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By Bulbul Singh

24 Mar 08. The Indian defence ministry is contemplating buying future weaponry from United States outside the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, except under exceptional circumstances. The decision follows a majority of planners saying that the FMS route involves the signing of several restrictive clauses. India has so far bought most of weaponry from the United States post-2001 under FMS.

FMS is a government-to-government agreement. This route is generally followed in respect of the items that have already been inducted in the US forces the buyer nation forwards a Letter of Request to the US Government. If the request is cleared, a Letter of Offer is sent to the requesting Government. The buying Government is required to submit a Letter of Acceptance that includes terms and conditions as dictated by the US laws for acceptance by purchasing the buyer.

Though there has been a division amongst defense planners for several years whether to take the FMS route, the immediate shift towards not taking the FMS route has been triggered by the latest Report of India’s Auditor General which has severely criticized the Indian Navy for signing restrictive clauses while purchasing the USS Trentron Landing Platform Dock (LPD)from the United States.

The latest report from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the year ending 2007 notes, ‘Restrictive clauses raise doubts about the real advantage from this deal. For example restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship and permission to the foreign government to conduct an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred under the End-User monitoring clause of the Letter of Agreement”.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry said that a similar restrictive clause has again been signed in the purchase the six C-130J aircraft craft to be bought from the United States under FMS.

Sources also said that the U.S. offer of a sale of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier will not be considered in the given circumstances and the whole process of procurement will be reviewed in the near future, so as to avoid signing of any restrictive clauses.

After Washington lifted sanctions against India in September 2001, India purchased AN-TPQ/37 weapon locating radars from Raytheon of the United States through the FMS. India looked for only eight Firefinders under the FMS programme for $140m but later, another four were added, taking the value to nearly $200m.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry said that restrictive clauses were signed even during the purchase of the Firefinder radar which was part of the mandatory conditions under FMS. A senior Indian defence ministry official explained that signing of restrictive clauses is insisted by Washington as the United States is very sensitive to the export of weaponry to some countries to avoid further onward sales.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry said that defense planners would in future prefer to purchase weaponry from the United States through open commercial bidding.

The current United Progressive Alliance government which is supported by the Communist Parties is already pressured by the Leftists to minimize weaponry purchases from both United States and Israel. The latest Report severely criticizing the Indian Navy for signing restrictive clauses whilst purchasing the USS Trentron, now re-christened as INS Jalashava. This will put further pressure on New Delhi to review its decisions on purchase of weaponry from United States said sources.

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