6 months after 26/11, modernisation of police stalled by PSU infighting - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Monday 25 May 2009

6 months after 26/11, modernisation of police stalled by PSU infighting

Right: An internet image of the SAR-21 carbine

Left: An internet image of a Singapore Navy team carrying SAR-21 rifles

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard
26th May 2009

Exactly six months ago, on what has come to be known as 26/11, Indian security men in Mumbai, clutching antiquated rifles, fled shamefully before a handful of well-armed terrorists. Now, documents available with Business Standard reveal that if a similar attack were to take place today, much the same might happen. The reason: infighting within the government has scuttled the Ministry of Home Affairs’ bid to equip its police with modern weaponry.

For six years, India’s central police organisations (CPOs), which include the CRPF, the BSF and the CISF, have urged the home ministry to equip them with carbines to replace their cumbersome military-use rifles. CPO jawans presently carry the INSAS, and even World War II era .303 rifles, which are no match for the terrorists’ AK-47 and AK-56 assault rifles. Carbines, in contrast, are lighter, smaller, and can spray bullets at a target, better equipping a policeman for encounters in confined and built-up areas.

Just five days before 26/11 — in a telling coincidence — NSG commandos completed trials on two carbines offered to the home ministry by the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB). One of them, the OFB-developed AMOGH, was rejected outright. The other carbine, the SAR-21 MMS, jointly offered by the OFB and Singapore Technologies Kinetic (STK), was found suitable by the NSG for India’s needs.

The stage seemed set for an immediate purchase. The home ministry's five-year modernisation plan urgently sought 47,286 carbines for the CPOs by March 2008. This deadline was extended till March 2010 because OFB-developed carbines failed repeatedly to pass user trials.

The OFB was ready to deliver the first carbines within six months of an order, and complete delivery of all 47,286 carbines by February 2011. STK pledged to transfer technology in full, thereby allowing the OFB’s new factory (coming up at Korwar in the Amethi parliamentary constituency) to manufacture lakhs of carbines for the CPOs in subsequent five-year plans.

The army, too, is separately purchasing several lakhs of carbines.

Had the home ministry placed the order, the first OFB-STK carbines would have been entering service now. Instead, the process was derailed by a mysterious red herring. The home ministry informed the OFB (in letter No IV-13018/8/2009-Prov.II dated 17 March 2009) that a foreign vendor, Israel Military Industries (IMI), had written in, alleging bias in the carbine procurement.

As if on cue, controversial Samajwadi Party MP Hari Kewal Prasad (in 2007, he had alleged being offered Rs 10,000 to vote for Pratibha Patil in the presidential election) wrote to the home minister, making the same argument in very similar words.

It quickly became evident that this was an attempt to scuttle the carbine purchase. On March 26, IMI’s Marketing Director to India, Bran Sela, wrote to the home minister, clarifying that the letter had not been sent by IMI. The letter also pointed out that IMI was no longer producing small arms like carbines; its small arms division had been sold to a private Israeli company, Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI).

IWI’s stakes in the carbine deal quickly became obvious. In early March, just days after the fake letter, government-owned Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) threw its hat in the ring, informing the ministry of defence that it would import, market and manufacture IWI weaponry for the Indian market. BEML’s Chairman and Managing Director V R S Natarajan wrote personally to the home ministry (letter No CMD/606/1923 dated 20th April 09) asking for the tendering to begin, so that the BEML-IWI carbine could be offered.

Exactly six months after 26/11, the purchase of carbines is at a standstill, while two defence ministry production units — the OFB and BEML — compete for the order. And defence ministry sources said any decision on this issue is most unlikely after the arrest on May 19 of the recently-retired OFB Chairman Sudipta Ghosh on corruption charges.


  1. Ajai, The image you have posted above is SAR21 rifle. This is the SAR21 carbineAlso, why OFB is not offering Zittara which it is already manufacturing for the army.

  2. SAR21

  3. Thanks, anonymous 09;48, you're absolutely correct. I have changed the photo.

    The Zitara is not being manufactured by OFB. It has failed in all its user trials. The army is going in for a fresh tender.

  4. is Micro Tavor ,the one being offered by IWI..last heard it was being produced under license by OFB...or is it only on offer for the army tender?
    on a serious note, NSG opting for SAR 21 sucks like anything...they should have gone for MP7A1..or the Zittara...maybe the babus didn't allow it.

  5. ajai, are u mad? zittara a failure? it is none other than the Micro Tavor in disguise....only red tape and corruption can make it a failure..it is the perfect weapon for CQB.

  6. ajai, pls tell me on what basis have you come to the conclusion that Micro Tavor is a failure? Being, an passionate supporter and user of the weapon,I need an explanation from you.

  7. ajai, do you know that zittara/micro tavor is the only CQB weapon that allows use of both 5.56mm and 9mm rounds ?


  8. WTF?
    Why does everything in India moves at such snail's pace and gets bogged down in controversy? This is really a pathetic way of modernizing our forces. When speed is of essence we waste precious time in squabbling amongst ourselves. Get ready for another 26/11 and hope you are not in the line of fire or anywhere close.

  9. This says Tavor problems have been sorted out.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. All you supporters and proponents of the Zitara, let me clarify that I am not qualified to come to any conclusions about whether a weapon is a success or a failure.

    The Zitara was pronounced unsuitable for procurement for the Indian Central Police Organisations by a board of officers, including officers from the NSG, that conducted detailed firing trials. Their trials report was forwarded to the MHA on 10th October 2006.

    Khalid, you may well be a "passionate supporter and user" of the Zitara because it helps you to shoot at whoever it is that you shoot at. But i also know a couple of of supari (contract) assassins in Lucknow who swear that nothing beats a country-made pipe-pistol from Gorakhpur. Whatever floats your boat...

    As far as the MHA is concerned, a set of specifications have been laid down and if a carbine doesn't meet them, the Trial Team has no choice but to reject it.

    Anonymous, the specifications laid down by MHA don't include multiple ammunition use. So the Zitara gets no brownie points for that.

  12. its utter crap to say that micro tavor is a failure . why on earth then have the SFF being using them for the past 3 yrs? why did OFB spend so much of the taxpayer's money to build infrastructure to produce the weapon under the zittara brand in the factory? WHY O WHY ? only to get it rejected by some babus whims and fancies? aka the helicopter deal fiasco ?

  13. No ajai, it doesn't just help me to shoot and kill ....it helps me to imbibe a philosophy and formulate a doctrine among my men, for your welfare.

  14. Mr.Shukla, you are saying that zittara was found unsuitable after trails in oct '06; but this report says they are in contention.


  15. ajaisaab, please do something. tavor needs to get the contract.otherwise how will i get my commission. i have 2 small kids. i hope you can understand my situation.

  16. SAR-21 and Tavor are basically the same . SAR-21 was the result when singapore went their way ,from the Israeli project. Also SAR-21 is costlier than TAR-21. moreover TAR-21 has been extensively tested in Indian conditions and the shortcomings (like jamming and dust -susceptibility) pointed out and they have been rectified. Moreover they are in production at OFB shops.

  17. After 26/11 , H&K offered to upgrade NSG's kit and there talks of MP7 on offer .H&K officials also flew down for a demo of these toys to NSG in Jan.now,what happened to it.

  18. Arjun fan anonymous26 May 2009 at 09:44

    Ajaiji, could you pls provide some gyaan on the Arjun Tank's comparative trials against the T-90 of the IA

  19. Dear Mr Shukla,
    Its great to hear from you again after a long time. Its about time that we focused on upgrading individual soldier capabilities rather than just pushing money on piling up hardware. New rifles/carbines for police and home department is very much required, but I sure hope that they get enough weapons familiarization along with the new weapons they receive. As the old saying goes "practice makes a man perfect". Just a quick comment on your report, I hear a lot of analysts talk about a gun called the AK-56. In reality what is usually referred to as AK-56 is the Type 56 assault rifle built by Norinco (I think). The folding stock version of the rifle is called the Type 56-1. On the other hand, the folding stock version of the AK-47 is called the AKS-47. Thank you for reading this incase you do and im really sorry for the messy explanation. Just wanted to put in a small comment on a mistake commonly made no offense whatsoever.
    Warm Regards,

  20. Steyer was willing to let India manufacture the Steyer AUG rifle but they opted for INSAS.
    Guess all the talk about self sufficiency is wearing thin, almost all the projects did not come out well (Arjun, Tejas)etc-even the INSAS rifle is far costlier than its counterparts, the best would be to go for the best system over the counter. Government factories do not care about quality, all they do is to sit tight and do nothing.
    My suggestion would be to get AK47 or some modern version of the AK from Russia, we will save a lot of money and time

  21. Give the Army and the Police the best of weapons and any Babus taking bribes on such matters should be sent to the gallows

  22. even after ajai openly points to how corruption is plaguing indian deals - here we have another arms dealer shilling away --->anon@27 may @2:50

    shame on them!!

  23. The Army uses the INSAS in counter insurgency environment. It is a good weapon which is light and very accurate. The three round controlled burst option helps in conserving ammunition. The quality of alloy used in the barrel needs some attention but quality control can sort that out. Why cant the CPOs do with the INSAS in Mumbai when the Army can manage with it in the Valley? Do they need an imported weapon to look after airports and provide security during elections? I think the INSAS is good enough. Maybe we need to ask the genius who gave the specifications to MHA in the first place.

  24. INSAS is a rifle, we need a compact carbine for special forces and police to fight in tight urban combat situations.
    Counter insurgency in the valley is usually limited to mountains and jungles where rifle is the appropriate weapon. Within towns the army prefers AKs and antiquated Sten guns. Efforts to develop an INSAS carbine have failed.

  25. There seem to be a few misperceptions going around, so let me issue a couple of clarifications.

    The CPOs don't want an assault rifle... which is what the AK-47 class of weapons are. They want a carbine, and my article explains the difference between the two. So the AK or the INSAS are not options for them.

    The Micro Tavor, is different from the Tavor assault rifle, which is used by our security forces. To my understanding, the Tavor rifle that the SF bought was scaled down into the Micro Tavor... aka the Zitara. That weapon has not passed any of the tests which it has undergone.

    Nor has the OFB spent a single paise on infrastructure to produce any of the weapons that my article discusses. They can only do that after an order is placed and they have already said that they need six months to put the infrastructure in place.

    Heckler & Koch has, so far at least, refused to part with the technology to OFB. So they were ruled out of contention. However, they have been issued an RFP for the army's order of carbines.

    (Khalid, if there are some clarifications that you don't want to discuss on an open forum, email me at broadswordbs@gmail.com and I can issue you some clarifications that i cannot on an open forum!)

  26. Can you tell us little more about AMOG carbine?

    I wonder this fight is basically between various import lobbies while arming the CPOs even with Aks + INSAS + Better training may give good results(?)

    There is hardly any difference between Tavor, SAR & Zittara, hence the whole thing looks suspicious!

  27. Governments change but the babus and babu-raj remain the same and we all wonder why our votes have not changed the lives on the ground.

  28. Have to say at least the SAR 21 carbine looks a lot neat compared to Tavour/Zittara

  29. Also how come NSG only evaluated two carbines, what about other major manufacturers of the world?

  30. Shuklaji,

    Some questions regarding the small arms purchase situation -

    1. Are there offset rules for small arms purchase as well or is it only for aircrafts?
    2. PArticipation of private industry (ex - tata, mahindra, L&T) will certainly speed up the process and improve adherence to schedules and budget. Are you aware of any proposal to involve private industry in the small arms development and manufacture process?
    3. Crisis situation like 26/11 provoke knee jerk responses from everyone especially people in power. You will see a pattern here of government suddenly opening up the purse strings and the agencies (police in this case) grabbing at the last penny. However, seems like the original process for selecting the SAR itself wasnt transparent. This is what the hindu says - "The M107 SAR, a lethal weapon designed to penetrate armour and bullet-proof glass, has been selected despite the risk of collateral damage and the fact that the Mumbai Police have no range on which personnel could be trained in its use." Is it possible that the entire process needs to revisited?
    4. Why does Mumbai police need Force-One and what will be its responsibilities vis-a-vis NSG, seen as there will be a NSG hub in Mumbai? A force-one of 350 commandoes seems like an awful lot of duplication in terms of men and equipment. Why this knee jerk reaction to a problem for which a solution (NSG) already exists? I can understand why Karnataka created their own force since they were denied a NSG base in Bangalore.

  31. great stuff ajai. please ramrod the MHA some more. sad fools.

  32. 6 months after 26/11 India has agreed to talk with Pakistan. 6 months after India has decided not to do anything against the perpetrators of the crime. India has taken the Paki ak-47 up their ass. This is nothing?

  33. u give few specs on AMOG carbine you talked about in this post? And if possible a pic? It's the first time i heard about this weapon.

  34. Ajai, given your recent stay in the North East can you put some light on Chinese buildup across the border. Are 2 squadrons of Su30MKI sufficient for that region? Do we need AWACS there?

  35. Bobby, please stop spewing misinformation on the SAR-21. Kindly read this glowing Janes review on the weapon.


  36. A number of US law enforcement agencies are also using the SAR-21 and it is marketed in the US by ADM

  37. STK and IMI both blacklisted. Ironic isn't it.

  38. A sorry tale of Indian incompetence and it also demonstrates the inability of the majority Indian press (save for Ajai) to verify official statements issued by officialdom.

    "There has been no official advisory from the Indian authority on the temporary suspension of business activities in relation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation of former director-general of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)," the company told Aerospace DAILY.

    "We do not have any Joint Venture with OFB and have not signed any agreement with OFB," said Gaius Ho, spokesman for ST Kinetics.

    ST Kinetics says OFB approached it when the Ministry of Home Affairs was looking for a modern rifle, as the OFB's rifles had failed during internal trials. "ST Kinetics' SAR21 was presented for trials and evaluation. The discussion was for ST Kinetics to license its intellectual property to OFB if the MHA should decide to select the SAR21 and award a contract. There has been no decision to date," Ho explained.

    Following the ban, "ST Kinetics has since approached the authority for clarifications and presented to the ministry a list of all our business activities in India. While awaiting a response from the ministry, we have offered all cooperation to assist with any investigation as appropriate and hope that the ministry will quickly review the matter and clear ST Kinetics' reputation," Ho said.

    "We are perturbed by the change of events and feel strongly that we have not been fairly treated as a legitimate bidder who is committed to helping the Indian MoD with its modernization efforts," Ho added. "ST Kinetics is definitely a victim of the whole situation."

  39. "u give few specs on AMOG carbine you talked about in this post? And if possible a pic? It's the first time i heard about this weapon."
    Same here,tried searching it on the net but no luck yet..

  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. Considering the 'fluting' visible on the composite that covers the barrel, the security men in the photo at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/India/Steady-strides-on-security-but-Maoist-pinpricks-hurt/articleshow/4947913.cms seem to be carrying a version of the SAR-21, rather than the TAR-21.

    What would you say, Mr. Shukla?

  42. sidhusaaheb, those are FN F2000 assault rifles being carried by members of the Special Protection Group.

  43. Old tread I know, but I just had to clarify. IMI and STK have a really close relationship, they share research and tech, hence the similarities with the TAR-21 and the SAR-21, same basic gun with slightly different frames.

    So when someone who says he's IMI writes in to stab STK in the back, I'm going to have to really question if he's IMI. Honestly though, I suspect it's IWI's Indian supplier who did it. IWI really doesn't want to earn the ire of IMI and STK.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last