Saturday, December 4, 2021

After Lifting Ban On Leonardo, India Debars Singapore, Israeli Defense Firms From Doing Business

After lifting its ban on Italian defense giant Leonardo, India’s Defence Ministry has issued a new list of companies, which will not be allowed to do business in the country.

The list features at least six entities that have been debarred and 13 firms that are suspended or put on hold. The list officially excludes AgustaWestland and its parent company Leonardo, on which the ban was lifted earlier this month, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.

The 13 companies include — IDS, Tunisia, Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, IDS Infotech Ltd, Mohali, Aeromatrix Info Solution Pvt Ltd, Chandigarh, Shanx Oceaneering Inter Spiro India Pvt Ltd, Inter Spiro India Pvt Ltd, Experts Systems, Unitech Enterprises, Kelvin Engineering, Atlas group of companies including Atlas Telecom and Atlas Defence Services, Offset India Solutions (P) Ltd and its Group companies/functionaries, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, Switzerland and Vectra Advanced Engineering Pvt Ltd (VAEPL).

Agusta, a part of Leonardo, was banned by the Indian government in 2014 in connection with an AW101 helicopter procurement scam. The lifting of the ban has caused a lot of political churning domestically in recent days.

AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter
An Italian Navy AW101 helicopter, developed by AgustaWestland. (Wikipedia)

Last year, the Defense Ministry had issued a list of about 16 companies that were banned from doing business in India. Of these, about 6 of them including Israel Military Industries, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Rheinmetall Air Defence, Zurich, Corporation Defence, Russia and TS Kisan and Co, Delhi have been retained on the new list.

There is no official comment forthcoming from the government on the new list of banned companies. Neither has it explained why Leonardo was excluded from the list, triggering a political slugfest.

“Earlier Agusta was corrupt, now it is clean after it got washed in the BJP laundry,” Congress leader and MP Rahul Gandhi had tweeted.

“Procurement has been restricted from two companies namely Rolls Royce and its allied and subsidiaries companies and Tatra Trucks of the Czech Republic, read the Defence ministry’s statement as quoted by Hindustan Times.

The EurAsian Times lists four defense firms that have been debarred by New Delhi from doing business in India.

Singapore Technologies

The Singapore-based company operates in the defense and security domain and integrates aerospace, electronics, land-based and marine systems. It is one of Asia’s largest defense and engineering groups and supplies hardware to about 100 countries.

Spider New Generation Light Strike Vehicle
Spider New Generation Light Strike Vehicle, developed by Singapore Technologies. (Wikipedia)

The company was banned by India in 2012 for a period of 10 years for a corruption case that involved the then Director of the Ordnance Factory Board, Sudipta Ghosh. Singapore Technologies was competing to supply 400 towed 155/52 artillery guns to the Indian Army at the time.

Israel Military Industries

IMI was acquired by Elbit Systems and renamed Elbit System Land in 2018. IMI manufactured weapons, munitions, and military technology. It was debarred by India in 2012 along with Singapore Technology in the corruption case related to the OBF.

Other industries that were debarred in this case were Rheinmetall Air Defence of Germany and Corporation Defence of Russia. Two Indian firms — one from Delhi and Ludhiana each named, RK Machines and TS Kisan — were also debarred in the same case, as India Today had reported.

Rolls Royce

The British firm had been under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) since 2014 for allegedly employing agents and paying hefty commissions on the grounds of operational urgency.

The company hired consultants and alleged middlemen as revealed in a UK probe, in line with the $808-million it to pay abroad to settle corruption charges, as Economic Times had reported in 2017. New Delhi has once again suspended procurement from Rolls Royce.

Tatra 815-7 military truck
The Tatra 815-7 military truck. (Wikipedia)

Tatra Trucks

The Czech heavy vehicle maker was banned in March 2012 after the then Army Chief General (retd) V K Singh’s allegations that he was offered bribes to clear “sub-standard trucks” supplied by the company to the Indian Army, according to the Economic Times.

The ban was lifted in 2014 at the behest of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. However, the Czech firm has been dropped for any procurement.

Leonardo Ban Officially Lifted

India has officially lifted the ban on Italian firm AgustaWestland and its parent firm Leonardo. Now the Italian defense giant can bid for upcoming lucrative Indian defense contracts.

A new notification dated 12 November, issued by the Defence Ministry with a list of firms debarred/put on hold/suspended from doing business with it, does not name both the Italian companies that were banned in 2014 by then Congress-led UPA government over accusations of kickbacks in the VVIP chopper scam.

The lifting of the ban on Leonardo was also seen as an attempt at boosting bilateral relations. It was seen as a pleasant booster in ties after the nine-year-old Italian Marines case which kept the tensions high between the two countries for nearly a decade.

Leonardo’s entry into the Indian market could be seen as a harbinger of better ties between the two states after a rocky decade marred with high tensions. It could also arm India with modern military equipment and diversify the bidders available to it in the face of numerous security challenges and an archaic inventory of military hardware.

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