The Indian Army is all set to procure 145 US made howitzers in a direct government-to-government deal. The howitzers are M777 make which are 155mm light-weight which can be swiftly deployed in forward and inaccessible areas by helicopters and aircraft. The guns are fitted with laser inertial artillery pointing systems and other equipment.
The American Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified the US Congress of the decision made by the U.S. federal government. It also asserted that the sale will boost ‘interoperability‘ between Indian and American soldiers and marines.
“It will also improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia,” added DSCA.
The Indian Army is generally opposed to such purchases through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route, as it bypasses the competitive bidding process used to procure arms and ammunition for the armed forces in India as it rules out any comparative trials and price negotiations.
The bid is contract is speculated to be awarded to the U.S. manufacturer BAE Land Systems.
The ultra mobile howitzers will help India strengthen its capabilities to react to any emergencies at a short notice. The guns are used by U.S. forces as a primary weapon for indirect fire. The all-weather howitzers, which have a 25-30 km range, will also be useful for supporting Para-Special Force battalions while they operate behind enemy lines and in ‘out-of-area contingencies’.
India had tried to procure such guns on two previous occasions also but the attempt failed. During the first attempt the South African gunmaker, Denel, was shortlisted but was later found to be indulging in corrupt practices. In the case of lightweight howitzers, ST Kinetics a Singapore based firm was indicted for similar practices where Sudipto Ghosh, the then Chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board was implicated.
The U.S. has been eyeing the lucrative Indian defense market like other nations in the fray with the Indian government’s decision to modernize the army at a whopping cost of INR 20,000 crore. India also seems all set to approach Washington for another FMS deal to acquire ten C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircrafts priced at over a $220 million apiece.
While the world leaders opened a major international conference on Afghanistan’s future in London on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai admitted that it could take anything between 5 to 10 years for Afghan forces to take over from the American-led coalition fighting the Taliban. He further clarified that it may take even longer to end his nation’s dependence on financial aid to sustain its military.
Leaders from around 70 nations including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are attending the one day conference. Mr. Brown announced that the transfer of responsibilities from coalition forces to the Afghan forces would start this year.
“This is a decisive time for the international cooperation that is helping the Afghan people secure and govern their own country,” Mr. Brown said. “This conference marks the beginning of the transition process,” he said, referring to the handover to Afghan authorities of responsibility for security.
The coalition forces are targeting to weaken Taliban by dividing their forces using a central fund of about USD500 million being projected as a “pay-for-peace” plan. The proposal is targeted to bring the Taliban fighters to civilian fold.
Ban Ki-moon has named Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Swedish diplomat, as the new top U.N. official in Afghanistan. De Mistura, has been a former U.N. representative in Iraq. He will start his stint on March 1 this year.
As the coalition nations plan the next steps the plan to attract the Taliban cadres may seem to be bit tough given the fact that the U.S. military intelligence believes that the Taliban now has shadow governments in 33 of 34 provinces. Taliban sources meanwhile responded in a strong tone to the conference, calling for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.
“It is a matter of great sorrow that the invaders led by U.S.A. are bent on sticking to the military approach of the issue,” the statement said.
“We want to say clearly, if the invaders want to save themselves from further financial and life losses, they should not deceive their people by illusory plans and strategies, nor they should waste time on them, or make our people face further sufferings and problems. They should accept the solution put forward by the Islamic Emirate, which is the full withdrawal of the invading forces from our country.“
A second major gathering of the leaders is expected to take place in Kabul, in a few months from now.