India set to partner with South African defence firm which UPA govt had blacklisted

India is set to announce a partnership with state-owned South African weapons manufacturer Denel, which had previously been blacklisted by the UPA government over charges of corruption.

The partnership with Denel and other South African defence firms will be discussed during the visit of the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is arriving in New Delhi Friday to be the chief guest at Saturday’s Republic Day celebrations.

T.S. Tirumurti, secretary (economic relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said at a press conference Thursday that the Denel issue had been settled in 2018.

“Defence cooperation has always been a very important aspect of our cooperation with South Africa. We have (defence) agreements in 1996, later on 2000 and later than that also. Yes, there has been a problem with Denel, and I am happy that this issue was settled last year,” Tirumurti said.

“We are hopeful that Denel and other (private) defence manufacturers participate in our ‘Make in India’ initiative, and in this context we are having discussions.”

Tirumurti also said Indian defence companies were doing business with private players in South Africa despite the issue concerning Denel. A number of defence agreements, Tirumuti said, are going to be signed in the future.

Charges against Denel ::

Denel came off the list of blacklisted firms in September 2018, following a Supreme Court verdict in May.

The firm began dealing with India in the early 1980s, when it was one of the go-to partners for purchasing small arms and ammunitions. However, the company was banned from doing business in India in 2005, when the UPA government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blacklisted it on corruption charges — such as paying kickbacks to secure two contracts from the Indian Army.

Under that deal, the Army was to procure 700 anti-material rifles, of which 400 had already been purchased. But the remaining 300 were put on hold owing to the ban.

In July last year, President Ramaphosa had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the state-run arms maker to do business in India. In return, Denel also waived a $100 million penalty that was imposed by the company on India’s Ministry of Defence.

Presidential visit ::

This is President Ramaphosa’s maiden visit to India since coming to power in February last year. However, he has already met Prime Minister Modi three times.

Both leaders are going to have their first ever summit-level meeting Friday. Ramaphosa will be accompanied by his cabinet ministers and a high-powered business delegation.

Source :- The Print

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