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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 DPK Pillai’s article ‘Evolution of Indian Army the harbingers of change’ has been published in Blitz India on 19 June 2023.
      Exposure to wars in Europe brought a new awakening and confidence in Indian soldiers that they were ready to take on the world, and they did, says Col Pillay.

      Read Complete Article [+]

      June 19, 2023
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col DPK Pillay’s article ‘Thimayya of India: A Man for All Seasons’ has been published in ‘Arbit Today’ of Hindi Daily ‘Rashtradoot’ on 21 April 2023.

      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.

      April 21, 2023
      IDSA News
    • There is a need for India to establish an autonomous agency to execute overseas development assistance programmes.

      March 15, 2023
      IDSA Comments
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col DPK Pillay’s article ‘Why India needs its own USAID-like aid agency’ has been published in ‘Times of India’ on 13 February 2023.

      India’s capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) as well as execute development projects far beyond its region is something only developed countries have demonstrated in the past, says Col Pillay.

      Read Complete Article [+]

      February 13, 2023
      IDSA News
    • Maroof Raza’s new book Contested Lands: India, China, and the Boundary Dispute documents the evolution of India’s boundary with China, an issue that predates independence and annexation of Tibet. The key question that has metamorphosed into the dispute with China is the differing interpretation on both sides. The genesis of the current dispute lies in the interpretative differences between the British, the Tibetans and the Chinese on the three sets of lines drawn by the British: (a) Johnson Line in 1865, (b) Johnson-Ardgah Line in 1897, and (c) McCartney MacDonald Line in 1899.

      Strategic Analysis
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col DPK Pillay contributed the chapter ‘Foundations of Good Governance: Enduring Relevance of Human Security’ to the book ‘ASEAN and India: The Way Forward’, which was released by Emeritus Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong, at the Institute of South Asian Studies of National University of Singapore (NUS), on 12 October 2022.

      October 12, 2022
      IDSA News
    • There is a part of history that many in India are not familiar with today. This article is an account of Independent India’s first overseas mission under the UN – The unique role that the Indian military played in the Korean conflict.

      Journal of Defence Studies
    • The Agnipath scheme provides an opportunity for the armed forces to leap into the next generation of warfare with a manpower that can embrace technological challenges.

      June 21, 2022
      IDSA Comments
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col DPK Pillay’s piece ‘Clear entry, exit norms, hiked retention ratio: How can Agnipath be made more attractive?’ has been published in the Times of India, on 19 June 2022.

      June 19, 2022
      IDSA News
    • Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Col DPK Pillay’s article ‘Arrival of Portuguese in India and its Role in Shaping Modern India’ has been published in Daxiyanguo No. 27, Portuguese Journal of Asian Studies, Instituto do Oriente, Lisbon, Portugal.

      Read Complete Article [PDF]

      June 02, 2022
      IDSA News