NO DEFENCE AGENTS PLEASE, ONLY MIDDLE MEN WERE INDIANS
Delhi, 14 April 2001
the wide showing of the Tehelka tapes, investigative journalism via
electronic devices has come to India, to haunt and entertain Indians all
over the world in the comfort of their drawing rooms. Suddenly
bureaucrats, businessmen, uniformed personnel and politicians have become
alive to the fact that their wrong doings which were conducted
in the open, and which over time had become acceptable, are now
susceptible to pictorial exposure. The power, range and speed of the
TV, internet freedom and radio (which is still government controlled in
India) is capable of immediate impact. Denials have become more
difficult. In the recent past no major case of corruption registered by
the CBI or brought to light by the CVC has resulted in convictions
because of our dilatory legal processes and difficulties to bring to light
hard evidence. This has made people in power brazen.
hawala route for pay offs in big deals is also employed which is
called (OGL). It has become convenient in a sense, acceptable, especially
for political parties and leaders whose accounts and assets are never made
public. Political parties make travel arrangements in private planes
and helicopters for election rallies and meetings without a thought
about the extravagant and casual display of money! No questions ever
get asked. Yet in almost every walk of public life the ways of
corruption are known, aided and abetted by the public at large to get
their work done or to make a quick buck. Grease money has become
discussion on Tehelka tapes in which so many have talked with abandon, has
brought to light the involvement of power brokers in defence deals. The
canaries are now singing and journalists are exposing them to an angered
and disillusioned nation. Prem Shankar Jha writes of cuts in sugar import
deals and names an STC Chairman and NRI Swaraj Pal. He also names a
company called Globetech, which was to receive 6% commission in a
submarine deal. Rear Admiral Raja Menon who was closely associated in
HDW writes "The HDW pay off money was removed by a dissenting family
member who went to start her own political party".
Subrahmanyam writes of the Morarji Desai era when a friend of Morarji was
the Bofors agent and adds, "Sanjay Gandhi functioned as a middleman
in arms deals" and additionally claims that all this information was
available with the Intelligence Bureau. Mohan Guruswamy has stated that
Hindujas are involved in the BAe 66 AJT deal and quoted the
commission figures. Media reported that Hindujas sat at a dinner table
with Mr George Fernandes and BAe officials in London when the deal
was nearing consummation. In the 10 Mirage deal from Dassault cleared last
year by George Fernandes, the name of Keyser Corp has cropped up as
Agents. The role of the PMO has been hinted at and it is common knowledge
that the PMO's czar Brajesh Mishra handles defence deals with Russia, as
these have political ramifications and money dealings too.
role of middle men like the Chaudhary brothers, Khannas and Nandas is now
in the open and former CNS Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat had gone ballistic on
this, before he was sacked by Fernandes. He is now firing his guns back
from his hot selling book " Betrayal of The Armed forces" and
the media interviews, with relish. Bhagwat has joined the Vigilance
Commissioner Vittal who is an IAS colleague of Yashwant Sinha, the Finance
Minister and keeps repeating, "I told you so". Bhagwat joined
the Congress, just when Air Chief Marshal N C Suri resigned. George
Fernandes keeps screeching from perches that there is no truth in all this
and it is a conspiracy to destabilise India.
truth lies between the two statements. The matter of large secret
commissions in defence deals in India and abroad became more rampant ever
since Rajiv Gandhi banned professional defence agents. Touts and middlemen
then entered the scene. The after effects of Kargil led the defence
purse strings wide open for lobbying and buck making. Fourteen years have
elapsed since the Stockholm Radio blew the whistle on the Bofors pay off
in April 1987. This one innocuous broadcast of investigative
journalism set the political road map of the Congress then in power
with two third majority in Parliament, on a topsy turvy course which still
haunts India, and that too for a mere take of Rs 63 crores.
Close confidants and friends of Rajiv Gandhi, who were also ministers
in his cabinet, Arun Singh and Arun Nehru assisted to seal the Bofors
deal. Arun Singh who vehemently defended the Bofors deal in a high
powered Armed Forces Chief's brain storming seminar at Pune earlier that
year was to fall out with Rajiv and Sonia ostensibly on the
Bofors issue. Both the Aruns surely know more than what they are willing
to disclose. Arun Singh a dapper Cambridge tripos and royalty and ex Major
Jaswant Singh are today mustering their skills, and knowledge to clean the
rot. Arun Singh is employed at Secretary level (Rs.30, 000/0pm) on a
contract basis, as the powerful Adviser to both the External Affairs and
Defence Ministries to repair the damage done by the Tehelka tapes and
implement the recommendations of the Group of Ministers for overhauling
the higher organization of Defence and Intelligence. (We wish him luck and
pray he does not repeat a Bofors or Operation Pawan, The Sri Lanka
type of foray. He handled both these in good faith for Rajiv though both
proved to be unmitigated disasters. Bofors derailed the country and in Op
Pawan 1400 brave souls lost their lives. Today the CDS issue is being
handled by him and if not steered well could spell more harm than good).
Quattrochi is dodging the Indian law whilst hibernating in Malaysia. How
he got Rs.43 crores from AE Services into his Swiss account and then to
Luxemburg and Liechtenstein and Panama still remains an unanswered
question! The Hindujas are stuck in India and take walks in Lodhi
gardens with other VIPs as a CBI court hears their appeal to travel
abroad. Rajiv's loyal and obedient Defence Secretary of the time Shri S K
Bhatnagar who penned an order banning Defence Agents is still on trial and
so is the legal Agent of Bofors Win Chaddha, who became the illegal Agent
in 1986. He is very ill and claims he received winding down charges and
not commission. He should tell that to the marines.
time round in a fictitious defence deal, the Tehelka tapes have
re-opened a Pandora's Box on defence purchases. The Tehelka exposures have
caused another twist in Indian politics that is shaking the NDA coalition.
Two enterprising journalists pretending to be Defence Agents captured most
people in seats of power and Czarina Jaya Jaitly, operating from the
Defence Minister's house, by the remote electronic cameras and digital
tape recorders. Their interviewees sang like canaries whilst some
took money like touts. Now we come to the genesis of the problem.
Tehelka Sucker Punch
tehelka tapes have unleashed data on the modus operandi of defence deals
in India by a live example of the pursuit of a deal for infra red
binoculars. The fingers are now pointed at all defence deals. The
Army and the Navy rushed to explain their side of the story to the media
in the cases that were blurted out by Gupta and Jain. The Flag rank
officers Lt Gen S S Mehta and Vice Admiral Arun Prakash both professionals
in their own right, had their arm held valiantly by the respected
journalist B G Varghese to ostensibly guide them through.
media tried to grill them but the brass vehemently held their ground and
stated they are unaware of any defence middlemen or agents and that they
are honourable men. Yet Maj Gen Murgai, Col Berry and Maj Sarabjeet Singh
all now retired and into the arms business explain clearly their
employers, who pays their keep and how they operate. Even for a
non-existent product, Rs 11 lakh changed hands and the names of the
Chaudharys, Khannas and Nandas were revealed with aplomb. The treasurer of
the Samata party S K Jain boasts he went to Russia with Mrs. Jaya Jaitly
and George Fernandes's blessings to sign some deal connected with MiGs.
The visit has still not been denied. The whole situation smacks of the
tragi-comic! Boastful Army Officers like Maj Gen Manjit Ahluwalia
stand exposed and Maj Gen K S K Chaudhary and others who took money
needs to be noted that before 1986 Defence Agents were perfectly legal in
India and the world over. They are seen as an essential cog in the
wheels of defence or for that matter any business. On retirement service
officers world over are encouraged to represent professional defence
companies, as they, better than the layman, understand the wares, expected
to healthily compete and be honourable suppliers to the Armed Forces.
Defence budgets are large and needs are inescapable. In India Bofors
had Cdr Rao, Austria's Noricum, media reported, had their agent in Mr.
Bhupender Singh son-in- law of Maj Gen Bhakri. The list could go on and
the Ministry of Defence has all their names on files, officially
arms bazaar some modern pay offs to political parties were also seen to
be accepted world over but these need not be exhorbitant and rampant.
These animals called defence agents attended meetings in the MOD and
dialogued on behalf of their principals. Fax machines were unheard of in
Service Headquarters till 1986 and communication to foreign suppliers was
through these Agents.
clause for Agency commission which is common to all Government contracts
in existence is tabled below for information:
"Agency Comission Clause
FOB Contract Price (To Be Mentioned):
The above prices are inclusive for the Agency Commission payable to Contractor's Indian Agents. The Agency commission is 5% of the FOB value of the shipped goods payable to the purchaser to contractor's agent in non-convertible Indian Rupees at the TT buying rate of exchange ruling on the date of order.
will submit the bill together with certificate issued by receiver regarding
receipt of material in good condition in accordance with the contract.
Commission amount is as tabulated below.
Agency Commission (IN U.S DOLLARS)
.. etc etc "
the above preamble it is amply clear that the no "Defence Agent"
clause introduced by Rajiv Gandhi only in Defence contracts was a farce
because the principals including Russians always cater for commissions as
an International practice. There is so much equipment that is common
to the other ministries and departments like Home, Intelligence and
civilian users of vehicles, power generation and communication equipment.
Fernandes went on TV soon after resigning and told the nation that the
vendors had certified in writing that they had not paid any commissions,
as if they were going to admit even if they had done so. The Defence
Contracts are large and it is no wonder that the pay offs too are large
and now take place via offshore accounts or the hawala route, because
Rajiv banned it.
To control corruption in arms and other big deals the quality of government is important. Today managing a resource-laden country like India is easy if you have good leaders and an effective government. The people are talented and capable. But it is because of the likes of Georges, Sukh Rams, Vermas and Joshis who have personal agendas and causes, that the government will remain sick, as Tehelka has revealed.
book "Indians Why We are What We are ", the author has taken
pains to explain that money taking for political parties cannot be
completely eradicated but needs to be curbed. In Indonesia and
Malaysia my defence friends explained, "Do not mistake a little
grease money to execute a job well, as corruption. It is speed money to
oil the wheels, but if money is taken because of influence to cheat the
public that is corruption". The conclusion is that middlemen have
blossomed in India's defence deals, because legal defence agents are
banned and Tehelka amply exposes this.
For better governance and less corruption, professionals and retired officers must be permitted to legally work and represent Defence hardware companies.