India concluded 225 arms purchases in two years
* Indian parliament in uproar over 'secret' military files
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has concluded 225 contracts for weapons and equipment purchase over the last two years as part of a long-term modernisation plan, Defence Minister George Fernandes told the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The minister said 131 contracts were finalised in 2001-02 and 94 contracts in 2002-03.
Meanwhile, the Indian parliament was in uproar over the government's refusal to release a "secret report" that purportedly highlights shady arms deals at the height of the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999.
The 22-member Parliamentary Affairs Committee (PAC) told the house on Wednesday it could not launch an independent inquiry into the case as the defence ministry, citing national security, had declined to release a report by India's Central Vigilance Commission, which investigates high-level corruption.
The controversy intensified when a private television channel claimed the report shows defence ministry officials accepting bribes, inflating procurement costs of artillery guns, shells and bullet-proof jackets during the Kargil conflict four years ago.
On Thursday, the main opposition Congress party and several other opposition parties moved a slew of adjournment motions seeking suspension of all business until the issue was discussed.
"For the first time in the history of the Indian parliament the PAC has been denied key document files by the ministry of defence. It has led to a parliamentary deadlock and attack on parliamentary democracy," Congress Chief Whip Priyaranjan Dasmunshi said.
But VK Malhotra, chief whip of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP party, said a "majority of the members of the parliamentary committee felt the report (on the irregularities) is fake".
The remarks led to a furore as opposition members trooped into the well of the house. Speaker Manohar Joshi adjourned proceedings for 15 minutes and then adjourned early for lunch.
Within months of the Kargil conflict, national watchdogs dug up a tray of shady arms deals clinched during the Kargil fighting including the import of unusable coffins.
India's weapons purchases in the last two years included 3 UBK (reflex missiles) for T-90 tanks, thermal imaging fire control systems, thermal imaging sights for T-90 tanks and stand-alone thermal imaging night-sights, guided Krasnopol munitions, anti-material rifles, automatic grenade launchers, multiple grenade launchers and ammunition, 84 mm rocket launchers, disposable rocket launchers, flame throwers, ammunition for Konkurs-M missiles and Prithvi missiles, special sniper rifles, assault rifles for special forces and SVD sniper rifles.
The surveillance equipment bought in the last two years included unmanned aerial vehicle searcher Mark-II, radar flycatcher, tactical control radar, thermal imaging integrated observation equipment, long range reconnaissance observation systems, hand-held thermal imagers, surveillance radar, night binoculars and weapon locating radar besides other sophisticated equipment to increase communication and mobility, demining equipment, etc.