India-Pakistan: April 27, 2001

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Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes abruptly resigned after charges that his ministry was guilty of widespread corruption in arms purchases. The $1.6 billion contract for 66 British Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers, controversial at the time as other jet trainers were cheaper, is now under review and on hold. The Indian Air Force has been waiting for new trainers for over a decade, and will now have to wait years more while corruption charges are investigated. Fernandes denied the charges and said he was the innocent victim of a plot to stop any arms imports in order to strengthen India's domestic arms production industry. Government officials said that other arms purchases, including the $700 million purchase of the carrier Gorshkov and the $1.5 billion contract for its air wing of forty MiG-29Ks would be suspended pending the investigation of corruption charges. Numerous other contracts under negotiation, for artillery, ammunition, and other items, will be delayed while new review processes are developed to prevent corruption and bribery. The scandal broke when journalists photographed generals and defense ministry officials accepting bribes to buy non-existent thermal imaging systems from a company that did not exist.--Stephen V Cole

 

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