickbacks in the deal and Michel got 31 million euros.
“The agreement was made as an engineering contract equal to 5 per cent of the order. The real cost was of 1.5 per cent while the rest was actually the commission for me and Gerosa, to be shared in the following way: 60 per cent to the Tyagi family and 40 per cent between me and Gerosa,” Haschke’s confession reads.
Haschke has also claimed that he met Tyagi several times at the residence and office of his cousins named in the Italian report.
“I personally met (Air Chief) Marshal Tyagi 6 or 7 times…(Tyagi’s cousin) Julie was also there with the other two brothers…the second time I met him again in Delhi in 2005. This time in the office of the three Tyagi brothers, who have a family business as they are businessmen,” he has said.
S P Tyagi dismissed the statement saying there is “absolutely no truth” to them. “This is utter nonsense. There is no truth to this. It is correct that I met some people in my cousin’s house but my visit was much after the tenders had been issued for the contract,” Tyagi told The Indian Express.
But Haschke has claimed that technical specifications of the deal were discussed in detail during the meetings.
“In this meeting we spoke about the helicopters. (Air Chief) Marshal Tyagi informed us that the operational ceiling will be lowered. Carlo and I thanked him for coming to the office. The meeting was very short,” Haschke has said.
He said he met the officer again around the end of 2006.
“During this meeting we spoke about the technical specifications of the AW101 helicopters. The operational ceiling had already been lowered. AW had prepared a good technical document about the 101 comparing it with the competitors…Tyagi analysed it carefully and while giving it back he told (AgustaWestland official) Lunardi to send it officially to the Indian Air Force,” the confession statement reads.
Earlier on Wednesday, Tyagi told reporters that two critical changes were carried out in the contract requirements – one suggested by the Special Protection Group (SPG) in charge of VVIP security and the other by the Defence ministry.
“As far as I know the process started in 2000 and when it started, 18,000 ft was the height at which the aircraft was to go. In 2003, the government said that only one helicopter company can go at 18,000 ft – it was a French company – and as it was the only one there was a problem,” Tyagi said, referring to the single-vendor situation that had apparently arisen.
Tyagi added that some requirements were also changed by the SPG in 2003 when they asked for a higher cabin door on the chopper so that troops could stand on the doors with their guns for additional security.
“The specifications were changed to 15,000 ft and the cabin height was also increased as the SPG could not stand on the doors with their guns,” Tyagi said.
Tue Feb 12 ;2013, 16:55 hrs
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How the VVIP chopper scandal hurts Air Force
Written by Nitin Gokhale
February 14, 2013
For the Indian Air Force, the AugustaWestland controversy could not have come at a more inopportune time.
The Air Force plans to induct 300-350 aircraft, including combat jets, transport aircraft and helicopters over the next decade. But the scandal that has erupted around supply of 12 VVIP helicopters is likely to cast a shadow on its plans, at least in the short run.
This is for the first time an Air Chief’s name has cropped up in scam of any kind. Whether Air Chief Marshal (retired) SP Tyagi has received the bribe mentioned in the Italian prosecutors report will have to be proved after a thorough investigation both in Italy and India. In absence of any concrete proof I would like to withhold any judgement although Air Chief Marshal (retired) Tyagi has himself demanded a speedy probe and denied any wrongdoing.
The controversy has, however, stunned the Air Force fraternity.
Former Air Force chief PV Naik, speaking to me from Pune this afternoon, said as much. He pointed out that the Air Force has never been involved in any scam before. “I think all the IAF deals are very transparent. All procurement is signed through ministry of defence, finance etc,” he pointed out.
Although the Defence Ministry has not yet made it clear if the Rs 3750 crore deal with the AugustaWestland company will be scrapped or the deliveries of the remaining nine helicopters will be delayed indefinitely, Air Chief Marshal (retired) Naik was clear that any delay will be costly in terms of operational requirements.
“The helicopters should come to the Air Force as soon as possible. The IAF really needs it. The deal should not be delayed, according to me,” he said. The probe can go on, he added.
Later, talking to different sources in the government, I have tried to piece together the entire sequence of events in this long drawn out contract process. This is what I have managed to learn so far. There could be gaps in information though.
In the year 2000, aware that Mi-8 VVIP helicopter fleet had only 10 years to go before being phased out, IAF suggests to the PMO and the Defence Ministry that there is a need to look for suitable and modern replacement. The Mi-8s are typical Russian product: sturdy, dependable but with very little comfort level to offer. (Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis was the Air Chief then)
A request for proposal (RFP) is floated. Six companies respond. One of the key requirements in that RFP was the competing helicopters must be able to fly at altitudes around 6,000 metres with full load.
After trials, only one helicopter, Eurocopter’s EC 225, was able to fly at that altitude.
In 2003, the IAF sent its evaluation report to the PMO. Brajesh Mishra, National Security Adviser (NSA) and Principal Secretary to Atal Behari Vajpayee, asked the Special Protection (SPG) that guards the VVIPs for its comments. The SPG apparently said the EC-225 was not suitable because its cabin height was too short (at 1.39 metres) and that neither the VIPs nor the SPG personnel would be able to stand upright inside such a short cabin.
Mr Mishra then wrote to ACM S Krishnaswamy who had taken over from Tipnis in 2001 expressing concern on two points: A single vendor situation had arisen because of the specification that said the helicopters must be able to fly at altitudes around 6,000 metres and that SPG’s inputs were not taken. Having seen that letter briefly, I remember a couple of lines. It said, in parts: “It is unfortunate that SPG wasn’t taken on board… I suggest you and the defence secretary work out the specifications in consultation with the SPG…” Mr Mishra’s point was the competition must be broadened and SPG’s requirements must be met.
So, the Air Force, in consultation with the SPG, drew up the entire Air Staff Qualitative Requirement (ASQR) once again. That was in 2003 itself. The new specifications said the helicopters must be able to fly at an altitude of 4,500 metres and that its cabin must be at least 1.80 m in height.
Meanwhile, Air Marshal Tyagi took over as Air Chief in 2004. However, it took the Air Force Headquarters and the Defence Ministry’s acquisition wing another three years to issue a fresh RFP. That was in2006.
The NDA government had been ousted. UPA was in power. The new RFP which went by the specifications finalised in 2003 was issued to six different vendors when Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister.
Three companies – makers of Mi-172, Sikorsky which made the S-92 helicopters and Augusta Westland’s AWA101 – responded to the RFP.
Meanwhile, the MoD had put in place a new concept – the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) – which lays down stringent rules and regulations. Under the DPP, all companies that bid for contracts above Rs 100 crore have to sign an integrity pact which binds the companies to give an undertaking that no bribes would be paid or agents would be used in the contracts.
The Russian company that makes Mi-172 withdrew from the competition at an early stage refusing to sign the integrity contract!
That left AugutaWestland and Sikorsky in the race. By now this was late 2007.
Fali H Major, himself an ace helicopter pilot, had meanwhile taken over as the Air Chief after ACM Tyagi superannuated in 2007.
The evaluations and trials of S-92 and AW-101 began and continued over the next couple of years (2008-09). According to Air Force sources, S-92 was found to be non-compliant on four counts:
1. It could not reach 15,000 feet without maximum power
2. Its ‘hover out of ground effect’ wasn’t sufficient
3. Its drift down altitude was not meeting the requirement
4. Missile airborne warning system wasn’t up to the mark
AugustaWestland with its three engines was a bonus, according Air Force test pilots since one engine failure still meant it had two to fall back upon.
Sometime in 2009, Air HQ sent its recommendation to the Defence Ministry and after all going through the stringent financial and technical requirements mandatory under the DPP, a contract was signed in February 2010.
By this time, ACM Naik was the Air Chief.
[COMMENT : The procedure starts with ACM Tipnis. 4 CAS therafter have ‘COME & GONE’ !! Its now with ACM Naik !! SPEAKS “VOLUMES” of the way “BABUDOM” WORKS ” !!!]
The first of the AW-101 arrived in India in late 2012. Two more followed in quick succession.
Even before the deliveries had started, reports had begun appearing in Indian media about some underhand dealing.
Early this week, the manure hit the fan and by now everyone is an expert on who has got what and how much money has changed hands. [COMMENT : None more than a certain ‘motormouth’ – A.G. !! ]
Politics has also begun on the matter.
Over the next few days, the controversy will remain in the headlines. Then we will discover something new to outrage over and move on.
Whether or not a former Air Chief received a kickback will remain a matter of investigation.
One is just hoping that this episode (and the last word is yet to be heard on this) will not further slow down India’s overall defence acquisition process.
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