M A I N   N E W S

A Tribune Follow-up
Bribes to Sri Lanka officials: Pak in fire-fighting mode
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 8
Pakistan government machinery is in a tizzy after “The Tribune’s” December 24 expose of bribes being paid to Sri Lankan officials to clinch arms deals. As a result, hectic fire-fighting efforts are being launched by Islamabad.

Pakistan has issued a directive to all its government defence suppliers --HIT, POF, AWC, Sigma etc-- to make the kickback payments only in cash. They have barred them from making any cheque payments or making payments in tax havens like St.Kitts - at least till the matter dies down.

People, who are familiar with the process involved in defence deals, have commented that the only way payments can now possibly be made is either through illegal money laundering, or, the safest method is to disburse money through Pakistan embassy in Colombo. The latter essentially means cash transfers in diplomatic bags.

With the size of deals being talked about (over US$100 million in immediate future), these diplomatic bags will have to be huge in size. In this case however, payments are made in many small installments and, therefore, current bag size may suffice.

Shipments after shipments are being taken back to Pakistan to rectify the problems being faced by Sri Lanka. Pakistan has agreed to make fresh supplies, after some hectic rounds of bargaining and threat from Sri Lanka to cancel the contacts. But the idea of operating in India's backyard and making a hefty profit in the bargain is too tempting for Pakistan to give up.

So much so that Pakistan is seriously considering to extend a credit line of US$200 million to Sri Lanka for arms purchase. A former diplomat remarked that one beggar country which itself is getting its arms supplies with credit lines from USA (post 9/11 generosity from America, major non-NATO ally status and so on) is trying to give alms to another.

A ship is likely to sail from Pakistan’s harbours next month with supplies of tail units of over 200 bombs, electronic fuses to the type - 'AB 100' and over 300 General Purpose bombs of MK 80 series.

Latest to join the list of rubbish on offer is 7M radar, a dual band long scanning air borne radar, currently being used in F7 jets by Pak is also being offered. The reason: it is phased out and Pakistan is replacing it with the latest Chinese version. But if Pakistan manages to sell it off to Colombo, it is likely to generate huge profit for Islamabad.

Sri Lankan media have been abuzz with reports of defective arms supply, but they were not sure if the defective supply was intentional, or if the Pakistani defence industry was simply a wrong choice as a supplier. Official circles in Sri Lanka have lamented that most of the arms and equipment being imported from Islamabad are available off the shelf from several countries.

Colombo is simply unable to comprehend the utility of going to Pakistan for their requirements. The issue becomes complex since Pakistan is importing from Ukraine and other Central Asian countries (the orders procured from Sri Lanka) and then re-exporting at a hefty profit. Recent case being purchase of wares worth US$ 3.0 million from Ukraine (by HIT, Pakistan) and re-export to Sri Lanka at US$ 6.9 million.

Sri Lankan Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella has attempted to deny the charges and merely said in a statement on December 28: "The Government is committed to a cordial relationship with the Pakistan Government."

The Pakistan High Commission in Colombo, in a separate statement, also said that excellence in quality, reliability and affordability have long been the hallmarks of Pakistani defence products.



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