Left urges PM to cancel defence deal with Israel

February 10th, 2009 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) India’s Left parties Tuesday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to cancel a Rs.100 billion contract for an Israeli air defence missile system and ensure that the indigenous development of a similar weapon “is not subverted”.

In a letter to Manmohan Singh, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said: “We are writing to you regarding the contract for air defence missile systems placed by the MoD (ministry of defence) on Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). The amount involved is around Rs. 10,000 crore for the supply of around 12 such systems.

“This is surprising considering that such a contract has been given when IAI is already under investigation of the CBI on charges of bribery and corruption for the anti-ship, ship-mounted Barak missile system. We had brought this to your notice in our earlier letter dated March 18, 2008 about the kickbacks and use of middleman in the Barak deal, which are in violation of Indian laws,” the letter said.

“In the past, India has blacklisted firms such as Bofors (of Sweden) and Denel (of South Africa) for similar cases of kickbacks and middleman,” the letter, dated Feb 9, pointed out.

The defence ministry said in December it had decided against procuring the Trishul missile system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and would instead purchase IAI’s Spyder missiles.

“The proposal for Trishul system was foreclosed due to its inability to meet certain critical operational requirements. However, it served as a technology demonstrator and the expertise acquired with the technologies developed during design and development phase of Trishul Missile System are being utilized for developing state-of-the-art Short Range Surface to Air Missile System,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told parliament Dec 11, 2008.

“The deal with IAI is also surprising on other counts. First, it involves systems that have yet to be even developed by IAI, let alone manufactured and test proven. Secondly, our DRDO has already developed and repeatedly fielded its proven advanced air defence (AAD) missiles capacity,” the letter maintained.

“This missile is capable of destroying incoming enemy missiles as well as aircraft whereas the proposed IAI missile can deal only with enemy aircraft. The DRDO’s AAD missile is capable of intercepting even ballistic missiles at altitudes up to as high as 18 km. Thus, the proposed missile sought to be developed by IAI appears to be inferior to the DRDO developed AAD missiles on the counts of technical, cost and operational readiness,” the Left leaders contended.

“Thirdly, to give a ‘cover’ of indigenous involvement and content, DRDO has been forced to enter into a so-called ‘joint development’ of the IAI air defence missile even when it already has its own superior AAD missile!” they added.

Noting that the deal again “brings out” the “unfortunate influence” that Israeli arms manufacturers, including government-owned entities “assert” on India’s arms purchases, the letter said: “Nothing else can explain why IAI, which is seriously implicated in corruption in India and in Israel, should be favoured in this way.”

“We urge you to get the contract stopped and see that the DRDO’s indigenous missile programme is not subverted in this way,” the Left leaders maintained.

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