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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

From Today's Papers - 03 Apr 2013
Inadequate defence budget
Security challenges require more funds
by Gurmeet Kanwal

The funds allotted for defence expenditure by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram for the financial year 2013-14 are inadequate to meet the growing threats and challenges facing the country, for modernisation of the armed forces and India’s increasing responsibilities as a regional power. The defence budget is also inadequate to expeditiously make up the “critical hollowness” in defence preparedness pointed out by General V K Singh, the Army Chief.

The increase of 5.3 per cent in the budget estimates from Rs 1,93,007 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 2,03,672.10 crore ($ 37.46 billion) for 2013-14 is too small to allow for inflation, which is ruling at about 7.5 per cent annually. Also, the rupee’s recent slide against the dollar to almost Rs 55 to a dollar has further eroded its purchasing power. Hence, in real terms the defence budget has actually declined by about 1.3 per cent.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been modernising at a rapid pace for over a decade, backed by a double-digit annual hike in the defence budget. At $ 115.70 billion, China’s official defence budget for the current year is 10.7 per cent more than the previous year and it is over three times India’s planned defence expenditure. As China invariably conceals many items of expenditure on national security, its actual expenditure is likely to be well over $ 150 billion.

China is investing heavily in modernising its surface-to-surface missile firepower, fighter aircraft and air-to-ground strike capability. It is acquiring strategic airlift capability, modern aircraft carriers, new submarines, improving command and control and surveillance systems and is enhancing its capacity to launch amphibious operations. It is also upgrading the military infrastructure in Tibet to sustain larger deployments over longer durations.

Despite the long list of obsolescent weapons and equipment in service with the Indian armed forces, the present military gap with China is quantitative rather than qualitative. However, as India’s military modernisation has been stagnating for several years, this gap is likely to soon become a qualitative one as well. By about 2020-25, China will complete its military modernisation and will then be in a position to dictate terms on the resolution of the territorial dispute if India continues to neglect defence preparedness.

Of the total allocation for defence, the Army will get Rs 99,707.8 crore (49 per cent), the Navy Rs 36,343.5 crore (18 per cent), the Air Force Rs 57,502.9 crore (28 per cent) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Rs 10,610.2 crore (5 per cent). The total revenue expenditure planned for the year is Rs 1,16,931.41 crore (2.73 per cent increase, 57.41 per cent of the budget).

The remaining amount of Rs 86,740.71 crore (9 per cent increase, 42.59 per cent of the budget) has been allotted on the capital account for the acquisition of modern weapon systems. Major purchases this year are likely to include initial payments for 126 multi-mission, medium-range Rafale combat aircraft, 197 light helicopters, 145 Ultra-light Howitzers and C-17 heavy-lift aircraft, among others. India is expected to spend approximately $ 100 billion over the 12th (2012-17) and 13th (2017-22) five-year defence plans for military modernisation.

The government has earmarked Rs 52,264 crore for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in the annual budget of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for homeland or internal security. A portion of these funds will be utilised for setting up a National Intelligence Grid and the National Counter-Terrorism Centre — measures which are considered essential to streamline counter-terrorism efforts consequent to the Mumbai terror strikes in November 2008. Also, the state governments will be given Rs 1,847 crore for the modernisation of their police forces.

This year’s defence budget has been pegged at 1.79 per cent of the projected GDP, which is the lowest since 1961-62 when it was 1.66 per cent. The 13th Finance Commission had recommended that the nation’s defence expenditure should progressively come down to 1.76 per cent of the GDP by 2014-15 and perhaps the Finance Minister has decided to go by that recommendation. China and Pakistan spend between 3 and 4 per cent of their GDP on defence. India’s per capita expenditure on defence is less than $ 10, while the average expenditure of the top 10 spenders in Asia is $ 800 approximately. India’s soldiers-to-citizens ratio, at 1.22 per 1,000 citizens is among the lowest in Asia. The average of the top 10 Asian nations is about 20 soldiers per 1,000 citizens.

The reasons for India’s lackadaisical approach to military modernisation include the shortage of funds on the capital account for major defence acquisitions, the inability to spend even the allotted funds due to bureaucratic red tape in decision making and the lack of a robust indigenous defence industry because of excessive reliance on uncompetitive ordnance factories and defence PSUs.

The lack of progress in the replacement of the Army’s obsolescent weapons and equipment and its qualitative modernisation to meet future threats and challenges is particularly worrisome as the Army continues to maintain large-scale deployments on border management and internal security duties. It needs to upgrade its rudimentary C4I2SR system and graduate quickly to network centricity to optimise the use of its combat potential. While the mechanised forces in the plains are still partly night blind, the capability to launch offensive operations in the mountains continues to remain inadequate to deter conflict. All of this will need massive budgetary support, which can be provided only if the defence budget goes up to 2.5 to 3 per cent of the GDP.

While some tightening of the belt is understandable when the economy has taken a downturn, India’s expenditure on national security is clearly inadequate to squarely face the emerging threats and challenges. The government must insulate planning for national security from the vagaries of fluctuating economic fortunes by backing five-year defence plans with firm budgetary commitments.
Night-vision devices for Indian Army approved
New Delhi: The Defence Ministry today approved a Rs 2,820 crore proposal to provide night-vision devices to the Army to enable its tanks and infantry combat vehicles to have capability to fight in both day and night conditions.

A meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister A K Antony also approved proposals to upgrade the 130 mm artillery guns of the Army along with amendments in procurement procedure to boost indigenisation in defence production, Defence Ministry sources said here.

Under the plans to do away with the night blindness of Army's mechanised fleet including the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tanks and the BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV), around 5,000 thermal imaging sights would be procured from defence PSU Bharat Electronics limited, they said.

For the T-72, which are the main stay of the Indian Army, 2,000 pieces of TI sights would be procured for Rs 1,000 crore while 1,200 pieces would be bought for the T-90 Main Battle Tanks for Rs 960 crore.

1,780 pieces of TI sights would be inducted for the BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles for Rs 860 crore, they said.

The Army has been worried over night-fighting capabilities of its armoured columns and reports had earlier suggested that only 50 per cent of the tank fleet of the forces had this ability.

Meanwhile, the Ministry also cleared a proposal to upgrade the existing inventory of M-46 130mm artillery guns to 155mm guns through the Ordnance Factory Board.

The OFB has plans of modernising its facilities under a Rs 15,000 crore plan in the ongoing 12th Defence Plan.

The DAC also discussed the amendments in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) under which efforts to boost indigenisation in defence sector would be encouraged.

The amendments are based on the Ravinder Gupta Committee report on boosting indigenisation which has given suggestions to give the first right of refusal to the indigenous industry for the weapon system requirement of the armed forces.

The DPP will also focus on bringing more changes in the ship-building sector in the country to increase the production capabilities of the Indian shipyards to construct ships at a faster rate.

However, discussions on the amendments remained inconclusive and would be taken up again in the next DAC on April 20.

The DAC also approved a Navy proposal for procuring equipment for the four large size amphibious warfare vessels to be procured by it at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore.

A proposal for procuring anti-tank weaponry for the armed forces was also discussed during the meeting.
Indian Army starts vocational training for Kashmiri youth of militancy-affected areas
Jammu, April 2 (IANS) Under its Operation Sadbhavna (Goodwill) the Indian Army Tuesday launched a fortnight-long course on vehicle repair and gas welding for youth of the remote mountainous and militancy-affected area Sarh which will help the trainees earn a living for themselves.

"Ten youth selected from the remote Sarh area (180 km north of Jammu in Reasi district) have begun their training. All the selected youth are school dropouts and belong to very poor families. They would be taught the nuances of vehicle mechanics and the various repairing techniques. Beside this, they would also be taught about the techniques of gas welding," the defence ministry spokesman in Jammu, Col R.K. Palta, said.

Palta said that the army had assured the youth that the best possible training would be imparted to them. "And we have asked them to make optimum use of the same and earn a living for themselves so that their families can also benefit."

According to the spokesman, the Sarh area has been one of the worst affected by militancy. "The locals have suffered a lot at the hands of militants. Many youth of the area were coerced to take up militancy and those who refused were mercilessly murdered."

Palta said that in the given background, "this initiative of the army can help the local youth to start earning with dignity".
Why does not India possess an indigenous arms industry?

Neeta Lal / 3 April 2013

New Delhi buys over 70 per cent of its arms requirements from the international market

With media spotlight focused firmly on India’s looming lok sabha (lower house) elections to be held in 2014, news that the country has emerged as the world’s largest importer of major conventional weapons worldwide has largely gone unnoticed.

According to data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India’s arms imports — the largest in the world — are also a whopping 109 per cent higher than even China’s, the world’s second largest economy and a mighty arms importer itself.

Surely there’s nothing to be proud of in the fact that New Delhi imports more arms than Beijing? Or that it buys over 70 per cent of its arms requirements from the international bazaar, generating just 30 cent indigenously? Besides, there’s a crucial difference between the two Asian giants’ modus operandi — while India exports no arms, China does and is also a prolific arms manufacturer.

The ramifications of the deficit of an indigenous arms industry have been serious for India. It has led to multi-million dollars defence contracts filling the coffers of other countries while allowing plenty of room for bribery and corruption to take place at home.

The excessive reliance on foreign arms firms, say defence analysts, is also the key to why arms dealers and sleazy arms consultants are thronging the corridors of South Block. It is disconcerting also to note that despite India being the world’s largest arms importer (having spent well over $50 billion to acquire arms over the last decade), the nation does not boast of a single authorised agent of a foreign armament company on the defence ministry’s rolls.

Given the high stakes involved in defence deals, some say a lobby is deliberately not letting such an indigenous industry develop for fear that it will curtail opportunities for kickbacks. This is highly plausible given India’s otherwise robust manufacturing industry.

Analysts say the corruption scandals plaguing the Indian military establishment can be largely blamed on powerful middlemen play in the procurement process. “Wherever big bucks are involved, such dubious characters will exist,” opines a home ministry secretary. “One has to evolve a system where they can operate legitimately within a system of checks and balances. Why has the defence ministry not been able to register them as official agents for companies?” questions the official.

Defence deal bribes, add insiders, normally amount to about 10 per cent of the total contract value, with a lion’s share going to politicians. Middle-men normally get around three per cent with bureaucrats and officers from the Army, Navy and the IAF sharing the rest of the spoils.

When the multi-billion dollar Augusta-Westland helicopter deal burst forth last month, with the arrest of former Italian defence and aerospace company Finmeccanica’s Chief

Operating Officer Giuseppe Orsi, all defence minister AK Antony could do was wring his hands in despair. Orsi had allegedly paid a 51 million-Euro kickback to secure a $755-million contract for selling 12 VVIP helicopters to India. Orsi has also denied wrongdoing while New Delhi is still mulling over whether scrap the contract signed in 2010 or not!

Obstructing aggressive arms indigenisation further in India, say analysts, are the defence public sector units (DPSUs), ordnance factory board (OFB) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The trio’s monopoly in the field, and the powerful influence of arms agents over government officials, has long been India’s undoing. These groups are directly or indirectly promoting India’s heavy dependence on foreign suppliers while bottlenecking the efforts of private players to venture into either arms manufacture or defense procurement.

With many Indian private sector players like the Tata conglomerate, L&T, the Mahindra group and Reliance having proven manufacturing prowess, why can’t the Indian government can encourage such private enterprise to take up arms manufacturing?

Reliance Industries Limited is already committed to invest about $500 million to $1 billion in developing an aerospace centre. Surely, a bit of nudging and pushing can alter the dynamics of the Indian arms procurement industry in favor of the country.

It is also time the government came up with a new clear-cut mechanism to legitimise and regulate defence agents. Taped conversations of the alleged middle-men in the deal,

Guido Haschke, Carlo Gerosa and Christian Michel, who routed the money to India and the Tyagi brothers, show them boasting about how they had “hoodwinked” the Indian system. Worse, the Finmeccanica scandal comes at a time when India is on the verge of finalising a contract with Dassault Aviation S.A. of France to purchase 126 Rafale fighter jets in a deal estimated at over $10 billion. The acquisition of the Rafale jets is part of an Indian Air Force plan to buy 400 planes and helicopters until 2022.

A recent report titled ‘The Indian Defence Market 2012-2022’ finds that India’s robust growth in military spending will continue through the next decade as the government seeks to fulfill its ambitious defense modernisation plans. It estimates that the government plans to spend about $ 50 billion over the next five years to upgrade its military.

Besides the Rafale deal, the Indian army is also in the process of acquiring new tanks, artillery guns, missile batteries and machine guns in a major revamp bid while the navy is upgrading its fleet with new frigates and submarines.

But the Finmeccanica scandal will likely decelerate such procurements. The slowdown in defence purchases will likely annoy the armed forces which have been urging the government to increase defense spending to modernise the country’s antediluvian armed forces as neighbors China and Pakistan spend millions upgrading their military capabilities.

A slowdown in defence purchases will also impact aerospace and defence companies worldwide who are betting on India’s plans to spend tens of billions of dollars each year to buy new military equipment. Already, last year, India’s defence budget for the ending March 31 was slashed due to sclerotic economic growth. (GDP growth projections for 2013 have been recalibrated to 5.4 per cent by the government after an earlier projection of around 6 per cent late last year.) The absence of strong deterrents, and a deficit of a healthy ecosystem which encourages corruption-free defence deals, is what has made India such a flourishing market for arms dealers. If New Delhi doesn’t check corruption in arms purchases, it will continue to provide ample opportunities to unscrupulous middlemen to continue to exploit governmental loopholes and make illegitimate money in future defense deals while compromising national interest. The time to act is now.
Synergising the Combat Potential of the Central Armed Police Forces

Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal
(Visiting Fellow, VIF)

Since independence, India has faced a large number of external and internal security challenges. The Indian army, the paramilitary forces and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have worked hand-in-hand to manage and neutralise these challenges. While the army has been responsible to maintain the integrity of the country’s long land boundaries through four wars and the Kargil conflict, the CAPFs have been largely responsible to manage the land borders and lend a helping hand to the army for counter-insurgency operations. Some insurgencies are now being fought primarily by the CAPFs by themselves.

In May 2001, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had approved the concept of “one border, one force”. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the border with Tibet is now being managed largely by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). In the west, the entire border with Pakistan is manned by the Border Security Force (BSF) except the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Maintaining the sanctity of the LoC is the responsibility of the army and some BSF battalions have been placed under its operational control for this purpose. For over 50 years since the Kashmir conflict began in 1947-48, soon after independence, the two armies were engaged in a so-called ‘eyeball-to-eyeball’ confrontation with daily loss of life and property that could justifiably be called a ‘low intensity limited war’. An informal cease-fire has been in place all along the LoC, including at the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) along the Saltoro Range west of the Siachen Glacier, since November 25, 2003.

The border with Nepal was virtually un-attended till very recently as Nepalese citizens have free access to live and work in India under a 1950 treaty between the two countries. Since the eruption of a Maoist insurgency in Nepal, efforts have been made to gradually step up vigilance along this border to prevent the southward spread of Maoist ideology. The responsibility for this has been entrusted to the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), erstwhile Special Security Bureau that is now a Ministry of Home Affairs force. The Bhutan border is also managed by the SSB. Since the Royal Bhutanese Army drove out the Bodo and ULFA insurgents from its territory some years ago, the border has been relatively quiet. The border with Myanmar also remains operationally active. Several insurgent groups have secured sanctuaries for themselves in Myanmar despite the cooperation extended to India by the Myanmarese army. The cross border movement of Nagas and Mizos for training, purchase of arms and shelter when pursued by Indian security forces, combined with the difficult terrain obtaining in the area, makes this border extremely challenging to manage. This border is manned by the Assam Rifles (AR), India’s oldest paramilitary force.

Along the Bangladesh border that has seen some action in recent years, the BSF is in charge. This border remains in the news as there are frequent clashes between the BSF and the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR). Managing this border is a peculiar challenge that is usually referred to as ‘Enclaves and Adverse Possessions’. There are 111 Indian enclaves (17,158 acres) within Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (7,110.02 acres) in India.” Thirty-four tracts of Indian land are under the adverse possession of Bangladesh and 40 pieces of Bangladeshi land are in India’s adverse possession. Though the Land Border Agreement of 1974 has provisions for the settlement of the issue of adverse possession, it has not been implemented so far as the problem is politically sensitive.

The CCS had also approved the nomination of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as the country’s primary counter-insurgency force. Since then, the BSF has been withdrawn from internal security duties in J&K and has been replaced by CRPF battalions. The CRPF is also the primary strike force for anti-Naxalite or anti Maoist operations in the left wing extremism (LWE) affected states in central India. Though it has suffered many casualties in operations so far and is still on a learning curve, it is gradually gaining experience in counter-insurgency operations and can be expected to acquit itself creditably in future.
Over the last few decades, the CAPFs have seen rapid expansion, some of which appears to have been hastily undertaken. They face many structural problems and need to be reorganized to suit their evolving roles. Also, the lack of inter-departmental coordination has led to the sub-optimal exploitation of the combat potential of the various forces, which is not in the nation’s best interests. It is time the government appointed a high-powered Study Group to enquire into the challenges being faced by the CAPFs, with a view to recommending remedial measures to improve their efficiency.
'India must wake up to cyberterrorism'
NEW DELHI: In early March, suspected Chinese hackers breached the computers of India's top military organisation, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in what was touted to be amongst the biggest such security breaches in the country's history.

Defence minister AK Antony ordered a probe into the matter, though an official statement denied any sensitive file had been compromised.

India has seen many such attacks on its critical installations and the misuse of social media and internet has brought home the threat of cyberterrorism, which cybersecurity experts say the country is poorly equipped to handle.

Experts believe the country is vulnerable to such cyberterrorism attacks with some countries and vested interest groups bent on espionage and destruction.

According to Supreme Court lawyer and leading cyberlaw expert Pavan Duggal, while the threat of cyberattacks remains "imminent," the country lacks an institutionalised mechanism of a cyberarmy to deal with the threat.

"The recent DRDO breach was a classical case of cyberwar attack rather than mere hacking. It was an attack on India's critical information infrastructure. Cyberwarfare as a phenomenon is not covered under the Indian cyberlaw. Clearly, the country's cybersecurity is not in sync with the requirements of the times," Duggal told IANS.

Over the past few years, India has witnessed a growing number of cyberassaults, with government departments, particularly defence establishments, coming under attack.

Last year, hacker group Anonymous carried out a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against a number of government websites, in retaliation against the alleged internet censorship.

Hackers from Algeria also carried out an attack on websites run by the DRDO, the Prime Minister's Office and various other government departments last year. A group called Pakistan Cyber Army had also hacked into several Indian websites.

"The threat landscape remains very threatening," said cyberlaw and cybersecurity expert Prashant Mali.

"India is awakening to the global threat of cyberwarfare now. Our cybersecurity is still ineffective as mass awakening towards it is missing or inadequate. Even though NTRO and DRDO are mandated with cyberoffensive work, only time will show effectiveness of these organisations," Mali told IANS.

Usually, cyberattacks follow the same modus operandi. An email is sent to an individual, or small group, within an organisation. Efforts are made to make the email look legitimate, that is, it will appear as though it was sent by somebody the recipient trusts and the content of the mail will often be related to the recipient's area of interest.

In order to install the malware, the user is tricked into either clicking a malicious link or launching a malicious attachment. In the more sophisticated attacks, the attacker will use a new "zero day vulnerability", in which attackers send email attachments which when opened exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers.

According to CERT-In (the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team), which is a government-mandated information technology security organisation, an estimated 14,392 websites in the country were hacked in 2012 (till October).

In 2011, as many as 14,232 were hacked, while the number of websites hacked in 2009 stood at 9,180. About 16,126 websites were hacked in 2010.

With cybersecurity impacting the country's security, Shivshankar Menon, the national security adviser, announced last month that the government is putting in place a national cyber security architecture to prevent sabotage, espionage and other forms of cyberthreats.

"The past few years have witnessed a dramatic shift in the threat landscape. The motivation of attackers has moved from fame to financial gain and malware has become a successful criminal business model with billions of dollars in play. We have now entered a third significant shift in the threat landscape, one of cyberespionage and cybersabotage," Shantanu Ghosh, vice president at India Product Operations - Symantec corporation, which develops Norton AntiVirus, told IANS.

Ghosh said cybersecurity questions are no longer an exotic topic focussing primarily on spam messages and personal computers but have started to impact on the national security and defence capability of a country.

Rikshit Tandon, consultant at Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and advisor to the Cyber Crime Unit of the Uttar Pradesh Police, said: "Cyberterrorism is a grave threat not only to India but to the world."

"It can come to any country and, yes, proactive measures by government and consortium of countries needs to be taken as a collective effort and policy since internet has no geographical boundaries," Tandon told IANS.

Experts say the country spends a small amount of money on cybersecurity. The budget allocation towards cybersecurity was Rs 42.2 crore ($7.76 million) for 2012-13, as against Rs 35.45 crore in 2010-11.

In comparison, the US spends several billion dollars through the National Security Agency, $658 million through the Department of Homeland Security and $93 million through US-CERT in 2013.
MoD mulls changes in procurement policy

Against the backdrop of bribery allegations in the VVIP chopper deal, a top panel from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will meet here on Tuesday to take a call on the proposed changes to the defence procurement policy, which include providing the Indian defence industry the first right of refusal to take up a military project.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), in its meeting, will also consider for approval a revised defence production policy that will focus on increased indigenisation of military equipment to meet the needs of the 13 lakh-strong Indian armed forces.

Another important procurement proposal that will come up is the tender for purchasing 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH), all worth Rs 15,000 crore, of which 64 will go to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the other 133 to the Indian Army.

Chaired by Defence Minister A K Antony, the DAC members consist of Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh, Army chief General Bikram Singh, Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, DRDO chief V K Saraswat, Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, Defence Production Secretary R K Mathur, Director General Acquisition Satish B Agnihotri and others.

Following the arrest of Italian defence major Finmeccanica’s then chief Guiseppe Orsi by Italian authorities over corrupt practices in global deals, the `3,546 crore Indian contract for 12 VVIP helicopters from the company’s wholly owned subsidiary AgustaWestland came under the scanner, after prosecutors submitted a chargesheet before a Milan court that bribes were paid in the deal.

The MoD, immediately, handed the matter over for a CBI probe and stopped further payments and delivery of helicopters. India has already paid about half of the contract amount to AgustaWestland for the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters, of which three were delivered to the IAF in December last year.

The MoD has also issued a show-cause notice to AgustaWestland as to why the contract should not be cancelled and bank guarantees given by the Italian firm encashed.

Since the corruption charge flew thick and fast in the AgustaWestland deal, Antony has repeatedly stated that the only answer to stop defence procurement scandals is to produce weapons and military systems indigenously.

He suggested that India reverse the trend of 70 per cent defence imports in favour of domestic sourcing and try and bring imports down to 30 per cent.

In this regard, one of the proposals before the DAC is to change the defence procurement policy to make it mandatory to explore indigenous options for military products and go in for imports only if the domestic players throw their hands up on timely supplies and quality.   The procurement policy was last revised in 2011, along with the introduction of a new defence production policy, which will come for its first revision this year.
Army asks defence ministry to probe Brigadier on chopper deal
New Delhi: The army has asked the defence ministry to investigate the charges that a Brigadier had sought a bribe of Rs 25 crore from AgustaWestland to help it bag the deal for supplying 197 light choppers before taking any decision on the tender.

The allegations against the Brigadier surfaced during investigations into the VVIP chopper deal about the alleged involvement of Finmeccanica in paying kickbacks to secure the Indian contract for 12 VVIP choppers.
“The Army Headquarters has asked us to investigate the matter before taking any decision on the future of the deal, in which only two firms European Eurocopter and Russian Kamov are left in the race as AgustaWestland was eliminated before trials itself,” a defence ministry source said in New Delhi.

Recently, in a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, the ministry had asked the army to take “responsibility” that there was no wrongdoing in the charges against the officer after which the force asked the government to conduct a probe before taking any further decision, they said.

The DAC also has to take a call on whether to allow the deviations from the tendering process by the two companies and a Special Technical Oversight Committee (STOC) has submitted its report in this regard.

After the charges came up, the ministry had asked the Italian government to provide the name and relevant documents relating to the alleged involvement of the Brigadier in the ongoing process for acquisition of 197 helicopters for the army.

The allegations have been levelled against the officer, who has denied the charges, in a letter allegedly sent by an AgustaWestland official in India to his superiors in Italy saying the Brigadier was seeking $5 million for facilitating the deal in their favour.

The deal for procuring 197 light choppers has already been cancelled once in 2007 in the last stages.

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