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By Bulbul Singh

25 May 06. The Indian Foreign Ministry has forced the state owned Ordnance Factories Board, to cancel an order for the supply of 300 Mine Protection Vehicles (MPV) to Iraq. The Ordnance Factories Board(OFB)which is the administrative body controlling functioning of 39 Indian state owned ordnance factories had participated in an international tender for the supply of MPVs to Iraq four months ago.

The OFB had won the contract in competition with South African Casspir and a U.S. company, confirmed an official of OFB, who added that the Indian MPV cost was around $0.2m which he claimed was half the price of Casspir. The Medak based ordnance factory had been designated to carry out the export order which the OFB estimated to go up to around 900 vehicles over the years.

The OFB official regretting the decision of the authorities in New Delhi said, the OFB had lost one of the biggest export orders ever.

The 6.5 tone MPV manufactured by the Ordnance factory at Medak has a thick amour, is designed to protect 12 man crew from landmines, improves explosive devices, and 7.62 rifle fire. Besides, the MPV has day and night vision devices and can fire from a roof mounted turret. After winning the contract for the MPV’s OFB had applied for an export license but at the behest of the Foreign Ministry the license was turned down.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance government is currently being supported from the communists parties from outside and the left parties are against any participation of Indian troops and equipment in any form in Iraq as long as the United States are heading a restoration operation there. New Delhi maintains that India can only participate in a United Nations led effort in the restoration of Iraq.

New Delhi has refused the supply of MPVs to Iraq fearing that the decision could annoy friends in the Muslim and Arab world and could even annoy the large muslim population at home, said an official of the Indian defense ministry.

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