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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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lunarchick - 04:58am Mar 15, 2001 EST (#1004 of 1007)

Delhi suspends top defence men

By Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI, March 14: The defence ministry on Wednesday placed under suspension four top defence ministry and army officials after they were implicated by a news website in an alleged arms bribery scandal.

The officers included Maj-Gen P S K Chaudhary, additional director general (weapons and equipment), who was shown in the video as accepting Rs100,000 and a gold chain as bribe, and three senior ministry officials H C Pant, Narendra Singh and P Sasi.

Army headquarters sources said three other army officers shown in the video had been asked to return to Delhi where they are to be handed over their suspension orders. One of them is a major general, other a brigadier and the third a colonel - additional director general (ordnance), Maj-Gen M S Ahluwalia, prospective procurement officer, Brigadier Iqbal Singh, and director in the ordnance services, Colonel Anil Sehgal.

A defence ministry spokesman said strict action would be taken against other defence officials if "delinquency of conduct" was established.

"While politicians are by some quirk in the system usually unaccountable and generally go unpunished in this country, the fallout on the military is a cause for concern," defence analyst Brahma Chellaney told Dawn. "What impact will all this have on the soldier who earns a few hundred rupees and dies for his country to see his officers caught with their hands in the till?"

Meanwhile, the ruling National Democratic Alliance was under pressure from a key partner on Wednesday to sack Defence Minister George Fernandes as the raging arms scandal threatened to envelope senior army personnel and put billions of dollars of arms deals under a cloud that could stymie the military's modernization plans, analysts and politicians said.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee has warned that her Trinamool Congress party would reconsider support to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's 30-month old alliance unless a resignation offer by Fernandes was accepted.

"Unless the resignation of Defence Minister George Fernandes is accepted and the allegations of corruption in defence deals made in theTehelka video footage are investigated (the Trinamool Congress) would reconsider support to the Central Government," Banerjee said. Her party faces elections in West Bengal next month.

Fernandes was named in the taped conversation with Jaya Jaitley, who heads his Samata Party. She was shown as offering to use the defence minister's office to help out in a deal after the journalists offered her money and she asked them to hand it over to a fellow junior minister.

The tapes have recorded comments by a host of key players that have thrown major arms deals, including a $30 billion agreement with Russia signed last year in a quandary. Of considerable significance is the establishment of the Commission on Military Technical Cooperation led by Fernandes and Russia's deputy Prime Minister Klebanov. The tapes show Russia

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