Blacklisting of firm hits artillery modernisation: Army chief

June 12th, 2009 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) The Indian Army’s 23-year wait for new artillery guns - a crucial element of its modernisation drive - has just got longer with the blacklisting on corruption charges of a Singapore firm. Its howitzer was the frontrunner for a Rs.29 billion ($612 million) order for 140 guns, the army chief, Gen. Deepak Kapoor admitted Friday.
“Till the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is able to complete its investigations, there will be a delay and this will affect the procurement of ultra-light howitzers,” Kapoor told reporters here.

Singapore Technology, whose Pegasus light howitzer was set to undergo field trials, was one of seven defence firms the defence ministry blacklisted June 5 after its name cropped up in a case registered by the CBI against former chief of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) Sudipto Ghosh under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Allegations of money being transferred to personal accounts had prompted the defence ministry to “put on hold” all dealings with the blacklisted firms.

“The Pegasus guns were to be field-tested this summer in Rajasthan. The blacklisting would definitely derail the whole programme,” an army officer said, requesting anonymity.

Singapore Technology was also a contender for a Rs.80 billion order for 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns as well as the indigenous manufacture of another 1,100 howitzers through the transfer of technology route.

The Indian Army had purchased 410 Bofors 155mm howitzers in 1986 but the deal was mired in corruption charges and the name of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was dragged in. The Supreme Court eventually found no wrongdoing but the taint stuck to Bofors, as a result of which it was not considered for the new order.

Corruption charges also knocked out the South African Denel gun, leaving Singapore Technologies as the sole contender in the fray.

The Indian Army is now left with just about half of its 410 guns, with normal wear and tear and cannibalisation accounting for the remaining howitzers.

The other six blacklisted companies are Israeli Military Industries, BVT Poland and Media Architects Pvt. Ltd of Singapore and three Indian companies: T.S. Kishan and Co. Pvt. Ltd., R.K. Machine Tools and HYT Engineering Co.

-Indo-Asian News Service


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