The filing of corruption charges against the ex-Indian Air Chief (2004-2007), Air Marshal Shasi Prakash Tyagi, in a mega defence scandal, has once again brought under sharp focus the endemic corruption pervading at the 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 also South East Asian Region 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 fully revealed 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 aerospace and defence giant, Finmeccanica, in working out the deal for the purchase of 12 AW101 helicopters produced by its subsidiary unit; AgustaWestland.

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; he 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 would not have had the power to negotiate a tailored deal with AugustaWestland.

It is worth noting that in the Bofors case, in the eighties, the trail led the investigators to the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who remained comfortably beyond the grasp of the CBI sleuths, despite the availability of solid evidence incriminating him, because of the latent support of Indian establishment. In the Augusta helicopter case, it ought to be remembered that the deal was cleared by the Indian Defence 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 intensely striving competitors’ pack by the IAF Chief alone.

The 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 the 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 to conclude that Tyagi might have made a good buck, but there was certainly a godfather at the highest echelons of political hierarchy, who had staked his own claim to a pound of flesh from the dealmakers. The chances are that the CBI investigations notwithstanding, the world will never see the face of that person.

Secondly, the episode adequately illuminates mammoth expenditures on military hardware by India, which quietly and steadily are transforming its military capabilities. Despite its manifest inadequacies to challenge China’s 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 neighbour, eagerly facilitated by the 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 - the USA’s largest ever defence deal with India. It is also in the process of providing Poseidon P-81 maritime patrol aircraft to the Indian navy and is well poised to win India’s heavy attack helicopter competition with its AH-64D Block III Apache.

Following the US, Israel has also removed all stops in tending to Indian military hardware needs. It 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 defence ties with Russia have continued. New Delhi announced a $295 million development contract for a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) based on the stealthy Sukhoi T-50 prototype in October 2011; announcing of plans to induct 214 FGFAs by 2017.

In late September, the Indian Air Force 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 destabilise 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 10 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 some time before India develops the wherewithal to militarily confront China, its 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 at 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, dependent on the whims of an adventure-prone and corrupt Indian politico military leadership.

The writer is a freelance columnist.