Go beyond political posturing
Military procurements resulting in scams continue to shake Indian politics. But, the history of such scams is unfortunately political fallout rather than curbing the menace of middlemen and drain of precious foreign exchange.
Military procurements resulting in scams continue to shake Indian politics. But, the history of such scams is unfortunately political fallout rather than curbing the menace of middlemen and drain of precious foreign exchange. Now, yet another such scam, Agusta Westland helicopter deal, rocks Parliament. But, the substantial issues are sacrificed at the altar of political belligerence.
India has seen such political war for decades on the infamous Bofors deal which ultimately could not reveal anything substantial. The Bofors guns could target politicians but the middlemen resurfaced with vengeance in the form of Finmeccanica. Quite disgustingly, Indian polity and governance seems to be unwilling to learn lessons.
The ammunition had actually come from Italy with the conviction of two top former officials of the Finmeccanica and its subsidiary Agusta Westland on the allegations of paying bribes to get through the sale of helicopters to India. The Italian investigations which culminated into the judicial verdict, unlike India, established that Rs 360 crore was paid as bribes in India.
The Congress claims that it was the then UPA government which cancelled the contract and instituted CBI probe after the Italian investigations surfaced. Thus the Congress which is now under attack from BJP pleads innocence. Notwithstanding the fact that final word is not yet said on the deal and the scam in India, the fact remains that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government did precious little to take the probe to its logical conclusion.
The BJP which is now hell-bent on having a pound of flesh from Gandhi’s family failed to seriously pursue the investigation even two years after the Narendra Modi government assumed office that too reaping an anti corruption mandate.
The nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and high level military officials is so entrenched that despite change of ruling political establishment, no substantial progress in the investigation is evident even after the Italian courts have perused all the relevant documents and pronounced a verdict.
In fact, allegations over military procurement are nothing new to India. The jeep scam involving violation of norms for the purchase of military jeeps came to light in the early days of Indian independence. In the 1980s, allegations of kickbacks paid in the purchase of artillery guns form Swedish Bofors led to major political explosion costing Rajeev Gandhi his government.
Surprisingly, no one was punished. The nation might have spent more money on investigating the scam than the cost of the entire deal. The CBI has also closed the submarines case after failing to get any clinching evidence to bring anyone to book.
Tehelka exposed the ugly modus operandi of defence purchases taking the toll of the then BJP chief. The time has come for the country to demand our politicians to go beyond mere political posturing. The military procurement should be completely cleaned up to make it more accountable and free from corruption. Corruption is fuelling undesirable military imports.
Instead of taking pride in calling itself the largest military importer, indigenous production and procurement should get the priority by initiating a robust Indian military industrial complex under the ambitious Make in India programme.