From Christina Palmer and Anjali Sharma
(With additional reporting by Ajay Mehta and Ashok Trivedi )
NEW DELHI- India’s mysterious sacking of its Defense Tchnology maestro and head of country’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Avinash Chander, also known as India’s Agni Man, on Wednesday in a highly abrupt manner was an eleventh hour bid of New Delhi to narrowly escape US sanctions over its Missile and Nuclear program when its DRDO Chief was caught with its pant down over missile proliferation with running a rather shady missile project Agni-111, reveal the investigations of The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the US team, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, despite snubbing the Indian Premier Narendra Modi over growing role of Indian role in terror inside Pakistan via Afghanistan, also hit hard on New Delhi over the high magnitude missile proliferation activities that were being carried out by India’s DRDO under the patronage of country’s Agni Man, the creator of Agni series of India’s Ballistic and Intercontinental Missiles.
Well placed and highly authoritative sources at Indian Prime Minister’s Office (MPO) revealed to The Daily Mail that the US team had come up with very solid evidences of DRDO’s crystal clear involvement in proliferation of missile tech to Iran and DRDO being in utter violation of The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR. MTCR is an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload for at least 300 km. These sources say that the US team had also come up with its report that Avinash Chander was running the Agni-111 Missile project in a very shady manner as the officially announced range of Surface to Surface version of the Agni-111 was 3000 kilometers while its actual range was found out to be over 5000 KMs by the Americans. The Sea to Surface version of Agni-111, the longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) also known as known as the K-4 was also much longer than the officially announced range of 3000 KMs. However, if fired via nuclear submarines that India has added to its Navy fleet over the past few years, the range of K-4 could be extended to any distanced target, using different coasts of Indian Ocean. In the nutshell, the both versions of Agni-111 were capable of hitting any target inside the United States, a fact that was throughout concealed by the Indians.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that with developments taking place, the state of affairs at DRDO had left the US government to put India under the relevant sanctions with regard to its Missile and nuclear program. However, keeping in view the emerging financial relations with India, Washington team sufficed on making it very clear to Delhi that India must bring an immediate end to this state of affairs before the arrival of the US President to India on prescheduled visit later this month or to face the relevant sanctions.
On the other side, the PMO and other relevant authorities were also holding a lot against the DRDO and its Chief Avinash Chander for multiple reasons. DRDO was also facing charges of funds embezzlements while the snail paced progress in many fields was also highly objected by various quarters of the country. All these facts reached a burning point when Pakistan held a high profile Defense Production Exhibition, titled IDEAS-2014 at the port city of Karachi last month. This show displayed an unbelievable development on part of Pakistan’s Defense Production and devolvement in defense technology and not attracted a huge appreciation from global audiences but also earned large scale purchase orders for defense equipments from a number of countries while the DRDO’s performance feel far behind this achievement of rival Pakistani counterpart. The Indian government was also highly annoyed with DRDO spending research funds in running some rather commercial natured projects, setting aside the top defense research project of top priority nature.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that with backdrop of state of affairs at DRDO under Avinash Chander’s command, when imminent US sanctions started looming over India that John Kerry brought with him, Indian Premier was left with no other option but to hurriedly call a Cabinet meeting a day after Kerry left India for Pakistan and in this Cabinet meeting, it was decided to send DRDO Director General Avinash Chander home 15 months ahead of his actual service tenure, to avoid immediate threats from US and to make US President’s India visit fruitful for the hosts.
The Daily Mail’s Investigations indicate that this is not the first time that India has narrowly escaped the US sanctions but it happened almost a decade back too. According to these Investigations, when the same John Kerry, in 2004, was contesting for the post of US President against George Bush, he raised the issue of US failure to address the issue of nuclear and missile proliferation by India and the Nuclear Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), India’s State nuclear agency, made a narrow escape from be being blacklisted and sanctioned by the US State Department due to John Kerry’s highlighting of the issue to the maximum. It may be recalled that US State Department placed sanctions on two former Chairmen of NPCIL Y.S.R. Prasad and Chaudary Surinder under Nonproliferation Act 2000 through Public Notice No-4845, notified in the Federal Register as 69FR 58212 NOTICE on September 29, 2004. However, according to The Daily Mail findings the original recommendation of the US Department of Energy and Non-proliferation Bureau of State Department was to sanction the NPCIL itself for there was convincing evidence that the two leading Indian Nuke scientists one of whom Prasad, also regarded as the real father of Indian nuclear weapon programme, were not acting in their individual capacity but were engaged in nuclear proliferation assistance to Iran at the behest of Indian government and agencies.
As a result of ‘usual leaks’ in the US Administration, the Indian lobby at Washington D.C. forewarned the Indian government of the imminent sanctions and the Indo-Israeli caucus made frantic efforts to rescue India’s nuke programme from coming under threat. Being a US Presidential election year, the Indian NRI lobby was immediately mobilized. At the same time the Indian External Affairs Ministry approached the State Department, giving certain assurances to Washington D.C, including offering attractive incentive of reconsidering US request for Indian troops to Iraq. Owing to gains being made by the Kerry campaign in the opinion polls based on his stance on Iraq, Iran and nuclear proliferation issues and targeting Bush’s Foreign Policy, the Bush Administration thought it best not to completely antagonize the Indian lobby in the US and opted to keep a low profile in this regard, accepting Delhi’s request of sanctioning its two individuals instead of imposing curbs on NPCIL. However, the State Department put NPCIL placed on internal strict watch list for any further proliferation activity and it remains under review.
The Daily Mail’s findings further reveal that the International Nuclear watch-dog the IAEA’s Director General also approached Indian Permanent Representative in Vienna, asking for further details of Proliferation activities of the Prasad –Chaudary Network, particularly with reference to the investigations into the breach of NPT obligations and Safeguards Agreement by Tehran. The IAEA also informally requested for de-briefing sessions with Prasad and Chaudhary as well as other officials of NPCIL and Indian Nuclear Establishment. According to certain credible information, some of the IAEA officials had even hinted to the Indian Permanent Mission at Vienna that a non- cooperation by Delhi could make its way into the Director General’s Report to Agency’s Board of Governors for its meeting that was being convened at Vienna..
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that sometime back, Indian nuclear and missile proliferation racketeers smuggled numerous banned nuclear and missile materials, parts and equipment in violation of US Department of Commerce’s Entity List. According to The Daily Mail’s investigations, the banned items were imported to South Africa through an Israeli intermediary Asher Karni by an Indian, identified as Rago Rao, acting on behalf Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), in Thiruvananthampuram, India.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further reveal that reveal that Rago Rao, asked his Israeli “business” associate, Karni to quote a price on a “12-inch ANSI 300 Mode180 flexflo Regulator, FIN: 11351 NKA-120,” made by Grove Regulators of Elk Grove, IL. VSSC is on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List, a list of entities of proliferation concern. The Daily Mail’s research reveals that Rao told Karni in an email, “Owing to the fact that VSSC are still in the US embargo list, they believe they may not be able to procure it directly (from) the supplier, hence have sent the enquiry to us to see if we can quote to them and supply from some other source.” In quoting Rao, Karni said, “be aware that the end user VSSC has been in direct touch with GROVE and have received already quotes from them, but they have quoted me too, and I will be able to execute the order.” After receiving a quote from Karni, Rao replied, “VSSC needs the item definitely, so if GROVE is willing to supply through you, they will not mind paying the extra price. That is why the end-user contacted us in the first place when he knew he could use our services through South Africa. So, if GROVE do not mind supplying the item to you, knowing that it is meant for VSSC, let us go ahead.”
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the Rao – Karni Nuclear Missile Trafficking Nexus (RKNMTN) did not stop here but in fact, soon entered in the deal for transshipment of accelerometer made by Columbia Research Laboratories or Crossbow. In his email to Karni, Rao reminded him of an order he had placed for two accelerometers from Columbia Research Laboratories (Woodlyn, Pennsylvania), model SA-122 SE. The customer was Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre of India, also on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List. Rao reminded Karni, “At the last moment, the supplier was refused an export license by US Government hence you could not supply the item and the order was cancelled.” Rao then asked Karni to quote “Model CXL 01LF1Z High Stability LF series Accelerometer,” made by Crossbow of San Jose, California. Karni replied that he would quote the item, though it might not meet the specifications of the previous item. He said, “I can also approach Columbia [sic] for a quote and see they may not want an export license this time.” Rao replied, “Be careful to avoid any reference to the customer name Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, because any supply to their organization requires an export license at the moment, and it may be denied.” He said, “There is a danger that Columbia may be denied the export license once again, since this model of accelerometer falls in the commodity list (because of its very high sensitivity and threshold value, and inherent possibility of being used in guidance systems for missiles.) That requires an export clearance from the US authorities for any country, leave alone India. I leave it to you to judge the best way out.” Again the accelerometers were exported from US to South Africa and transshipped to India for use in India’s WMD program.
It is pertinent to mention here that these illicit Indian procurement tactics in violation of US Export Licensing legislation make a mockery of the claims by the Indian Caucus Congressmen and White House’s claims that India was a responsible nuclear- missile possessor country, which could be trusted.
The game did not end here. The Daily Mail’s further investigations into the matter, make some more shocking revelations. These investigations unearth that India imported beryllium, used for constructing nuclear bombs from Germany not long ago. The Hanau-based Degussa company is suspected of having exported 95 kg to India. The US, which now wants the Nuclear Suppliers Group to approve its nuclear deal with India, had strongly protested to the Germans over this deal.
The delivery, according to German nuclear researcher Gerhard Locke, is `most suspicious’ and delivered to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay, north of Bombay after series of transshipments and change of end users.
According to The Daily Mail’s investigations, International safeguard controls have no access to information regarding the amount of plutonium—the stuff of which the bomb is made of—the nuclear reactors in Trombay do breed. What is certain is that the material for India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974 was provided by Trombay.
Such a shady past record of proliferation by India was more than enough for the Americans to detect the current monkey business at DRDO and thus they conducted their investigations into the matter with a great ease and comfort and came to Delhi with a solid report over the issue.
The Daily Mail’s Investigations indicate that sometimes back, a top secret internal audit ordered by the Indian Defense Ministry has found several, serious natured financial and other irregularities in the functioning of DRDO, which has a network of 50 labs and an annual budget of over Rs 10,500 crore.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that none of the main recommendations, first by the Rama Rao Committee in 2008 and then a watered-down version by a committee headed by the defense secretary in 2010, were ever implemented to revamp DRDO to ensure that advanced weapon systems are developed for the armed forces without huge time and cost overruns and thus it became a real pain in the back for Modi government after it came to power last year.
The latest internal audit, conducted by the finance wing of the Defense Ministry, had raised serious questions about the lack of transparency in DRDO’s functioning.
The audit report also pointed out that DRDO was splitting sanctions for its projects to avoid seeking approvals from “competent financial authorities”.
The audit report also points out that DRDO in order to avoid seeking approvals was dividing the sanctioned budget for its projects. The report also referred to shortcomings in the platforms like the Arjun main battle tank, which was found to be overweight by the Army for operations in certain areas along the border.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that if one wonders as to why did Indian army suffer massive losses at Kargil or if one is disturbed over the pathetic show by Indian troops at Siachin despite huge spending of funds there every year? The answer is no secret now as malpractices and misuse of funds at DRDO have been established through Defense Ministry’s secret audit report.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further reveal that developed for troops serving on glaciers high in the Himalayas, the non-flushing “bio-digester” toilet made by India’s top defense research body were now being offered to private companies in the open market while the troops still await for the same in the areas like Siachin and Kargil.
According to these findings, some Indian traders and DRDO in October last year, secretly forged a four-year partnership to hawk certain military products under the garb of of a former Premier’s pledge to offer defense technology spin-offs to the public. The “bio-digester” is among 10 of the DRDO products put on the fast-track for sale to private companies through the said shady deal while the work on professional military products were going on a snail’s pace.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that other DRDO products that are being manufactured just to mint money, instead of catering to country’s defense needs, include heat shields for trains and vehicles, windows that control light penetration, mosquito repellents and medical kits to tackle insect-borne viruses.
Instead of supplying these stuffs to the troops, the DRDO officials continude selling the same to the private sector only. They also had plan to market a spray that guarantees to keep woollen clothes moth-free, affordable fire extinguishers and a body cream that keeps bed bugs away. The DRDO also had high hopes for its “Heat Stabilised Narrow Fabrics and Cordages for Improved Elastic Recovery Property” which is stated to be used in bras of females.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the failure in rapid succession of Astra missile system, a satellite launcher and a new ballistic missile have shown up the technological and budgetary difficulties faced by India’s space establishment, both civilian and military.
The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily