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  • DPK Pillay

    Research Fellow
    +91 11 2671 7983

    Colonel Dr. Divakaran Padma Kumar Pillay (Retd.) has seen action in several disturbed areas of the country. He earned a Shaurya Chakra for gallantry beyond the call of duty in Tamenglong, Manipur where he is remembered for the evacuation of wounded children despite having himself received life threatening injuries. On his retirement, the villagers made him an honorary member of their tribe for his humanitarian actions and in recognition of the development initiatives taken by him in the region including a national highway sanctioned by the Government of India.   

    Col. Pillay has held several assignments in his 29-year career in the Indian Army. Besides several field assignments, he was selected by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to serve at the Military School, Bangalore to inspire cadets to join the Armed Forces. In 2003, he was selected for Project Beta which delivered a handheld PDA for use by the Infantry in counter insurgency operations. This was a very unique military-funded IT enterprise. For his contribution to the project, he was awarded the COAS Commendation Card in 2005.

    In January 2006, he was selected as Planning Officer (Defence) in the Planning and International Cooperation (PIC) Division of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Being the first service officer in the MoD secretariat, he handled issues ranging from defence policy and strategy, implementation of the Group of Ministers report on reform of national security system, defence cooperation with foreign countries, issues of multilateral forum as well as matters pertaining to institutions like the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA). He has also represented India at various international forums including the UNOG for CCW conferences, UNGA, Shangri La Dialogue, ASEAN and UNEP, among others

    After the tenure at MoD, he served on a yearlong fellowship at MP-IDSA in 2009, where he prepared a report on the benefits of joint exercises with the foreign countries. He was subsequently selected as Senior Defence Specialist in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), where he served from 2010 to 2017. He has been a member of several national level task forces including that on Defence Modernisation and Indigenisation headed by Shri Ravindra Gupta and the Task Force on Defence Diplomacy, which brought about significant changes in policy. He was also a member of the NSCS-nominated Task Force on Environmental Security. 

    Currently, Col. Pillay is pursuing research on violent extremism at MP-IDSA as well as a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) project on Action Plan to Counter Radicalisation of Indian Youth. He was nominated as a member of the Advisory Committee for Commemoration of the First War with Pakistan (October 1947-December 1948) by the National Archives of India. He subsequently produced a well-researched exhibition on the accession of Jammu and Kashmir. In December 2018, he was nominated as Brand Ambassador to the Disabled in the Army, having been wounded in action and showing remarkable grit and recovery, by the COAS in a ceremony held at the Northern Command along with living Param Vir Chakra awardees.

    In December 2018, he was also deputed as a Military Advisor with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for After Action Review for the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. He was the first Indian armed forces officer selected as an Armed Forces Delegate with the ICRC. He re-joined MP-IDSA in May 2019.

    Col. Pillay holds a Ph.D. from the Panjab University and his thesis deals with the debate between human and national security. Besides university courses, he has attended several military training programmes in India and abroad on diverse subjects relating to conflict resolution, human rights, security sector reform, humanitarian civil-military coordination, strategic negotiations, rehabilitation and relief, disaster risk management and environmental law. Some of the courses attended are: New Issues in Security course at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (2007), Switzerland; the UNOCHA course on Civil Military Cooperation at Bangkok (2014); and International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance, Barcelona, Spain (2014).

    He has been invited to present papers at international conferences, notably at the Martens Reading at St. Petersburg, Russia in May 2019 and at the ICRC South Asia in July 2017. He regularly conducts international humanitarian law (IHL) training for the UN missions at courses conducted by the Centre for UN Peacekeeping in New Delhi. He also delivers lectures at universities and colleges including at the UGC-HRD courses. He is a regular strategic affairs commentator on Indian radio and television as well as a motivational speaker, including at TED. He was a recipient of the CNN–IBN Special Achievement Award in 2012.

    Select Publications

    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K. Pillay’s article ‘Against All Odds: The Forgotten Tales of Independent India's Tryst with Peacekeeping’ has been published in Volume 1, Edition 2022 of the Journal 'Blue Helmet Odyssey'.

      The article brings to light the almost forgotten chapter of one of the most successful peace keeping operations and India's role in it in Korea.

      Read Complete Article [PDF]

      January 17, 2022
      IDSA News
    • Strategic Analysis
    • The Indian Diaspora is one of the world’s largest overseas groupings. The Diaspora is considered India's 30th state with over 30 million overseas Indians. This article outlines the main strands of its formation, from the first movement of indentured workers and subsequent phases of migration of skilled professionals to the West and of workers to the Persian Gulf. They remain the single–largest contributor of foreign exchange and development in the country. Understanding its formation is an essential step for studying the Diaspora and engaging with it. This article aims to do that.

      Strategic Analysis
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K. Pillay’s article ‘1971 War: What The World Needs To Learn From India’s Intervention In East Pakistan’ was published by on December 16, 2021.

      In the context of the mindboggling persecution of Bengalis committed by the Pakistan army, India sheltered millions of refugees fleeing persecution in East Pakistan, says Col. Pillay.


      December 16, 2021
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K. Pillay’s article ‘Nagaland Killings: Blame Decades of Failed Politics, Not Just Army’ has been published in The Quint, on December 08, 2021.
      In targeting only the Army, we are absolving those in power who failed to resolve the insurgency movement, says Col. Pillay.


      December 08, 2021
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K. Pillay’s article ‘Corporatisation of Ordnance Factories – Overcoming the “Last Great Problem”’ has been published in the Chanakaya Forum on October 20, 2021.

      The corporatisation of OF was a long-drawn demand, however its success depends on the users, as well on the ability to make the indigenous entities capable of taking on the needs of the armed forces, says Col. Pillay.

      October 20, 2021
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K Pillay’s article ‘Beyond Corporatisation: The Road Ahead for Ordnance Units’ has been published in The Economic Times on October 15, 2021.

      The corporatisation of OF was a long-pending demand, however, its success depends on the users as well to make the indigenous entities capable on taking on the needs of the armed forces and truly ushers in an era of defence self-reliance under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat, says Col. Pillay.

      October 15, 2021
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K Pillay’s article ‘South Block will no longer be battlegrounds between rats, monkeys & langurs’ has been published in 'The Economic Times' on September 17, 2021.

      September 17, 2021
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col. D.P.K. Pillay’s article ‘Thimayya of India: A Man for All Seasons’ has been published in ‘Arbit Today’ of Hindi Daily ‘Rashtradoot’ on September 01, 2021.

      One of the most loved generals of the Indian Army, General Thimayya is not only an Indian military hero, he is also a hero of the Korean War, says Col. Pillay.

      September 01, 2021
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, MP-IDSA, Col. D.P.K Pillay's article 'America’s Vaccine War' has been published in Chanakya Forum on April 23, 2021.

      There are any number of good things the American leaders could be inspired to do for the rest of the world at this time that wouldn’t foster global enmity. They are the world’s only superpower and this selfish act to protect Americans first at the cost of the rest of the world seems even stranger when you see how rich America is compared to the rest of the world who they seek to deny the benefits of the vaccine, writes Col. Pillay.

      May 23, 2021
      IDSA News