Indian Army's artillery guns purchase stalled for fifth time.
The field trials that were to take place this month have been called off as only one bidder was left after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) asked the Defence Ministry last week to blacklist the only competitor, Singapore Technologies Kinetics, and three other foreign companies.
Once tested, the guns were to undergo final trials in the Pokhran range in Rajasthan in peak summer and near Kargil in peak winter.
Indian Defence Minister AK Antony was quick to stop the trials, as the lone bidder left was no one else but the new avatar of the Swedish gun maker, Bofors.
He obviously dreads to touch Bofors even with a barge pole as it haunts the party men with memories of how the kickbacks of Rs 640 million allegedly paid by the Swedish firm in the deal during late Rajiv Gandhi's regime brought down the Congress government.
The issue of the Bofors kickbacks apart, the Defence Ministry rules also do not permit purchases if there is only one vendor selling the equipment. BAE Land Systems that now owns the Swedish firm manufacturing the Bofors guns had tied up with Mahindra to bid for 1,580 howitzers of 155mm/52calibre.
The Singapore Technologies Kinetics that had tied with Indian firm Punj Lloyds had sought some more time to re-calibrate its gun to adapt to the Indian Army's condition that the guns should fire the ammunition produced in India, but it is now out of race after the CBI sought it to be blacklisted for alleged corrupt practices. iftikhar gilani
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