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Monday, 22 June 2009

From Today's Papers - 22 Jun 09

Indian Express

The Pioneer

Asian Age

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Telegraph India

Indian Express


Hindustan Times

Indian Express

Cowards in a nation of braves

Kanchan Gupta

Kargil war veteran Baldev Singh was shot dead and robbed by three men in Bhajanpura, North-east District of Delhi. He was carrying Rs 8.45 lakh. The incident occurred around 10 am barely 50 metres from a police picket — reportedly manned by two personnel...” This is an excerpt from a story that appeared in last Tuesday’s newspapers. The incident had occurred the previous day. At a very superficial level, this story tells us about the appalling law and order situation that prevails in the nation’s capital city where policemen are deployed to protect the precious lives of ‘Very Very Important Persons’ who, by virtue of their status as Ministers, MPs and bureaucrats, are entitled to security while commoners who toil so that they can keep the VVIPs, their spouses and their progeny in comfort, find themselves at the mercy of gangsters, murderers and rapists. Lutyens’ Delhi is the modern day Diwan-i-Khaas while the rest of the metropolis, in large patches squalid, overcrowded and bereft of civic facilities, is the Diwan-i-Aam. The glittering chrome-and-glass malls, the multiplexes and the fancy restaurants with unhygienic kitchens — my companion is still recovering from the ravages of typhoid that went undetected for almost a fortnight at an upmarket hospital — and the perpetually under-construction flyovers help cover the ugly underbelly of life in Delhi. Living in the national capital is bad; living in the National Capital Region is worse.

But let’s get back to where we began: The murder of an Army veteran, a man who fought in the last war we faced, in, as media is fond of describing, broad daylight, a short distance from a police picket where two worthies in khaki were reportedly on duty. The police claim to have ‘cracked’ the case; four men have been arrested; the story has been duly published; and, that is the last we shall ever hear of this murder. It could be argued that the killers were ignorant of Baldev Singh’s background, that he had helped regain territory we almost lost to Pakistan in the summer of 1999. But that’s unlikely as they were aware of his responsibility of collecting cash from the petrol pump where he worked and depositing it in a bank. They would have also been told of who Baldev Singh was by their informers. So, here we have a shocking incident of Indians killing an Army veteran who had risked his life for the country’s defence and the nation’s territorial integrity. We haven’t heard a pip-squeak from our so-called ‘civil society’ which is prompt in holding candle light vigils for dubious causes or 24x7 news channel celebrities whose hearts bleed for the cherubic faced ‘Butcher of Mumbai’ — one of them recently wrote a touching article in a national daily whose sum and substance was: Look at this poor lad who should be playing football and cricket in Faridkot and returning home to the comforting arms of his mummy every evening; does he deserve to swing at the end of a rope? Yes he does. As do the four men who killed Baldev Singh.

The point, really, is not merely about our society grown callous and indifferent, or the rapidly diminishing sense of national pride. It is also about the Government choosing not to remember wars fought by our soldiers and honouring our heroes — those who lived to tell tales of valour and those who fell on the battlefield. We have an annual ceremony to honour the unknown soldier at Amar Jawan Jyoti, the memorial at India Gate, and that’s about all. We do not celebrate our spectacular military victory in 1971 lest Pakistanis are offended and reminded of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s audacious decision to rend asunder Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s “moth-eaten Pakistan” and deliver Bangladeshis from the rapacious tyranny of West Pakistan. There’s a sneaking suspicion that December 16 is studiously ignored by our politicians (including, and it must be noted, those of the BJP) because the observance of Victory Day could ‘hurt’ Islamist sentiments at home.

So, it is not entirely surprising that the Government should also ignore Vijay Diwas — July 26 — the day a defeated, devastated and demoralised Pakistani Army turned tail and fled from the heights of Kargil, more precisely, the few remaining bunkers in its control, leaving its dead to rot in the rocky wilderness of Drass, Kaksar and Mashkoh Valley. Nor should it be surprising if Indians who have come of age in this past decade — those who were eight years old in 1999 — are ignorant of the tumultuous events whose tremors were felt around the world and shook the US into taking, for the first (and only) time in six decades, a firm stand against Pakistan. In fact, a pop quiz would reveal very few of us remember the details of the Kargil war, as also the other wars that have been forced on us. When Tiger Hill was taken back from the Pakistani intruders, there were celebrations across the country. But how many of us remember that outpouring of national pride? Or, that 533 of our finest and bravest men died during Operation Vijay?

One story that should be remembered by us, and told to our children again and again lest future generations forget, is that of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his team of five soldiers who were on duty at Bajrang Post in the Kaksar area on May 15. Suddenly there was heavy firing from across the Line of Control; Captain Kalia and his men responded in full measure; tragically, they ran out of ammunition. Before they could send out an SOS (there have been suggestions that their communications equipment failed to work), Captain Kalia and his men were surrounded by Pakistani soldiers. Later, Skardu Radio reported that they had been taken alive. On June 7, 1999, their bodies were handed over by the Pakistani Army. For the 20-odd days that Captain Kalia and his men were alive, they were brutally tortured in captivity — their mutilated bodies bore the evidence of chilling inhumanity: Ear drums pierced with hot iron rods, eyeballs carved out with knives, genitals chopped off, every bone broken and splintered. And, after all this, they were shot in the head. No apology was offered, none was sought!

On the first anniversary of our victory in Kargil, there were official celebrations and the martyrs’ supreme sacrifice was recalled. By 2001, the then BJP-led NDA Government’s fervour had begun to taper off. A year later, July 26 was knocked off the calendar of national events as it was seen to be an obstacle on the path to peace! Since then, the day has come and gone, year after year, without the Government taking note of it in the mistaken notion that by doing so, it would keep the Pakistanis in good humour.

But even if cynical politicians and a callous Government fail to honour the memory of Captain Kalia and 532 other men who died in the Kargil war, should we the people of India forget them too? Think about this between now and July 26. Reflect, resolve and react.

-- -- Blog on this issue at: kanchangupta.blogspot.com, Contact Writer at: kanchangupta@rocketmail.com

http://www.dailypioneer.com/184129/Cowards-in-a-nation-of-braves.html

Will use Pakistan's nukes if we can, says al-Qaeda

Reuters

TimePublished on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 07:49 in World section

Dubai: If it were in a position to do so, al-Qaeda would use Pakistan's nuclear weapons in its fight against the United States, a top leader of the group said in remarks aired.

Pakistan has been battling al-Qaeda's Taliban allies in the Swat Valley since April after their thrust into a district 100 km northwest of the capital raised fears the nuclear-armed country could slowly slip into militant hands.

"God willing, the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans and the mujahideen would take them and use them against the Americans," the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, said in an interview with al-Jazeera television on Sunday.

Abu al-Yazid was responding to a question about US safeguards to seize control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons in case Islamist fighters came close to doing so.

"We expect that the Pakistani army would be defeated (in Swat) ... and that would be its end everywhere, God willing," he added.

Asked about the group's plans, the Egyptian militant leader said: "The strategy of the (al-Qaeda) organisation in the coming period is the same as in the previous period: to hit the head of the snake, the head of tyranny - the United States."

"That can be achieved through continued work on the open fronts and also by opening new fronts in a manner that achieves the interests of Islam and Muslims and by increasing military operations that drain the enemy financially," he said.

The militant leader suggested that naming a new leader for the group's unit in the Arabian Peninsula, Abu Basir al-Wahayshi, could revive its campaign in Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.

"Our goals have been the Americans and the oil targets which they are stealing to gain power to strike the mujahideen and Muslims. There was a setback in work there for reasons that there is no room to state now, but as of late, efforts have been united and there is unity around a single leader," he stated.

Abu al-Yazid, also known as Abu Saeed al-Masri, said al-Qaeda will continue "with large scale operations against the enemy" - by which he meant the United States.

"We have demanded and we demand that all branches of al-Qaeda carry out such operations," he said, referring to attacks against US-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The militant leader said al-Qaeda would be willing to accept a truce of about 10 years' duration with the United States if Washington agreed to withdraw its troops from Muslim countries and stopped backing Israel and the pro-Western governments of Muslim nations.

Asked about the whereabouts of al-Qaeda's top leaders, he said: "Praise God, sheikh Osama (bin Laden) and sheikh Ayman al-Zawahri are safe from the reach of the enemies, but we would not say where they are; moreover, we do not know where they are, but we're in continuous contact with them."

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/will-use-pakistans-nukes-if-we-can-says-alqaeda/95364-2.html

Can Pakistan take on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba?

* Former RAW official says Islamabad could stop Lashkar if it stops considering LT a ‘strategic asset’

LONDON: If Pakistan’s battle against the Taliban seems difficult, a much tougher challenge lies ahead: deciding what to do about the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LT).

Security experts from the United States and India believe the Pakistan Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency could shut down the group accused of carrying out the Mumbai attacks – if they choose to do so.

“The Pakistan Army could do it and the ISI could tell them where to find those guys in a heartbeat,” said Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who led a review of strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan for President Barack Obama.

Asset: “If they wanted to shut them down they could,” said B Raman, a former Additional Secretary at India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). “They can do it, but they don’t want to do it because they look upon it as a strategic asset.”

But Samina Yasmeen, a professor at the University of Western Australia who is researching a book on LT said the reality on the ground might be more complicated.

Over the years, she said, LT had given birth to splinter groups, which had broken free both of the Pakistan Army and the ISI, and even from the LT leadership.

“There are elements within the Lashkar that are not under the control of the army anymore. They really moved on a trajectory that people did not expect,” she said. “After 9/11, there was a section that emerged within the Lashkar that may not be under the control of its own leadership.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushed LT to the top of the agenda last week by effectively telling President Asif Ali Zardari that India would not re-open peace talks until Islamabad acted against the banned organisation.

He seems to have won support in the West, where LT is thought to be, potentially, as big a danger as Al Qaeda. “I think we have to regard the LT as much a threat to us as any other part of the Al Qaeda system,” Riedel said.

Like many extremist groups, LT was born out of CIA-backed jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and then began operations in Kashmir in 1993, Indian analysts say.

According to Raman, LT had a larger presence in the country than the Taliban, and a charitable wing, the Jamaatud Dawa, carries out humanitarian work.

With land, property and madrassas across the country, LT collaborated with Al Qaeda while also offering its training infrastructure to Pakistanis from the diaspora, he said.

But unlike other groups, it has been scrupulous in avoiding attacks in the country, thereby avoiding the wrath of the army that has now turned on the Taliban.

For security analysts, the two questions are whether the army and ISI can close down LT, and if they want to do so – the assumption being that this would have to be done by the country’s military rather than the civilian government. Riedel said he believed the capability was there, but said taking on LT would be hard.

“It’s become more and more difficult but I would not underestimate ISI’s knowledge base. They would be able to bring people in,” he said.

But Yasmeen said more problems could be created by targeting the leadership. “You limit their ability to have some possibility of controlling those below. The risk of splintering increases,” she said. Analysts said giving up LT, seen as a “force multiplier” in case of an invasion by India – rather like citizens trained in civil defence – would be another step altogether.

Would the army chief turn against LT? “My sense of Kayani is that he is very pragmatic. He hasn’t accepted that India is not a threat to Pakistan,” said Yasmeen.

“From Kayani’s point of view, does he want to deny himself the possibility of using all trained and semi-trained people?”

That question returns to the Catch 22 of India-Pakistan relations. Without peace, Pakistan may never fully turn against LT. And India will not offer peace talks until it does so. Reuters

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\06\22\story_22-6-2009_pg7_13

India Inc makes strategic moves on defence deals

Nevin John / Mumbai June 22, 2009, 0:24 IST

Corporations sign joint ventures with foreign majors to tap a potential market of over Rs 50,000 crore in 5 years.

Just 10 days ago, the Tata group signed an agreement with US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to manufacture its S-92 helicopter cabins in India. The cabins for the four-bladed helicopter, meant for both military and civilian markets, are expected to roll out from a green-field facility in Hyderabad by late 2010.

On May 5, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) announced a joint venture with European defence electronics major EADS to manufacture high-end defence electronics products. The venture is expected to start by March next year and L&T is expecting to get Rs 2,500 crore worth of business within five years.

Just 10 days later, in a first for an Indian military aircraft programme, L&T, Godrej & Boyce and Tata Advanced Systems put in bids to develop and build an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, used in surveillance operations. The medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, named Rustom, will be designed to fly at least 250 km at a stretch.

A month before that, Mahindra & Mahindra inaugurated a state-of-the-art, six-acre plant in Faridabad to make specific military manufacturing applications, including armoured vehicles.

Sensing a booming opportunity, India Inc is making rapid strategic moves on the defence business. Rolta India chief Kamal K Singh said the defence business was growing at a stunning compounded annual rate of 40 to 50 per cent and most Indian companies were working on cutting-edge technology.

Rolta, which has been in the defence business for over two decades, renewed its agreement with IntergraphCorp in April this year for engineering and geospatially-enabled software. It also has a venture with the $30-billion Thales of France to build equipment for military intelligence.

One major reason why Indian companies have been in a hurry to step up their footprint in defence is the “offset clause”, under which all foreign companies that get a defence contract of above Rs 300 crore from the Indian government will have to bring back 30 per cent of the contract value into the country, either by way of purchases or as investments in the sector. That means a huge opportunity just waiting to be tapped.

Here’s why. Chales Pybus, head (defence advisory) at KPMG, said the Indian government was expected to issue over Rs 150,000 crore worth of defence orders in the next five years. At 30 per cent offset, that’s a plough-back of over Rs 50,000 crore into the Indian defence industry. It’s something India Inc can hardly ignore.

That explains the flurry of moves by companies like the Tata group, L&T, Godrej & Boyce, Mahindra & Mahindra, Walchandnagar Industries, Punj Lloyd and the like.

The array of joint ventures signed is mind-boggling. Apart from Sikorsky, Tata Advanced Systems has also formed joint ventures with Israel Aerospace Industries for building unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, radar systems. The group also builds components for Hindustan Aeronautics, DRDO and the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Mahindra Defence Systems has a joint venture with Lockheed Martin to jointly develop simulators for the Indian defence sector and with BAE Systems for building heavy artillery. Another major in the fray, Godrej & Boyce, supplies the Vikas engines for India’s rockets.

L&T makes military vessels for the Navy and has built a radar system with Bharat Electronics for the Army in addition to being involved in other aerospace projects. The company’s defence division already makes ancillary equipment for ships, such as propulsion steering gears and shafts and is now planning to build ships for the Indian Navy.

There’s more. Infrastructure major Punj Lloyd has joined hands with Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) to manufacture land defence systems — essentially weapons, including howitzers, mortars and small arms — and has announced a greenfield project near Gwalior, with an initial investment of Rs 200 crore. The Hero Group has also announced a Rs 500 crore, 292-acre defence and aviation special economic zone (SEZ) in Madhya Pradesh.

One of the major benefits of the offset clause is that foreign companies have no option but to forge partnerships with Indian companies to make the country part of its global supply chain. Take US major Boeing. Last year, the company entered into an agreement with TAL Manufacturing Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Motors, to make structural components for the latter’s 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has signed up with another 37 Indian companies too.

Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defence companies, is also aiming for deals with India worth $15 billion in the next five years and wants to develop defence technology with Indian companies.

Companies looking to be part of the Indian expansion include US aircraft parts maker Rockwell Collins Inc, which plans to quadruple its staff in India by 2012. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems are also forming multiple partnerships in India.

But the ambitions of some Indian companies have gone much beyond these partnerships. M V Kotwal, director and senior executive vice president (heavy engineering), L&T, said Indian players was competent enough to build large systems and sub-systems. “But the government should make sure the participation of Indian industry goes much beyond parts sourcing only,” he said.

That’s threatening to become a chorus and India Inc cites the support provided by the US government that enabled Boeing and Lockheed Martin to compete for military plane projects. The F-16 is built by Lockheed, while Boeing builds the F-18.

Companies said the delay on the part of the government to allow greater entry of private companies in defence had already done enough damage. For example, L&T and Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division had partnered with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop the prototype of a multi-barrel rocket launcher, Pinaka, for the Indian Army about 20 years ago. But business scope materialised only in 2002 when the government opened up defence equipment production to private sector companies. It took four more years for the two companies to get orders for Pinaka.

Kuljeet Singh, head-defence advisory, Ernst & Young, said “The offset clause was working out well for Indian companies in acquiring orders or signing for technologies. But for more growth, research and development (R&D) and manufacturing should be outsourced to private players. And, in turn, the companies should acquire or develop proprietary technology.”

To be fair, the government is taking some more initiatives as well to facilitate this. For example, it has revived the Raksha Udyog Ratna (RUR) scheme that was put in cold storage because of opposition from the Left. Tata Motors, L&T, Tata Power, M&M, Godrej, Bharat Forge, Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services are among the 12 companies that have been cleared by a defence ministry committee.

Once awarded RUR status, these companies will be treated on a par with defence public sector enterprises. RUR-status companies will also be allowed to access foreign technologies and build main systems for the defence department, besides getting substantial government financial investment (up to 80 per cent) for design, development and manufacture of defence products, including fighter aircraft, tanks and warships.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/india-inc-makes-strategic-movesdefence-deals/361750/

India to carry out trials to procure 197 light utility choppers

Paris (PTI): India is planning to carry out field trials for procuring 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) for the Army and the Air Force in August this year.

"We are planning to carry out the flight evaluation trials for the 197 LUH contract in August this year but the schedule has not yet been finalised. Five vendors are expected to come up with their helicopters for the competition," Indian Defence Ministry officials told PTI here.

The five contenders participating in the contract include the Russian Kazan and Mil, American Sikorsky, Italian Finnmeccanica and European helicopter manufacturers Eurocopter.

The contract, expected to be worth around $3 billion, is one of the few defence contracts where the vendors are required to fulfill around 50 per cent offset obligations.

The offsets clause in the Defence Procurement Procedures makes it mandatory for the companies awarded such deals to invest a certain percentage of the contract's worth back in the Indian defence sector.

In March this year, all the five companies responded to the global Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by the Defence Ministry last year.

The RFP was sent to six companies, including American Bell Helicopters, but it had backed out of the race citing the high offset obligations required in the contract.

The RFP was released by the Defence Ministry after it had cancelled a previous contract in December 2007 for similar type and number of helicopters.

The previous contract was cancelled by the ministry after it found that the chopper offered by Eurocopter for the field trials at that time was a civilian version whereas the company had offered a military version for the deal in its bid.

The chopper engine offered in the Eurocopter's bid was also different from the one fitted in the civilian version, which participated in the trials.

"We would be sending a military version of the helicopter for the field trials for the contract," Eurocopter vice-president Rainer Farid told PTI during the Paris Air Show.

The flight trials will test the performance of the choppers in different geographical locations including high altitude, desert and plains in different weather conditions.

Of the 197 helicopters to be procured under the contract, 133 will be given to the Army and the rest would go to the IAF.

The 197 choppers will help the two services to replace their aging fleet of over 350 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters mostly flying in high altitude conditions in air maintenance roles there and for surveillance as well as search and rescue missions.

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/002200906211012.htm

Army surrenders 14 acre for widening of road

20 Jun 2009, 0558 hrs IST, Rajinder Nagarkoti, TNN

PANCHKULA: Paving the road for four-laning of the stretch from Manimajra to Kalka-Zirakpur National Highway No. 22, the Army has agreed to part

with 14 acre falling under Western Command, thus wrapping up a year-old issue and giving a fillip to Haryana government’s traffic decongestion plans.

Thrilled over the development, Panchkula deputy commissioner Pankaj Yadav said that in return, defence authorities would be given land in Chandikalan village, Pinjore. “While the administration has identified the area with panchayat’s help, the state government has sanctioned compensation of Rs 25 lakh per acre for villagers,” said the DC, adding, “we have now asked Haryana Urban Development Authority to prepare a fresh report and send it to the state government.”

Incidentally, the Army had just recently surrendered 40 acre in Chandimandir to National Highways Authority of India for four-laning of NH-22, in lieu of which it was provided with land in Chandikalan itself.

Widening of the 8-km stretch, popularly known as Old Ropar Road, will cater to traffic from Chandigarh towards Panchkula, Kalka, Pinjore and Shimla. Earlier, the condition of this patch was worse but in the beginning of this year, the PWD had started recarpeting the existing road. “We will soon float tenders for the four-laning project and hope work will be complete within a year,” said HUDA officials.

Waiting for work to kick off, Rakesh Dhiman of Sector 20 said, “Authorities should initiate the project as early as possible and help ease out traffic on this road.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Army-surrenders-14-acre-for-widening-of-road/articleshow/4678247.cms

Special Army units to fight urban terror

21 Jun 2009, 0936 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: Setting up of specialised Army units to deal with urban terrorism has been proposed after an assessment of the lessons learned during

the operations against terrorists who struck in Mumbai on November 26.

An official assessment of the operations carried out by the Army's Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa area headquarters candidly admits that its basic training and equipment does not give it the ability for anti-terrorist operations.

Therefore, specialised units should be set up for the purpose. Such units should be capable of being deployed in any part of the country in short notice, the assessment report said.

"Basic training and equipment does not equip the Army for anti-terrorist operations. Specialised units to deal with urban terrorists and capable of being deployed anywhere in India at short notice needs to be considered," the excerpts from the report recommended.

Maharashtra Chief Secretary had, within an hour-and-half of the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26 last year, called up the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Army requesting assistance in the operations.

The Army had deployed 13 columns comprising 21 officers, 43 junior commissioned officers and 729 jawans (nearly a battalion strength) from Mumbai, Pune and Nasik units and Bomb Disposal Squads in the three-day operation.

Among the lessons learned from the Mumbai anti-terror operations was the urgent need to equip all infantry battalions located in Metros and important cities with specialised weapons and equipment, the Army report said.

"It was necessary to ensure that trained and equipped capability is available at short notice. Infantry battalions located in important cities need to be equipped with special equipment like stun guns, grenades, close quarter battle weapons, hands-free communication equipment and bullet-proof jackets," it added.

On the operations carried out at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Cafe, Hotel Taj, Hotel Trident Oberoi and Nariman House, the Army said, it had on viewing television coverage of the terror attacks, anticipated its deployment and initiated action for possible aid by keeping five columns of troops on stand by.

Army columns from 2 Grenadiers and 131 Air Defence Regiment were deployed at various locations in a short span of time, as they were in station, the report, circulated to all its formations for percolating information, said.

Additional troops from Pune and Nasik were mobilised to augment the resources in Mumbai. All units moved self-contained in terms of operations and administrative requirements.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Spl-Army-units-to-fight-urban-terror/articleshow/4682854.cms

India ‘unofficially’ blacklisting us: South African arms maker

Fakir Hassen

June 21st, 2009

JOHANNESBURG - An “unofficial” blacklisting by India has resulted in South African arms manufacturer Denel losing two billion rands in revenue, a company executive has told parliament.

The parastatal company’s group executive for business development Zwelakhe Ntshepe said Denel was seeking diplomatic assistance from the South African government to recapture the Indian market.

We have been blacklisted, not officially, but the behaviour shows. They don’t invite us to tender, they cancel existing contracts. It’s been going on for the past four years, Ntshepe was quoted as telling the parliamentary portfolio committee on pubic enterprises by the Sunday Times here.

In 2005 Denel faced allegations of paying commissions to a middleman for a deal to supply rifles to India. Since then, the ailing company has not had any invitation to tender for any Indian government armaments contracts.

But the 2005 issue was not discussed at all in Wednesday’s presentation to parliament. Denel had previously declined to comment on the commission allegations, citing confidentiality clauses in the contract.

Defending its survival largely through government bailouts, Denel said India had become a no-go market, sharply contributing to the company’s losses for the past three years as a result of shrinking global markets.

Ntshepe said discussions with the Indian government were ongoing after authorities there had investigated the allegations and not brought any charges against Denel.

Diplomatic efforts by the South African government had failed to resolve the impasses, with Denel considering asking for government intervention again.

Portfolio committee chairperson Mabel Mentor queried whether the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) tripartite cooperation initiative had not helped ease the situation, but Ntshepe merely replied that relations with India were difficult, the Sunday Times reported.

The weekly added that the admission about India’s shunning of Denel came in the same week that recently appointed Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane reflected on the strong bilateral relations between India and South Africa.

“With India, we share a strong historical relationship spanning through the 20th century. Ours has been a relationship steeped in political and struggle,” Nkoana-Mashabane, a former high commissioner to India, had said during her department’s budget vote in parliament earlier last week.

Denel has been running losses since 1998, but the annual loss has been steadily declining from 1.3 billion rand in 2006 to 549 million rands in 2007 and 347 million rands in 2008.

http://blog.taragana.com/n/india-unofficially-blacklisting-us-south-african-arms-maker-88164/

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