Procurement: Self-Inflicted Obstacles

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June 26, 2016: India has again had to cancel a major weapons purchase because of corruption. In this case it was a $200 million order for 98 Black Shark torpedoes. These weapons were for the six Scorpene submarines that the Indian Navy will begin receiving in 2016. The Black Shark is often used for the Scorpene, which is built by a French-Spanish company and has been bought by four countries so far, including nearby Malaysia. Black Shark is popular with Scorpene and users of the even more prolific German Type 209 sub. India has planned to use Black Shark on its new (locally built) nuclear subs.

The problem India has with corruption is compounded by a resistance to prosecuting the senior Indian politicians and bureaucrats who keep these corrupt practices alive in India. Since the 1990s there has been growing popular pressure to shut down the corruption that pervades every aspect of government and commercial enterprise. Indian officials went along with this public sentiment as much as they could without actually halting the practice and the huge amounts of cash that ended up making so many politicians rich. To do this the politicians pushed the idea that it was not Indian officials who were demanding bribes to favor one foreign supplier over another but the foreign suppliers who insisted on paying the bribes. The politicians demanded that foreign firms accused of corruption be banned from doing any business with the Indian military until found innocent. Since many Western defense firms are parts of a smaller number of larger corporations a ban on one subsidiary halts progress on any other contracts a subsidiary has with India. So not only will the Indian Navy not get its Black Shark torpedoes (leaving newly delivered Scorpene subs much less effective) but other military contracts (for helicopters and such) are also frozen.

The damage this sort of Indian approach to corruption in military procurement has been experienced before. In 2013 Indian corruption investigations revealed that large bribes were paid to Indian officials to make Israeli Barak missile system sales happen. Those naughty Israelis joined naughty Swedes, Italians, and evil foreigners from several other nations that had made major weapons sales to India via Indian officials demanding bribes. It's not like India is the only nation that has corruption problems in the military procurement area. All nations do, but the extent of the corruption varies quite a lot and India would like to move away from the top of the list. This will please Indian taxpayers, as well as those concerned about defense matters, especially people in the military. When military suppliers are selected mainly on the basis of how large a bribe they will pay, you often do not get the best stuff available. With so many of the best foreign weapons suppliers now on the Indian blacklist it is becoming difficult to find anyone willing, or able, to provide the modern weapons India wants.

 


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