Saturday, July 25, 2009

The real deal: not first end user pact, is India’s most lax

While the heat has been turned on the government over the End User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) with the US, India has in the past signed at least three defence deals that contained end user laws and even gave regulators the right to ‘on-site’ inspections of weapon systems. The first time the end user clause was agreed to was in 2002 by the BJP-led government when it signed a deal to purchase Weapon Locating Radars from the US. The $200 million deal to purchase 12 ANTPQ 37 Firefinder radars that help locate enemy artillery positions contains an end user agreement with the US that gives permission to its inspectors to carry out “compliance assistance visits” on their locations. In fact, sources say that the crucial radars have already been subject to an inspection by US regulators in 2005 when they were deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. Official US records also show that an inspection in both India and Pakistan was scheduled in the same year. That, and the experience of signing end user agreements allowing inspections of the Self Protection Suite (SPS) onboard the VVIP aircraft meant for the Prime Minister, prompted the government to negotiate for ‘pre-scheduled’ inspections of weapons systems at a location of India’s choosing. The key change in the new agreement that has been worked, government sources say, is that the clause for on-site inspections has been done away with. While US end user laws are the most stringent — requiring physical verification of the systems sold to ensure that they are not being misused — India has bargained for a deal that will only have verifications at pre-scheduled timings and places at the discretion of the armed forces. In all, the end user agreements that are currently in place, including one for the Weapon Locating Radars and the Jalashva troop carrier, India’s second largest warship, gives US inspectors the right to ‘on-site’ inspections whenever they wish. The new agreement that has been negotiated is less stringent, as it gives more flexibility to the armed forces as well as keeps inspectors away from sensitive locations. “What this essentially means is that we can bring the equipment that has to be examined to a non-sensitive zone at the time of our choosing. In case the equipment is being used, the time of examination can also be changed,” a government source said. Other countries that have signed end user laws with the US, including Pakistan, give US inspectors complete access to their military bases. Government sources say that in India’s case, the clause has been modified to introduce a new system of scheduled inspections. In the clause, inspectors wishing to check the equipment will need to inform India which will in turn set up a place and time for the checks. While the EUMA with US has raised a lot of controversy in Parliament, most countries that sell top of the line defence equipment to India impose some kind of restrictive clauses to prevent their misuse. The agreement with the US is the most comprehensive end user law, but countries like Russia and France too have agreements with India to prevent sensitive equipment from being passed on to other nations.

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