Indian official warns of U.S. defense plan

May 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM
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NEW DELHI, May 25 (UPI) -- For a nation that is increasingly outsourcing its defense needs to the United States, India is warning of the serious pitfalls in such a relations.

Local media report that Indian army chief Gen. V.K. Singh has written to Defense Minister A.K. Antony cautioning the government about foreign military sales purchases from the United States.

The Indian government has been sourcing all its defense deals with Washington through foreign military sales programs, carrying out major defense acquisitions.

According to these non-tender purchases, the U.S. government procures the equipment on behalf of the Indian government from its military companies, making a commission for liaising on behalf of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Such programs kicked off in 2002, when India took to its first major deal, placing orders for the AN/TPQ-37 firefinder weapon-locating radars for the army.

That deal, though, was a frustrating experience, leading to protracted problems with the U.S. firm Raytheon.

Reports, in fact, suggest that the Indian army has had repeated problems in the maintenance of the dozen plus radars it purchased in 2002. Up to two-thirds of the expensive equipment is said to be inoperable because of lack of maintenance.

"A good deal of song and dance was then created as to how the deal presaged greater defense cooperation between India and the U.S. as the sensitive piece of equipment was supplied only to close friends and allies," the Domain-b Indian business magazine quipped earlier this week.

The military official's warning comes at a crucial time. Both the Indian government and the U.S. Department of Defense are thrashing out the final details of two major defense deals.

These include designs to buy 145 ultralight howitzers, estimated at $647 million and intended for deployment along India's border with China. The second deal includes the purchase of 10 transport aircraft in a deal exceeding $2 billion.

"Singed by the troubles with past FMS contracts, the army top brass is now discussing the possibility of hiring corporate lawyers well versed in international negotiations and contracts to come on board for scrutinizing the upcoming contract for howitzers, " The India Times reported, citing unnamed sources.

It said the lawyers would "ensure that the past troubles are kept away."

Since the defense procurement cooperation kicked off, a rash of deals have spawn, including the $2.21 billion purchase of eight Boeing P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft; the $962 million deal for six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft for the Indian air force, and the $88 million contract for a U.S. Navy ship and its accompanying helicopters.

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