"There comes a time when frustration takes its toll. It's come to a point where I wonder about ST Kinetics being driven out of the Indian market by frustration. We are a public listed company with shareholders we are accountable to. We cannot simply continue with something that appears like a blackhole."
Telling words, spoken by Brigadier General Patrick Choy, Chief Marketing Officer at Singaporean gun maker ST Kinetics, and the man who leads the company's activities in India. I had a brief Thursday morning meeting with Gen Choy, in which he detailed the weird limbo his team currently languishes in, following news that his company had been recommended for a blacklist.
A few days ago, Gen Choy's team received instructions from the Indian Army asking them to remove their iFH-2000 towed howitzer from the Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan, a formality following the shock scrapping of India's towed gun tender in July. Not officially on the Indian government blacklist yet -- but nevertheless, possibly just a step away from it -- the company has, ironically, received the new towed gun RFI, and even plans to respond. Whether they fly their gun out of India, or store it away in Gwalior (where their Pegasus light-weight howitzer also lies stored, incidentally) hoping for the best is a call they'll soon take. But what weighs on their minds is something much heavier -- the circumstances of the blacklist.
Significantly, it turns out, the team that authored the recent Indian audit report (that details the OFB-ST Kinetics interface on the close-quarter carbine episode with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs), may not have had the opportunity (big question: how come?) to study all relevant documents and agreements that appear to have existed between the two entities. For instance, some -- including an April 2008 MoU detailing phased offsets and work-share -- appear to refute or at least rebutt suggestions in the audit report that the OFB and ST Kinetics had done no homework on how they planned to build carbines together before the former approached the Indian Home Ministry with an offer. More details here.
For now, however, as Gen Choy put it, it's a blackhole. That's a sentiment that should ring familiar to a lot of folks out there trying to push weapons into India.
Framegrab Courtesy Manu Sood/8ak
Labels: Armour And Artillery, Army, Controversy, DEFENCE PROCUREMENTS, Government-Policy-Politics, Partnership, Weapons