Deal Crashed, Debris Remain
Amidst the anti-graft sentiments of Aam Aadmi, the Congress led UPA II has silently cancelled the 3,546 crore chopper deal signed with Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland International Ltd (AWIL). The high profile choppers were to be supplied to the Indian Air Force for movement of VVIPs. An Italian anti-graft investigation had revealed that kickbacks worth 51 million euros were passed through middlemen to swing the deal in favour of AWIL. Though the deal is crashed, its remains are scattered.
The process of India’s defence acquisitions has been conspicuously shady. There is no evident transparency in international deals, which is transpired in many cases. The cancellation statement released by the Ministry of Defence, after one year chopper deal expose, mentions “Breach of Pre-Contract Integrity Pact” as the ground for cancellation. More shocking is that the paying-off disclosure came up in an Italian investigation; Ministry of Defence just followed it up. How did the three middlemen Christian Michel, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa pierced into the Indian defence establishment? How were the tenders, technical criteria and testing process tweaked in favour of AW 101 chopper? Who were the direct beneficiaries of these dirty funds? Who are ‘AP’ and ‘Family’ under whose name fake work contracts were signed in India? Most importantly, is it possible to carry out this fraud without the knowledge and collusion of top brass in the Government? Unless the Government clarifies the procedural lapses made in the deal and brings culprits to the book, mere chopping of a deal will give nothing but experience of another conspiracy to save the protectors of Otavio Quattrochis and Guido Haschkes.
Until the expose, India had already disbursed 45 per cent of the amount against 3 helicopters out of 12 ordered. Despite no mention in the clause, India went for arbitration for more than a year and the company is still in a denial mode of any misconduct. How India is going to face the legal battle and recover the paid amount is a million Euro question. Whether its Adarsh, 2G, Coal, Commonwealth, or AgustaWestland, Congress and UPA need a break to recollect the debris of choppered faith in the democratic system.
The advent of 2014 has exposed us to multiple levels of Islamic volatility. The shadow of Arab Spring is replaced by nuclear geopolitics where Shiate Iran and Syria are ready to take on Sunni Wahhabism supported by Saudi Arabia. Similar noises of discords are audible in neighbourhood Pakistan. On the other side of the border, Bangladesh is boiling over issues of democratic aspirations and nature of nationhood. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is head on with the extremist Jamaat and Khalida Zia led BNP while executing the war criminals of 1971. The question of primacy of identity is still varying from Islamic to Bengali. The worst form of attempt to destablise the peace came in Caucasus Republics of Russia to threaten the Winter Olympics in Sochi. A jihadi group led by Deku Umarov of Chechnya region is considered as Bin Laden of Russia and in opening days of the year, he has shown that jihadi ideology is gaining ground despite bold claims of peace and stability by the Putin Government.
All these dispersed looking events have roots of intolerance and monotheism propagated by variants of Islam and all of them have direct or indirect impact on India’s strategic concerns. While Arab upheavals will have bearings on our energy security, Islamic terror in Russia will strengthen the Talibani network in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Kashmir will face the direct brunt of it. The blistering Bangladesh is a more dangerous for stability and security, especially in the north-eastern parts of India. Unfortunately, indecisive and inefficient Government in India is grappling with the crisis of existence and is in no position to respond to these looming challenges.