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Rafale ghost resurrected?

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A French portal Mediapart has alleged that their investigation, within framework of OECD guidelines, has revealed that Dassault Aviation paid kickbacks amounting to at least 7.5 million euros to an intermediary Sushen Gupta in Mauritius between 2007 and 2012. The secret commissions were paid to clinch  the Rs 59,000-crore ($9.3-billion)  inter-governmental deal with India for the supply of then 36 (now 126) Rafale fighter jets.

Indian media points out that the then ruling Indian National Congress coalition government had negotiated a price of Rs. 526 crore but the present Bharatiya Janata Party coalition approved the deal at exorbitant price of Indian Rs. 1670 crore. Thus Rs 144 per crore as commission, or kickbacks, went into the middleman’s pocket.

Mediapart revealed, `It involves offshore companies, dubious contracts and false invoices. that detectives from India’s federal police force, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), and colleagues from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which fights money laundering, have had proof since October 2018 that French aviation firm Dassault paid at least 7.5 million euros (equivalent to just under Rs 650 million) in secret commissions to middleman Sushen Gupta’.

An independent French judge has been appointed to investigate the charges. But, even Mediapart itself is pessimistic about an early judgment. The reason for pessimism is that it is a complex case. And, the judge will have to seek the least-likely cooperation of the Indian government. In 2019, India’s Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had already declared the deal “transparent”.

The BJP shrugged off the opposition’s allegation saying that the period during which the commissions were paid related to the period Indian National Congress, INC (“I need commission”) ruled India.

Mediapart itself is not optimistic about earl

On October 11, 2018, Mauritius’ attorney general provided India’s Central Bureau of Investigation documents about payment of commission connected. Within less than two weeks, October 23, 2018, the CBI’s headquarters were raided by the Delhi Police and the CBI’s Director Alok Verma was removed in, what opposition called. The opposition interprets this move as a nocturnal conspiracy to bury the murky Rafale ghost.

Unanswered questions

The deal engenders several questions. The delay in finalization of the procurement deal is obvious. What about India’s claims about indigenization of defence equipment? What about Teja aircraft?

Why neither the Dassault nor the CBI responded to the Mediapart’s allegations?

How a deal between Dassault and the Anil Ambani group was signed even before any official announcement?

All defence contracts have a mandatory anti-corruption clause  “no bribery, no gift, no influence, no commission, no middlemen”. And this clause is included in the tender for purchase of fighter aircraft.  Why did the Indian prime minister Modi abrogate this clause?

How did middleman Sushen Gupta get hold of confidential documents belonging to the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) in 2015 from the ministry of defence? The documents detailed the stance of Indian negotiators during the final lap of negotiation and, in particular, how they calculated the price of the aircraft. This gave a clear advantage to Dassault Aviation (Rafale). The documents  included the ‘benchmark price document’ of August 10, 2015, the ‘record of discussions’ by the INT of the defence ministry, the ‘excel sheet of calculations made by defence ministry’ and ‘Eurofighter’s counter offer of 20% discount to the government of India’. A note from June 24, 2014, sent to Dassault by Gupta, offering a meeting with “the political high command” was also recovered and asked if such a meeting had taken place with the “high command” in the Modi government.

Why Modi did not initiate an investigation into the role of the middleman despite recovering incriminating documents from him?

Concluding remarks

It appears all governments in India pay lip service to defence reforms. Criminals are perched in Indian parliament. According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, the ruling BJP has 116 MPs or 39 percent of its winning candidates with criminal cases, followed by 29 MPs (57 per cent) from the Congress. Nearly half of the newly-elected Lok Sabha members have criminal charges against them, a 26 per cent increase as compared to 2014 (43% newly-elected Lok Sabha MPs have criminal record: ADRThe Hindu dated May 26, 2019). A pauper in India can hardly aspire to become a law maker.

India’s Tehelka Commission of Inquiry headed by Mr Justice S N Phukan had suggested (Apr 15, 2004) that a sitting Supreme Court Judge should examine all defence files since independence. Concerned about rampant corruption in defence purchases, he desired that the proposed Supreme Court Judge should by assisted by the Central Vigilance Commission and the CBI.

He stressed that unless the existing system of defence procurement was made more transparent through corrective measures, defence deals would continue to be murky. He submitted his report to the then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on February 4. The Commission examined 15 defence deals including the AJT, Sukhoi, Barak missiles, T-90 tanks, tank navigation systems, simulators, hand-held thermal imagers, Karl Gustav rocket and Kandla-Panipat pipeline. The irregularities in the scrutinised defence deals compelled the Commission to suggest de novo scrutiny of all defence purchases since independence.

Rampant corruption, particularly in defence purchases, is a source of deep concern, to the Indian electorate. The courts absolved then Rajiv Gandhi of involvement in the BOFORS scam (as the present Supreme Court absolved Modi). The BJP, then in opposition, exploited Rajiv’s acquittal as an election issue. Kuldip Nayyar, in his article “The gun that misfired” (Dawn dated February 14, 2004), lamented, “There was practically no discussion on Bofors-guns kickbacks in the 13th Lok Sabha which has been dissolved for early elections. Once Rajiv Gandhi died the main target – the non-Congress parties lost interest in the scam”.

The mechanisms of public accountability in India have collapsed. Corruption has become a serious socio-political malady as politicians, bureaucracy and Armed Forces act in tandem to receive kickbacks. Because of lethargic investigation, the anti-corruption cases, filed in courts, drag on for years without any results. To quote a few past case: (a) Bofors-gun case (Rs 64 crore) case was filed on January 22, 1990 and charge-sheet served on October 22, 1999. Among the accused were Rajiv Gandhi, S K Bhatnagar, W N Chaddha (middleman), Octavio, and Ardbo. The key players in the scam died before the court’s decision). (b) No recoveries could be made in the HDW submarine case (Rs 32.5 crore).The CBI later recommended closure of this case.

Like Modi, the previous prime ministers kept the recommended reforms on the backburner. For instance, then Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar alleged (October 2003): “The CVC had submitted its defence deals report on March 31, 2001. Yet a year later, the government has not conducted the mandatory departmental inquiry to fix responsibility”. Shankar explained that the CVC had examined 75 cases apart from specific allegations made by former MP Jayant Malhoutra and Rear Admiral Suhas V Purohit Vittal. Malhoutra’s allegations were about middlemen in defence deals.

After his report, the ministry lifted the ban on agents in November 2001 to regularise the middlemen. Purohit, in his petition in the Delhi HC on a promotion case, had alleged unnecessary spare parts were bought from a cartel of suppliers instead of manufacturers, at outrageous prices and at times worth more than the original equipment.

The problem is that the modus operandi of corruption ensures that it is invisible and unaccounted for. There are widespread complaints that the politicians exercise underhand influence on bureaucracy to mint money. With middlemen’s raj, the situation is unchanged even today.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

Defense

Contemporary Atlantic Alliance: An “Existential” Expansion that Obviates the Evil of Fighting

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Image source: NATO

The behavior that characterized the reactions of US President Joe Biden and Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg, about the identity of the missile that fell on Polish territory, is not critical. The two men were keen to deny Moscow’s responsibility for its launch, and content themselves with a simple and simplistic narrative saying that it was a Ukrainian air defense missile that deviated from its course in the face of Russian attacks. The origin is the sufficiency of the evil of the clash with Moscow, on the part of the Atlantic involvement in particular, because whether the narrative that is is correct or fabricated, no one on both sides of the ocean, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea is ignorant of the dangers of a spark like this, which represents an escalation capable of igniting a confrontation like that. The funniest thing in the context is that the White House and NATO contacts with the Polish government did not aim at consolation or tightening the bonds and solidarity, as much as they exercised a series of pressures so that Polish President Andrzej Duda would not request the activation of Article 4 of the NATO Charter, which obliges allies to consult if a member state feels that its territorial integrity or its political independence or security is under threat.

     The principle of the clash, or the sufficiency of its evil either, brings one back to the fact that NATO is not the only military alliance in our contemporary world; And it is not the only reminder, almost, that mankind lived the Cold War throughout an entire and integrated era, just as well; Rather, it is also an alliance of intersecting, converging or opposing interests, often subject to give and take according to the principles of bargaining, settlement, and quota. This does not mean that NATO is not a geographical-civilian-cultural quota, according to what humanity understood from the words of former Czech President Vaclav Havel, two decades ago when his country hosted a NATO summit unlike any other, simply because it was considered a “transformation summit”. At that time, Havel said, in an unmistakable tone of warning, that “the alliance should not expand outside a very specific arena of civilizations that are generally known as Euro-Atlantic or Euro-American civilizations, or simply the West.” Was it Turkey that was meant by that implicit definition that does not completely succeed in purifying all the racist odors? Or were the countries in which Muslim communities still live? What is the motive for issuing this warning when the summit is discussing the expansion of the alliance in eastern and southern Europe, and the inclusion of seven new countries in the club? And which of these countries (which received their membership documents in the alliance at that time: Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Latvia, and Lithuania) did not meet the criteria of the Euro-Atlantic civilization track?

     Some argue, as these lines do, that such questions remain superfluous, whoever asked them, as long as the alliance’s military-political structure is, and as long as the United States is at the forefront of its leadership and direction on various levels, from which considerations of America’s geo-political interests are not absent in the first place. Indeed, the French and Germans do not stop harassing the Pentagon, and the right in Spain lost the battle of the sacred alliance with Washington, and the legacy of the alliance in Libya, Iraq, and Syria is not at all a significant harvest … On the other hand, all members of the alliance know that the shock of 9/11 granted the United States more than a military license; Washington also spared the embarrassment of consulting with Atlantic allies whenever the bell rang in a church. And if the Prague meeting deserved to be called the “Transformation Summit,” this was not primarily for military reasons, but rather because NATO penetrated all the former Warsaw Pact sites, and reached Russia’s back, belly, and flank, north, south, east, and west!

     It is also true that the balance within the alliance is not only imbalanced in favor of the United States but rather lacks a set of elements that allow the use of the term “balance” in any tangible sense. The correspondent of the British newspaper “The Independent” chose a funny way to express this imbalance, so he recorded the fact that the American delegation to that summit of transformation occupied seven floors of the Hilton Hotel that hosted the delegations, compared to one floor for the Dutch delegation, for example! In other, more indicative terms, the United States alone spends one billion US dollars daily on defense affairs, while the total of the 15 European members of the alliance spends nearly 500 million dollars. The world needed the tactlessness of former US President Donald Trump to read tweets like this one: “Without success, for years Presidents have tried to get Germany and other rich Atlantic nations to pay more for protection from Russia. They pay a small portion of their alimony. The United States pays tens of billions of dollars more than it should subsidize Europe and loses a lot in trade. Or this: “Above all, Germany has begun to pay Russia, the country from which it seeks protection, billions of dollars for its energy needs through a pipeline from Russia. this is unacceptable! All NATO nations must implement the 2% commitment, and this must rise to 4%.

     And the situation is that the Atlantic began as an American military arm in practice, where the European units affiliated with it are nothing more than a completion of the external decoration; And so the alliance remains today, even after it has grown in number, in equipment, and the area of deployment. It has expanded from 12 founding countries to 15 in the fifties of the last century, until it has reached 32 countries today, including Sweden and Finland; Among them are three former Soviet republics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), and seven former members of the now-extinct Warsaw Pact (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Poland), and there is a discordant mix in the record of those aspiring to the membership that includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and …Ukraine!

     As for the level of ideological preaching, military doctrine, and tactical cover, the justifications for the existence of the alliance can begin with the assertion that it is “the largest and most successful alliance in history,” according to former US Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell; It will not end with the certainty of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (who apostatized from the Gaullist philosophy and restored France to the military leadership of the alliance) that NATO is the only guarantor of European security, which has come and has not come for decades; In addition to the certainty of a country like the Czech Republic, that the difference between its reliance on European defense, versus the American defense, is like the difference between earth and sky!

     Whatever these “existential” questions, or others, the matter is the same in terms of the immortality of the alliance’s essence, militarily and politically. As long as the United States is the most important country in ensuring its survival, and in strengthening its technological fork in particular, both in defense and attack. The French and Germans indeed tried to harass Washington before the invasion of Iraq in 2003; And Afghanistan, under Obama, turned from a secondary front to a central one… But it is also true that Western Europe (capitalism, free, relatively healthy because of the grace of the United States in protecting the free world and capitalism…), is not allowed to flourish more than the prosperity of the United States itself, and to unify its ranks by detracting from the principle of American hegemony over the international system. That is why the United States pours whatever oils it wants on wars here and there, and it does not find embarrassment when it avoids the evil of fighting, and there are no big differences here between Trump and Biden in terms of the lack of diplomacy or the excessive use of it.

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Leaving the legacy behind: Analyzing Gen. Bajwa’s six years of Command

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Image source: dawn.com

The military is a country’s most potent institution. The army has been the most important and responsible institution in Pakistan during the 75 years since its independence and the country’s founding. Assuming what is considered the most powerful position in the country Pak Army chief is expected to ensure a secure and stable environment in the country and Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa proved him a person having great real leadership qualities. Currently, Gen. Bajwa will be retiring by the end of November 2022 after commanding the Army for six years. Due to the significance of the title, the army chief plays a crucial role in leading the armed forces and maintaining the nation’s peace and stability, and Gen. Bajwa has performed his duties admirably. He truly left a noteworthy legacy. His philosophy has received high praise and served as the foundation for his vision of Pakistan.

Owing to the complex and volatile geo-strategic environment of the region it is quite challenging to balance the risks of conflict with India, a nuclear-armed rival, and instability and tension that may arise with Afghanistan on its western border. During the Bajwa administration, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad in February 2017 and Operation Khayber IV to flush out terrorist sleeper cells throughout the nation as well as purge the tribal regions of militant strongholds. This led to extraordinary accomplishments in the fight against terrorism and the refurbishment of peace in Afghanistan for the region’s long-term development. One of the major achievements of Gen. Bajwa’s tenure was the fencing of the Afghan border. The 2,600 km long fence along the Afghan border has almost been finished by the Pakistani Army.

Goals and objectives are always attained through consistency and adherence to the plan. Gen. Bajwa has consistently spoken out in favor of the Kashmir cause, stating that “peace and stability will remain elusive” in the absence of a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute. His well-founded actions led to promoting Islamabad’s diplomacy and mediation with the surrounding nations. A prime example of his statesmanship is his choice to reinstate the cease-fire along the line of control separating Pakistan and India.

Under Bajwa, Pakistan’s internal security significantly increased. The “Bajwa Doctrine,” which envisioned a stable Pakistan at peace with its neighbors, was his pitch for a peaceful nation. The Royal United Services Institute coined the phrase “Bajwa Doctrine” after his speech at the 54th Munich Security Conference in 2018. In addition to emphasizing democracy and ensuring proper respect for the state’s institutions, the doctrine placed a strong check and balance on putting an end to terrorism and also urged Paki-citizens, particularly the young, to combat extremism, claiming that it is a major catalyst for terrorism.

Similarly, under the leadership of General Ba­jwa, Pak-ar­my’s efforts contributed to the completion of the socio-eco­nomic development projects in Balochistan. Due to COAS’ ef­forts (bringing allpar­ties under one table) for a national consensus, Pakistan was saved from an $11 billion penalty in the Reko Diq case. The project was reconstituted and aimed at excavating huge gold and copper reserves from the site in Balochistan.

Subsequently, Pakistan made unexpected progress with its FATF action plans, as well during last 6 years. The frantic efforts of both the civilian and military leadership enabled Pakistan to project sustainable and irre¬versible progress by enacting laws that addressed various legal, financial, and terrorism-related issues. As a result, Pakistan was taken off the Financial Action Task Force (FATF”grey) list.”

Another feather in the cap of Gen. Bajwa is reducing the friction in civil-military relations. He had the vision that an institution like the military could develop into a mediator and supporter of democracy. Gen. Bajwa will always be appreciated as a pro-democracy general, who not only stabilized civilian governments and provided space for democratic forces but also limit the military’s role to that mandated by the constitution. This proves that he has demonstrated his responsible attitude toward democracy and politics by maintaining this neutral stance.

Gen. Bajwa improved Pakistan’s international diplomacy. His covert efforts prevented Pakistan from going into economic default and made it possible for the governments to get much-needed financial support from foreign lenders in exchange for rollovers from China and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, under Bajwa’s tenure, Pakistan’s initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and relations with nations like the United States have improved significantly. Gen. Bajwa’s unceasing efforts for Pakistan earned him the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Pak-Military), and many other international awards. The country is honored to have courageous soldiers like him.

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The Ukraine War is a sales-promotion campaign for Lockheed and other U.S. ‘Defense’ Contractors

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On 3 December 2021, a year ago, Lockheed Martin shares cost $333.81. On 23 November 2022, they cost cost $481.07. That’s a 44% gain during this year-long period. 

$4,027.26 is the S&P on 23 November 2022, and it was $4,701.46 on 24 November 2021. That’s a 14% decline during this year-long period. 

A dollar invested in the S&P became $0.86, but in Lockheed became $1.44, and that is 68% more than the S&P market-average performance. 

That’s the benefit of owning a controlling interest in a mega-corporation whose market is the Government in which you have purchased a controlling interest (by political donations and lobbyists), as compared to not.

And you will see there that though the stock-price of Lockheed soared after Russia’s 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the rise in its stock-price actually started on 3 December 2021. Perhaps that was when U.S.-Government insiders got their first clear indications that the U.S. Government was going to force Russia to invade Ukraine in order to prevent Ukraine from ever being able to join NATO so as for the U.S. to place its missiles only 317 miles away from The Kremlin.

Here are all of the headlined news-stories at the New York Times site on 3 December 2021, all 45 of them, and here are all 3 of the ones there featuring national defense or international relations:

“Shell pulls out of a U.K. oil field targeted by climate activists”

“With No Resources, Authority or Country, Afghan Ambassador Presses On”

“Why Peng Shuai Has China’s Leaders Spooked”

NONE has to do with national defense or international relations at all, but 100% of the news-stories are instead domestic-affairs articles, even the ones on global warming and on the former Afghan Ambassador, and on the Chinese tennis star. This fact (0 out of 45 being ‘defense’ or international-relations) goes to exemplify that if anyone is interested in warfare or other international-relations topics, it’s NOT the general public. Who might it be, then? Perhaps it’s the types of people who control firms such as Lockheed and other ‘Defense’-contractors — firms that sell only to the U.S. Government and to its allied (or vassal) Governments such as in NATO, and so these firms need to control their own Government in order to control their sales-volumes and their profits — which they manifestly do (the U.S. Government is bipartisanly neoconservative — pro-increasing the U.S. empire)

Here are all of the headlined news-stories at the New York Times site on 23 November 2022, and these are the 8 international-relations stories there:

“Will Mexico Be the Next Venezuela?”

“Ukraine Fights for Peninsula That Could Prove Critical to War’s Next Phase”

“Missiles for Poland Raise Questions on NATO Stance in Ukraine War”

“Ukraine raided a holy site amid suspicion of an Orthodox Church tied to Moscow”

“Buffeted by Economic Woes, U.K. Starts to look at Brexit With ‘Bregret’”

“Even the Saudi Team Is Stunned After Its Victory Over Argentina”

“England Had a Game, but First Its Fans Had a Quest. For Beer.”

“France decisively beat Australia, capping a wild day at the World Cup”

Five of those 8 concern international relations and national defense. All of a sudden, after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022 because America rejected on 7 January 2022 Russia’s demand on 17 December 2021 “Article 6: All member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization commit themselves to refrain from any further enlargement of NATO, including the accession of Ukraine as well as other States”, America’s public care at least a little about international relations and national defense.

But: Is Ukraine actually about defending America, at all? Of course, it isn’t, but it very much is about Russia’s national defense, because it has the closest border to Moscow of any nation, being only around 300 miles away from The Kremlin. Though keeping Ukraine out of NATO is a national-defense imperative for Russia, it’s no national-defense issue, at all, for America. It is purely a neoconservative issue for America. It is a U.S.-and-allied billionaires’ issue, NOT authentically about “defending” the United States. It is, instead, actually, the most effective marketing campaign for the billionaires who control Lockheed Martin and its Government, the U.S. Government. And THAT is the reason why NO billionaire — not a single one of them in either the U.S. or the UK — advocates for and donates to, writers and organizations that are anti-neoconservative: anti-imperialist. Not a single one of them is and does. They are invested in warfare, against their ‘competitors’ (the countries that they DON’T yet control, and which they therefore are obsessed to “regime-change”).

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