Indian Army Says Ex-General An Arms Agent For Tatra, Vectra

Pinaka & Smerch MBRL systems on Tatra trucks | Photo: Shiv Aroor
Has the Indian Army inadvertently exposed malfeasance by two defence firms, without actually intending to do so? Well it certainly seems like it. Let me take you through this step by step.

On March 2, INDIA TODAY, India's largest weekly news magazine fronted a story about a bug scare in Defence Minister's A.K. Antony's office. We at Headlines Today picked up the story and put it on air. The story was denied almost instantly by the Army and MoD, but was followed up by virtually every news organisation, channel and wire agency. The story made a mention of  suspicions that "off-the-air" interceptors had been employed by the Army to snoop on communications in the national capital, completely in violation of the law. On March 4, The Indian Express led with the story. A day later, the Army issued another denial, this time more comprehensive. My head still hurts when I read the denial, so I'll put it up here, in full, for you to see. Trust me, read it fully:
The Story on Maligning the Army is a fabricated fiction and people responsible are some disgruntled officers, retired and serving, whose sole aim is to create a mistrust between the Army and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Military Intelligence has the mandate to routinely debug the offices of senior functionaries of the MoD and the Army. In a routine check, some abnormality was noticed in the Raksha Mantri’s office, which was brought to the notice of the Defence Secretary. Further checks carried out revealed that the voltage drop noticed was due to malfunctioning of the instrument. The Army does not carry out “Of the Air Monitoring” but seeks the assistance of the IB, if it finds the need. The Monitoring equipment is in the possession of the Signal Intelligence and is deployed along the borders and in Counter Insurgency areas. This equipment is under the control of the Director General Defence Intelligence Agency(DG DIA) and not under the Military Intelligence. The present story has been put out by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, who was the Ex DGDIA and who has been earlier questioned on the purchase of the “Of the air Monitoring System”, without sanction by the technically empowered committee. This officer has also been an allottee in Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai and has also offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited, which supplies vehicles to BEML. The Officer along with some disgruntled serving officers of the military intelligence, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions is in the pipeline has worked out this fictitious story. The Army strongly denies this and take strong exception to such salacious and malafide stories, coming out as news.
Now BEML produces a variety of Czech vehicle-maker Tatra's trucks under license and has done so for long (many of the Army's weapon systems, including the Pinaka and Smerch MBRL pictured above, are based on Tatra vehicles). More recently, on Feb 26, BEML and Kamaz Vectra signed an MoA agreeing to cooperate in the manufacture of commercial vehicles for civil and defence applications. The statement by the Army above officially states that a retired officer from its ranks, Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (former DG Defence Intelligence Agency) "offered bribe" for Tatra and Vectra, presumably to push contracts. Now unless I'm very much out on a limb here, the Army has indicated the presence of an arms agent pushing contracts for Tatra and Vectra in the country. Whether those bribes were accepted is irrelevant at least at this stage. The act of offering a bribe -- the very act of being an agent in India -- for a defence contract is illegal, and has always attracted harsh punitive action. The statement above isn't a scurrilous, anonymous letter -- it is an official statement from the Army HQ. I can't wait to see what Tatra and Vectra think of this. Hoo boy.

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