Perturbed with the repeated failure to purchase 44,000 close quarter battle (CQB) carbines, a crucial weapon for the Indian Army for its counter-terrorism operations in the Kashmir Valley, the Manohar Parrikar-led Ministry of Defence (MoD) will buy them directly instead of opting for the global tendering process.
For the last two decades, the Army has been battling to replace its British-era carbines, the sub-machine gun or the sten gun, which were reti red long ago. But each time the selection process get stuck on allegations of corruption and favouritism.
“With repeated failure to procure it through the global tendering process, the ministry has to go for direct government-to-government sale for buying the weapon. It will speed up the acquisition process and will rule out allegations of corruption,” a top ministry official said.
The MoD proposed an agreement under foreign military sales with a country for buying 10,000 such carbines directly. The remaining lot can be manufactured here with a production license to meet Army’s requirement.Recently, former MoS for Defence defence Rao Inderjit Singh wrote to Parrikar seeking a CBI probe over the selection criteria of the final vendor after a mammoth six-year exercise by the Army and the ministry. Singh alleged the Army tweaked the technical specifications to favour a particular vendor.
In 2008, when the Army issued a global tender to replace the 1944 vintage CQBs, the original request was sent to 28 companies. Five responded. After eight years of deliberations and trials, the competition boiled down to Italian Beretta and Israeli Weapon Industry.
An Army officer involved in counter-insurgency operations said the British-era carbines are not battle worthy. “The carbines were authorised to commanders of Ghatak platoon, the Army’s first line of offensive in anti-terrorist operations. But the weapons are no match for militants who use sophisticated automatic weapons. In conventional warfare, militants are multi-generations ahead of the Army,” he said.