A Tribune Exclusive
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 23
However, the lid from the brewing Sri Lankan defence scandal blew off recently when the defence forces’ frustration reached the top brass after it was discovered that most of the military ware purchased from Pakistan was either sub-standard or second-hand.
A “Top Secret” note, that reached the Government of India through diplomatic channels, said the situation became grim when some of the bombs aimed at LTTE targets by the Sri Lankan Air Force turned out to be dummies and fell in the target areas like stones.
A major problem area for the Lankan forces has been Pakistan-supplied electronic fuses, which are crucial components in bombs. Of the 500 electronic fuses supplied, 200 were found to be faulty.
After Colombo took up the matter with Islamabad, the Pakistan Government reluctantly agreed to take back the remaining electronic fuses and sent a specially chartered An-32 transport plane with the replacement.
Lankan forces’ personnel are openly talking in diplomatic circuits that Pakistani supplies were actually killing them more than the LTTE. The Tigers are able to fight more effectively with small arms compared with the dummy heavy ammunition supplied to the Lankan forces by Pakistan.
So far, Sri Lankan defence forces have purchased military ware worth $30 million from Pakistan.
A repeat supply of the above merchandise has been ordered. Purchases in the pipeline include second-hand tanks (22 Al Zarar) worth over $ 80 million, armoured vehicles and jeeps. The Pakistanis are aggressively pushing for the defence supplies at the Sri Lankan defence HQ and Pakistani arms agents are making frequent trips to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is looking to make purchases worth $ 100 million from Pakistan in the coming few months. The deal size may even go up to a cumulative figure of $ 250 million in the next 18 months.
Pakistan currently exports a tiny $ 200 million worth of arms. The possibility of such large orders flowing in from a single country (Sri Lanka) has made the Pakistani military machinery hyperactive.
Pakistan is making a killing in its arms supplies to Sri Lanka. That is because some of the spares that they have supplied to Sri Lanka have been procured from Ukraine and a few other Central Asian countries. Moreover, Pakistani spares' supplies of $ 6.9 million made to Sri Lanka in last few weeks were actually sourced by HIT-Pakistan (Heavy Industries Taxila) from Ukraine at $3 million and re-exported to Colombo.
So far, $ 5 million have been paid to corrupt Lankan officials by Pakistan. The sleaze money has been deposited in a tax haven country, most likely St Kitts.
Commission paid to the defence agent representing Pakistan in Sri Lanka is 20-25 per cent. Of this 15-20 per cent flows as kickbacks to the Sri Lankan officials.
Sri Lanka buys arms from Pakistan because Colombo has scouted around for meeting its spares’ demand, but few are willing to make supplies. It is against this backdrop that the Pakistanis, who themselves are facing spares crunch, have moved in quickly to fill the void.
India cannot make military exports to Sri Lanka for obvious political reasons.
The Pakistanis are, in fact, procuring spares and ammunition from third countries and re-exporting some of these to Sri Lanka at inflated costs.
Pakistan defence companies are paying huge kickbacks to certain willing and corrupt Sri Lankan officials. It is estimated that bribes worth $ 15 million is likely to change hands in the immediate few months for the next batch of Pakistani arms exports to Sri Lanka. The kickback figure will go substantially higher if the deal size goes up to $ 250 million.
Some of the sleaze money actually flows back to Pakistani officials.
The Sri Lankan government is likely to order a probe into the defence scam soon.