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Saturday, 7 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 07 Feb 09

In the arms bazaar
Politicians, not procedures, are to blame
by K. Subrahmanyam

Addressing the seminar on "Dominance of Air Power", Defence Minister A. K. Antony said: "We need to cut down on unnecessary procedural delays, bottlenecks and redtapism in our procurement mechanism". The minister also added: "If more changes in the present procedures were needed to optimise transparency, fairness and to ensure speedy procurement the government would do so". These remarks would give the impression that the procurement delays are mostly procedural. But they are not in most cases procedural ones.

They arise out of the fear of senior bureaucrats of having to face subsequent enquiries on corruption. Such fears dominate the thinking of honest officers who are aware of the fact that corruption in defence purchases is not related to bureaucratic procedure but to politicians, operating outside the procedures related to weapon selection and imports.

Corruption in all major government deals takes place outside the government or services decision-making. Invariably, such deals are between politicians and the supplying firms. India has now the unique reputation of having highest bank deposit of unaccounted for money in the world in the Swiss banks.

This is not to argue that all bureaucrats are above corruption. There
is often a nexus between the corrupt politician and the corrupt bureaucrat. The politicians select the bureaucrats and appoint them to their posts and not the other way around. We have had cases in which bureaucrats with well-publicised reputation for corruption were appointed to topmost posts superceding other honest officers. There have also been cases in which politicians and bureaucrats have been charged together as co-accused in corruption cases. If top bureaucrats are corrupt, they can continue to be so only with the permissiveness of the politicians who are in a position to initiate action against them, if they are themselves honest. Corrupt bureaucracy is not a bureaucratic problem. It is a political problem.

Corruption in defence procurement is a worldwide phenomenon. Recently the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair stopped the investigation of the British Aerospace Company in respect of a case of bribe giving to a Saudi Prince to facilitate a multibillion dollar sale of equipment since the Prince is the progeny of the Saudi King and holds a key post in Saudi defence establishment. On the British side the son of the then Prime minister was the middleman.

Prince Bernhardt, the Prince Consort of Holland, Prime Minister Tanaka of Japan and Defence Minister Josef Strauss of Germany were all involved in defence bribery scandals. In our own country there are the HDW submarine deal, the Bofors deal and more recently some weapon purchases from Israel tainted with bribery scandals. There has not so far been any proved instance of bribery having resulted in the purchase of substandard equipment.

I once asked an exceedingly upright secretary who was in charge of a department handling tens of crores of imports, with a minister who was a known fund collector for the party how he was managing it. He said he had no problem. He made his recommendations on merits. The minister never changed them. But he began his negotiations with the firms after the files reached his table. Since the transactions involved hundreds of crores of rupees and delays meant huge reduction in profits to the firms they were prepared to pay for the minister's expeditious approval of the file. But those were days before the HDW and Bofors scandals.

The corruption need not involve the minister in charge of procuring department. Often, as was brought out in the Tehelka disclosures middlemen make money claiming to be in a position to influence or expedite decisions. It is nobody's contention that Defence Ministers made money out of HDW or Bofors deals. Yet it is undeniable money changed hands in those transactions.

Our political culture is a vindictive one. Even while our political parties would happily charge that most criminal cases against politicians are foisted by the police out of political instigation they will not agree to make the police and law enforcement autonomous and outside political interference. Every political party or coalition in power attempts to charge its predecessor opposition party or coalition of corruption. Many of them are no doubt vulnerable in this respect. Therefore the chances of large transactions ending up in the hands of vigilance commissioner or the CBI when there is a change of government are quite high.

There is also a long-established political and law-enforcement tradition in this country that no case involving politicians will ever be brought to a close. Our politicians who brush off even cases of murder as being foisted ones arising out of political motivation can take in their stride a few cases of corruption.

But it is more difficult for an honest bureaucrat to adopt that attitude. If he is dishonest he can go along with the politicians and can take things in his stride. But the honest bureaucrat is worried about his having to face enquiries after his retirement. Therefore, he tries to avoid contributing to a procurement decision which may pin some responsibility on him. His instinct is also to involve as many as possible in the decision making.

This is a country where cabinet ministers, judges of Supreme Court and high courts, and if the reports are correct, members of Central Information Commission are reluctant to disclose their assets. Given this culture of nontransparency one cannot blame foreign armament manufacturing firms operating on the assumption that money will speed up decisions.

Our political parties and leaders with some exceptions are not above temptation. Our politicians are yet to realise that corruption allows terrorists to penetrate our borders, explosives to be landed on our shores, leads to misgovernance, slows down our development and economic growth and delays weapons and equipment procurement, vitally needed for our national security. Political corruption is as big a threat to our nation as jehadi terrorism. Greater transparency on procedures alone will not expedite procurement. But greater transparency of political party funding, assets of politicians and bureaucrats and making law-enforcement autonomous and transparent will.

The writer is a noted defence analyst and a former Secretary, Defence Production.

Merchant of N-menace walks free
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The allegations of nuclear proliferation against him have not been substantiated. — Islamabad High Court

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday declared father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan a free citizen and quashed orders of his house arrest.

Chief Justice of IHC Sardar Muhammad Aslam, while announcing a verdict on several petitions filed against curbs on Dr Khan's free movement, declared: "He is a free citizen and there will be no restriction on him to move anywhere in the country."

Khan was disgraced and put under house arrest by former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2003 after he confessed on TV networks that he was involved in nuclear proliferation. After Musharraf's ouster, Khan said he gave that statement under duress.

On Thursday the government told the court that the question of Khan's freedom of movement was being negotiated by the two sides.

The court further ruled: "The allegations of nuclear proliferation against him have not been substantiated."

It, however, directed that due to security reasons, Dr Khan should inform the government about his movement in advance.

The verdict has directed the government to provide "VVIP" security to Dr Khan immediately.

The court also rescinded its previous gag order against Dr Khan and ruled that he was free to express his views, talk to media and carry out research and get treatment of doctor of his own choice.

Reacting to the court verdict, Dr Khan said he was satisfied with the decision. He pointed that his freedom was a matter between him and the Pakistan government and had nothing to do with the US.

Talking to media at his residence, he said he did not want to delve in the past. He only wanted development of the country. "I pray that God save the country," he said.

When quizzed, he said he would not take action against anybody for keeping him in detention. He said he would focus on education and setting up of welfare organisations would be his top priority. He told reporters that he couldn't go to Karachi after the deaths of his sister-in-law and niece because of curbs on him. Therefore, he would firstly go to Karachi and might go to Saudi Arabia to perform Umra.

Another deception by Pak: India
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News service

New Delhi, February 6
India tonight condemned the acquittal of disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan by the Islamabad High Court, saying Islamabad had always allowed individuals to act in a fashion detrimental to global security. Talking to The Tribune, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma termed Khan's release as yet another example of "Pakistan's deception".

Sharma said it should be clear to the world community how clean chits were being given in Pakistan to those who trample upon international conventions and understandings on nuclear non-proliferation.

"Pakistan as a state has allowed individuals and organisations to act in a manner which is detrimental to regional and world peace. If these were non-state actors, why deny their act?" Sharma said.

Meanwhile, official sources said the release of Khan, whose role in spreading nuclear technology for military use is well known, proved beyond doubt that Islamabad was not serious about nuclear non-proliferation.

On 26/11, Sharma asked Pakistan to stop pointing to "red herrings" and trying to deflect attention from the central issue of action against perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. Commenting on reports about Pakistan pointing a finger at Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami (HUJI) for being involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, Sharma said: "Pakistan must stop deflections and pointing to red herrings."

Defence accountability

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Ayesha Siddiqa

THANK God for parliament where we are beginning to see some accountability of the defence sector. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) under the chairmanship of opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar has begun to raise questions about irregularities in the defence budget.

A sporadic flow of information regarding the performance of this sector was observed in the life of the previous parliament as well. The fact is that even the weakest parliament is able to access more information than when there is no political government in place.

For instance, had it not been for the questions raised in the National Assembly, we might not have come to know that there are still about 2,500 serving military personnel in government departments. This means that not all were pulled out as was being claimed during the drive by the current army chief to bring about professionalism in the armed forces.

Because of the constant debate on the civil-military divide in the country, the present parliament managed to bring relatively greater transparency to the defence budget and we now know more details than what was presented in terms of the one-line budgetary figure given in the past. Needless to say, the space for greater information was created due to the peculiar political turmoil in the country. In order to do some face-saving and improve the militarys image, the top brass had to give in to the need for greater transparency, expecting that this would create a friendly image.

Now we know the allocations for the three services, defence production and inter-services organisations. But it is still difficult to access how much is spent on essentials versus non-essentials or what exactly is the teeth-to-tail ratio of military expenditure. These details should not be expected even in the foreseeable future for two reasons.

First, the government is operating with an under-capacitated, weak and militarised ministry of defence. Given the PPP governments aversion to building institutions, it cannot impose greater restrictions or challenges of accountability and transparency on the armed forces.

Second, since even the Indian defence budgets transparency is restricted to certain ballpark figures, the military will insist that it cannot disclose more because of the need for secrecy.

Contrary to the view that more should be disclosed, I would argue that we should be happy with the current state of disclosure provided parliament prepares itself to improve the exercise of accountability rather than focus on greater transparency. In fact, transparency can be improved through accountability.

The performance of the PAC should be emphasised through strengthening the committees secretariat.

This means bringing experts on board that could help the PAC assess the militarys financial performance. The committee has a permanent bureaucratic set-up that operates even if parliament is non-existent. The audit reports are only debated once the PAC is constituted.

This is one of the reasons for the delays in debating audit reports. For instance, the reports pertaining to years 1989-90, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2001-04 and 2006-07 are still pending because of the earlier absence of the PAC. This also means that the current PAC has a huge backlog. Reportedly, the PAC has decided to deal with current reports and let sub-committees sort out the backlog. So, it is hoped that the new parliament will exercise a better sense of accountability vis–vis the armed forces.

Since the adoption of the new accounting and auditing methodology, which is owed to the assistance provided by the World Bank to revamp the financial accounting and auditing system, the auditor generals department is in a position to shorten the time it takes to present audit reports.

Technically, the department can complete its audit cycle by September, which is within three months after the end of the financial year, and then present its report by March the following year. Hopefully, if the government is allowed to complete its duration, the PAC could finish its work uninterrupted.

But more importantly, the audit observations mostly pertain to what could be called tactical irregularities. For instance, there are cases in which sanctions are not received prior to when expenditure was incurred but ex post facto.

In the past, the chairmen and members of the PAC made observations outside parliament almost in the fashion of out-of-court settlements. So, the tendency has been that serious irregularities pertaining to the procurement of weaponry, an area rife with financial kickbacks, have not come to the surface. The concept of a performance audit, which we find in Indias case, does not apply to defence audits in Pakistan. It is noteworthy that the Bofors scandal in India which led to the destabilisation of Rajiv Gandhis government was disclosed by the comptroller and auditor general of India.

The PAC of Prime Minister Junejos parliament (1985-88) had recommended an independent organisational set-up for the audit of defence purchases that was established but later packed up. Only when the government truly begins to probe defence purchases will it be able to assess the extent of corruption and discover that the much-touted accountability mechanisms within the military actually do not function. A primary reason for this is the lack of a rational system of procurement in the military through which financial mismanagement can be checked.

It is also necessary for parliament to impose PAC decisions. For instance, the observations of the ad hoc PAC during the initial years of Musharraf had observed the mismanagement of military farms. It was observed that the military managers of the Okara farms were responsible for the pilferage of resources and not the system of contract that the army then tried to change resulting in a battle between farm labour and the army.

Only when parliament manages to create accountability mechanisms will we find that there is as much wastage of resources in the defence sector as anywhere else in government. So when people argue that the allocation for education must not be increased because the education ministry is far too inefficient and cannot spend its allocated resources, the counter question is: is there no evidence that the defence sector is inefficient?

Years of poor accountability and transparency have given the semblance of greater efficiency which is actually a myth. Money is spent and wasted without proper accountability. It is hoped that matters will begin to improve now. (Courtesy The Dawn)

Latest avionics to be on display at aeroshow

Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, Feb. 6: With the government stating that the global meltdown had not affected the defence industry, the Indo-French joint venture Samtel-Thales is planning to put up two stalls at the upcoming Aero India Show in Bangalore to display its latest products in the avionics sector.
"We would have on display some of the latest avionics systems including automatic equipment testing, multi function display (MFD) and helmet mounted display (HMD) as also other equipment which would provide complete solution in the avionics sector," director of Samtel Group, Mr Puneet Kaura, said.
With the Indian defence industry expected to touch almost $100 billion in the coming 10 to 15 years, he felt the market would grow rapidly and "there was need for bigger players from India to take up a larger share of this pie". The display of avionics equipment at the Aeroshow is part of the exercise by the Samtel group to project itself as a leading manufacturer. The IAF would be beginning trials for 126 aircraft in April-May. "The defence industry is quite insulated and though it had been dominated by public sector undertakings over the last few years Indian private companies have been playing a pivotal role. I think this is good for the country," Mr Kaura told The Statesman.
The Samtel group had in May 2008 launched a joint venture with the leading French company Thales with plans of making products which would make India part of the global supply chain for civil and military avionics. What has apparently buoyed the company is the government's plans to speed up the process of defence acquisition. Mr Kaura said "our target is to get 35% of the total supplies specially in regard to avionics as this is an important area for the Indian Air Force which is in the process of modernisation."
Apart from the IAF, he said the company was also looking at the possibility of entering the field of helicopters since the Army Aviation Corps was looking to procure 800 helicopters in the category of light combat and light utility.

Army falls for Arjun, induction by month-end
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
In what may be considered as a fillip for the country's indigenous production of defence equipment, the first-ever fleet of Indian-made Arjun battle tanks would be inducted into the Army by February end.

A total 45 tanks would form this armoured regiment and the first order of tanks is expected to arrive within next three weeks. In the first phase, 18-20 tanks would be handed over to the Indian Army by the heavy vehicle factory, Avadi, Tamil Nadu. Already, about 85 tanks are in various stages of production.

Notably, the induction is coming almost 36 years after India announced its programme to build own tanks, and the process was laced with glitches and delays.

The tanks would be available at the Armoured Corps Centre and School (ACCS), Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, where training of personnel would be carried out. It would take a few months more before the Arjun is actually deployed in one of the armoured corps on field duties. It is likely that the deployment could be the Indo-Pak border where a majority of the 59 tank regiments of the Army are deployed.

The induction is coming despite stiff opposition from within the armed forces, which tested the tank to the hilt and agreed only after various parameters were met. Defence Minister AK Antony stood his ground and made it clear that the 58-tonne Arjun would be inducted, as it was working fine.

Well-placed sources in the government said the tanks earlier had to be handed over by January end, but the deadline was extended by a month. Sources in Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) confirmed that the tanks were ready for shipment and handing-over to the Army.

Rather, the move implies that the induction would be carried out without waiting for the much-awaited comparative trials of the indigenous Arjun tanks with Russian-made T-90s, as had been desired by the DRDO.

Pak military capable of tackling threats: AQ Khan

PTI | February 06, 2009 | 16:33 IST

Disgraced nuclear scientist A Q Khan, declared a free man by a Pakistan court five years after he was put under house arrest, on Friday said Pakistan's military is capable of tackling any threats, including from India.

"The government is strong and the armed forces can tackle everyone," he said outside his heavily-guarded home while interacting with the media for the first time after the restrictions imposed on him were eased.

Khan stated this when asked if he had any advice for coping with possible threats from India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

However, he said "there is no threat, nothing like that has happened."

The scientist, who spoke to the media shortly after television channels reported that he had reached a secret out-of-court settlement with the government, said he had no plans to associate himself again with Pakistan's nuclear programme.

He said he would dedicate himself to educational activities, including starting new institutions and advising people in the sector.

To a question on international institutions wanting to quiz him in connection with nuclear proliferation, Khan said: "Nonsense, no comments. I am not obliged to give answers to anybody else. I am obliged only to answer to my government, not to any foreigner or anybody."

Pakistan rejects Menon's remarks as "smear campaign"

PTI | February 06, 2009 | 23:52 IST

Pakistan on Friday rejected India's charge that the Inter-Services-Intelligence was involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, alleging that it was a "manifestation of undisguised hostility" and "a smear campaign" against Islamabad.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit stated this while reacting to Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon's remarks in an international conference in Paris on Thursday that the organisers of the Mumbai attacks were "clients and creations" of Pakistan's intelligence agency.

"Menon's comments were yet another manifestation of undisguised hostility and global smear campaign being conducted by India against Pakistan," Basit said.

"Pakistan rejects the allegations as these are far from reality and patently malafide," Basit said. "These remarks are also inconsistent with the established norms of diplomatic parlance and are in sharp variance with restraint and responsibility demonstrated by Pakistan," Basit added.

Basit also said that it was "Pakistan's earnest desire to defuse tensions in South Asia and it has offered cooperation in dealing with the issue of terrorism to India".

"Pakistan intends to demonstrate restraint and will refrain from commenting on India's internal affairs or pursuit of policies that are inconsistent with the goals of promoting peace, security and stability in South Asia," Basit said.

Pak has shown signs of willingness to transform: Kerry

Lalit K Jha in Washington | PTI | February 06, 2009 | 15:11 IST

Influential United States Senator John Kerry, who heads the congressional committee responsible for American foreign policy, has said that Pakistan's president, army chief and the Inter-Services Intelligence are showing encouraging signs of transformation and taking the terrorists head on.

"I have found that President Asif Ali Zardari is very committed to trying to increase the accountability and to move in the direction of taking action against the terrorists," said Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He was intervening at a round-table debate on Afghanistan at the US Senate in Washingtonwhen one of the speakers said that theISI needs to be brought under the Pakistan civilian government's control.

"I also find that both the ISI Chief General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, and the Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani are likewise committed," Kerry said.

"In my conversations with the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of StaffAdmiral Mike Mullen and with the other players, there is a sense of some transformation," Kerry said.

The former Australian special forces commando and counter- terrorism adviser to former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, David Kilcullen, had said that various attempts have been made to bring the ISI under government control but it's just too powerful for the civilian politicians to break it up.

"So, we need to really encourage the Pakistani politicians to do that, and we need to assist Pakistan, conditional on its performance in dealing with the Taliban," Kilcullen said.

"We pay around about $120 million a month in something called the coalition support funds, which are supposed to go towards helping Pakistan control the Taliban and deal with the al Qaeda, and a variety of other things," he said.

"Historically, it hasn't actually been spent primarily on that sort of task. We need to really start putting some conditionality on that, saying it's not just a blank check," Kilcullen suggested.

"We do have enemies in the ISI, we have enemies in the Pakistan national security establishment, we have enemies in the Pakistan military, and we have other people who are neither our friends nor our enemies but they're just following their own interests that intersect badly with ours," he said.

However, differing on the issue, Kerry said that "The Pakistan army is taking on the bad folks who are numerous including the networks of the Hakani and Baitullah Mehsud, besides the Taliban and the al Qaeda in the western part of the country."

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