UPA blind to violations by Israeli arms firms

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New Delhi, Mar 18: The Left parties have accused the UPA government of ''turning a blind eye'' to systematic violation of the Indian laws by Israeli arms firms and charged it with ''adding insult to injury'' by signing a massive Rs 10,000 crore missile deal with the ''errant'' Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI).

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the four Left parties regretted that the UPA government has shown a remarkable reluctance to take action against IAI, Rafael and other Israeli arms companies despite all the evidence against them. ''We have been noting with growing concern the manner in which arms deal with Israel are being conducted. Israel is already the second largest supplier to India. It is now clear that Israeli arms manufacturers, including government-owned entities, have been blatantly violating Indian laws by using middle-men and by giving kickbacks to officials involved in the decision-making process.''

The Left leaders said the scam surrounding India's acquisition of the Israeli Barak missile systems manufactured by the state-owned IAI and Rafael corporations is the latest case in point.

The original deal for ship-mounted Barak systems worth about Rs 1300 crore struck in 2000 during the NDA regime was rife with procedural violations and outright corruption as emerged during the Tehelka expose, said the letter signed by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI's A B Bardhan, Mr Debarata Biswas of the AIFB and RSP's T J Chandrachoodan.

They said the CBI's FIR of October 2006 names IAI as an accused besides naming Delhi-based arms dealer Suresh Nanda and other family members as agents of the Israeli firms.

''The recent CBI raids and consequent arrests of the Nandas and their associates seem to have added more hard evidence.'' The Left leaders said evidence has also emerged in Israel of the bribery and corruption, including payments to agents in India, indulged in by IAI and Rafael.

The Left leaders further said that an Indian agent replaced by another petitioned the Israeli Defence Ministry, claiming additional commissions due to him, and the matter has even been referred to the Israeli Attorney General. All this has led to the arrest and impending prosecution of Moshe Keretz, who headed IAI for 20 years till 2005, and another agent whose name has been concealed under a gag order of the Israeli authorities, they added.

The Left parties said the Swedish firm Bofors was blacklisted after the involvement of middle-men was proved in the notorious deal involving the howitzer. The South African firm Denel was similarly blacklisted in 2005 for resorting to agents and kickbacks.

But demands that similar action be initiated against IAI and other Israeli firms have been ignored. Some high authorities have bent over backwards to argue that the cases were not similar in some unexplained manner, they added.

''To add insult to injury, the UPA government has further cemented the alliance with IAI by signing a massive 2.5 billion dollar (Rs10,000 crore) deal for co-development of more advanced Barak NG (new generation) and Barak-8 missiles with longer range and for land-based anti-missile applications. How can India proceed with this deal in the face of evident wrong-doing by Israeli firms?'' the leaders asked.

''By turning a blind eye to systematic violation of Indian laws by Israeli firms, India is sending out wrong signals to international arms manufacturers at a time when the country is embarking on huge overseas military acquisitions, with the potential to corrupt and derail the entire system.'' These developments also underline the importance of self-reliance in defence production which has been given low priority of late.

In the letter released to the media today, the Left parties urged the UPA government to immediately take strong action against the errant Israeli firms, and also ensure that the CBI pursues the Barak scam case to its logical conclusion and brings all the guilty to book.

UNI

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