Ok, so arms dealer Suresh Nanda and his wayward offspring Sanjeev (the chicken-sh!t BMW hit and run chap) have been taken in by the CBI. They're in custody under investigation for kickbacks in the Barak missile deal, signed in March 2004 by the NDA government. They were intercepted and arrested along with an income tax official and their chartered accountant this morning in Mumbai. It's amazing how pliant the governments are with Israel despite filth bubbling up in virtually every deal we sign with them -- Barak, SpyDer, Phalcon, what next? In October 2006, when the CBI chargesheet first came out on the Barak case, I'd done an "Anatomy of the Deal" piece in the Express. Thought I'd put it up here for the record of the deal so far:
- The quest for an anti-missile system began in 1988, though with failure of the Trishul, Naval HQ pressurised the government for permission to look abroad. By 1994, under then chief Admiral VS Shekhawat, the Navy had shortlisted the Israeli Barak after evaluating missiles from France and Russia, but faced objections as the missile could not intercept supersonic missiles of the kind that would arm China's Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyers.
- After a series of failed demonstrations, a DRDO-Navy team witnessed the first successful demonstration of the Barak in 1995 and the deal was closed in 1996 after approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for a single system, even though DRDO was still reluctant and continued to lobby for an indigenous system.
- In March 2000, following concerns during the Kargil war when ships in the Western fleet remained exposed to Pakistani air-launched Harpoon and Exocet anti-ship missiles, even Abdul Kalam, then Principal scientific advisor to the government, gave in -- the CCS cleared the remaining five systems in March 2000, after which the contract for five systems was signed in October 2000 under Navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar, who was installed after his predecessor Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked by Fernandes (Bhagwat said today that his successor was specifically installed by Fernandes to "push the deal through"). The missiles went on to arm the INS Viraat carrier, three Delhi-class destroyers, two Godavari-class frigates and one Rajput-class destroyer.
- Acceptance test trials of the Barak, conducted under Admiral Madhvendra Singh, were not entirely successful, with the missile missing the mark on two occasions in 2003 and 2004 (in the first, the missile successfully intercepted its target but suffered a technical malfunction), though the missile was suitably modified and brought back for tests, after which it was declared operational.
- In March 2005, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament that the Barak's performance was "good". In May 2005, UPA government rejected Justice Phukan Commission report, which exonerated Fernandes of illegality in contracts including the Barak purchase.
- In January 2006, the Defence R&D Laboratory (DRDL) and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) formally agreed to co-develop and produce Barak-II missiles, with six times the range of the original Barak, for Israeli and Indian warships. The same month, the government cleared the purchase of seven more Barak systems for the Brahmaputra-class frigates and other warships. In May 2006, Manmohan Singh became the first Prime Minister to witness the Barak in action.