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How civil-military tension fast-tracked defence buying

Last updated on: April 14, 2012 10:40 IST

How civil-military tension fast-tracked defence buying

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The raft of prompt decisions by the usually sluggish Ministry of Defence have been triggered by the simmering row between army chief General V K Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony. Rahul Bedi reports from New Delhi

India's ongoing civil-military tension between the army and the federal government has ironically pushed through a raft of long-delayed, yet vital proposals and procurements for the services.

In early April, the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Defence Minister A K Antony uncharacteristically approved the long-postponed update of the defence offset guidelines and the 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Planning.

The LTIPP which projects over a 15-year period the military's overall material requirements through imports, indigenisation and private sector involvement had earlier languished for years without approval.

The planning document forms the basis for the five-year defence plan from which is derived the annual outlay for military procurements and overall modernisation and budget disbursement. Previously the MoD accorded them retrospective clearance.

The updated defence offset guidelines (DOG) meanwhile permits overseas vendors to defray technology transfers to fulfil mandatory offset obligations in all military contracts over Rs 3 billion (Rs 300 crore) in the defence, civil aviation and internal security sectors.

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Image: Defence Minister A K Antony


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The new DOG also permits offset credits worth 300 per cent of the value of the technology transferred to the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation, but requires it to be provided without a license fee and with no restriction on domestic production, sale or export.

These technology transfers the DOG stipulates must be 'complete, including documentation, training and consultancy' but would exclude civil infrastructure and equipment.

Analysts and industry officials said this measure would render India's military-industrial complex free to market equipment and material or both designed and built using the technology transferred under offsets.

Alongside the DOG fulfils vendors' long-standing demand by extending by two years the time line within which vendors are required to discharge their offset obligations. Earlier, they were required to defray them alongside the main contract.

It also increases the validity of banked offsets credits from two to seven years and stipulates that in complex contracts, multiple sub-vendors who incurred separate offset liabilities could expend them individually.


Image: Army chief Gen V K Singh


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How civil-military tension fast-tracked defence buying

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However, the overall responsibility for their discharge would continue to be that of the principal vendor.


Meanwhile, the MoD has also approved the fast track procurement, postponed for over two years of 1568 Brugger and Thomet 9mm 5.56mm submachine guns for select Ghatak infantry commando platoons.

All FTP acquisitions under the MoD's periodically revised defence procurement procedures overseeing acquisitions have a mandated 12-14 month deadline. But over years the moribund MoD has taken twice or three times as long to confirm acquisitions.

Also cleared is the procurement from Russia of 25,000 Invar missiles for T90S Main Battle Tanks, 66,000 rounds of 125mm armour piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot ammunition for India's 59 armour regiments and 10,000 Konkur wire guided anti-tank missiles, military sources said.

Army sources said the purchase of 66,000 APFDS rounds was negotiated last November after the army alerted the MoD to its precarious ammunition war wastage reserves and the deal is likely to be inked soon.


Image: T90S Main Battle Tanks

Tags: APFDS , Thomet , T90S , Ghatak , FTP

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How civil-military tension fast-tracked defence buying

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The raft of prompt decisions by the usually sluggish MoD have been triggered by the simmering row between army chief, General V K Singh and Antony after the Supreme Court on February 10 rejected the formers petition seeking to change his date of birth.

General Singh claimed his birth date had wrongly been recorded by two army wings as May 10, 1950 instead of May 10, 1951.

Had he prevailed, the army chief would have secured an additional 10 months in office till March 2013, but now retires on May 31.
This ill-feeling further escalated after the DNA newspaper on March 25 quoted from Gen Singh's confidential letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh detailing the army's numerous equipment and ordnance shortages that affected its war waging capability.

The leaked letter being inquired into by the Intelligence Bureau-revealed that the army's armour fleet was 'devoid' of ammunition, 97 per cent of its air defence assets were obsolete and the infantry lacked adequate weaponry.

In the woefully dismal picture it portrayed of the army's war waging capabilities, the letter declared that its Special Forces were "woefully short" of "essential weapons" and there were "large-scale voids" in the forces surveillance and night-fighting capabilities.
The situation peaked on April 4 following a startling newspaper report, denied by PM Singh and Antony as "alarmist" and "baseless, that hinted at an aggressive show of force by a disgruntled Gen Singh, hinting at a supposed coup attempt.

The influential Indian Express newspaper reported that in mid-January -- the same day that Gen Singh moved the Supreme Court on his age dispute -- two army units, including a Special Forces battalion had marched on New Delhi without intimating the requisite authorities.
Gen Singh dismissed the report as an "absolutely stupid" reaction to a regular manoeuvre for which no prior intimation to the federal authorities was necessary.

He claimed it was to test the readiness of key units to mobilise swiftly for emergency deployment in foggy conditions, usually prevalent in northern India during winter.


Image: The front-page report of The Indian Express on Wednesday that two units of the Indian Army moved towards Delhi on January 16, 2012


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Military sources said several more procurement contracts and proposals lingering in the labyrinthine corridors of Sena Bhawan and the MoD were likely to be fast-forwarded over the next few months under the prevailing conditions.

Around 100 of them were stuck at various levels of decision making and military officials believed that the adverse publicity surrounding tension between the services and the government would promptly push many of the through.

The bigger ones included the perennially postponed acquisition of 197 light observation helicopters for an estimated $ 700-800 million to replace obsolete assets like the Chetak (Aerospatiale SA 316 Alouette III's) and Cheetah (Aerospatiale SA-315B Lama's).

Their procurement was scrapped in November 2007 after the MoD claimed irregularities in the selection procedure following nearly four years of trials, evaluation and negotiation. The contract is presently under re-assessment following trials featuring Russia's Kamov 226 and Eurocopter's AS 550 models.

Other infantry shortages include some 160,800 5.56mm close quarter battle carbines to supplant the outdated 9mm models still in service, 15,000 general purpose machine guns, 1100 light-weight anti-material rifles, 225 mine protected vehicles and 64 snow scooters for use at heights above 21,000 feet in Siachen in the northern Himalayas along the Pakistan and Chinese borders. There was also a paucity of around 390,000 ballistic
helmets, over 30,000 3d generation NVDs, 180,000 lightweight bullet proof jackets and assorted ordnance including new generation grenades.


Image: Indian Navy's Chetak helicopter demonstrates a rescue operation
Photographs: Reuters

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