New Delhi to receive S-400s in 18-19 months

The S-400 is considered one of the best air defense systems in the world. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 September 2019

New Delhi to receive S-400s in 18-19 months

  • Delivery of air defense systems will boost India’s military modernization drive

NEW DELHI: In a major boost to India’s defense modernization, New Delhi will get the first delivery of S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia in less than two years.

“The advance payment has been received and everything will be delivered in strict accordance with the schedule, within about 18-19 months,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told state-owned broadcaster Rossiya-1.

The S-400 is considered one of the best air defense systems in the world. India signed the $5.43 billion deal with Russia for the purchase of five of them late
last year. India is also investing heavily to upgrade its navy by building an indigenous, next-generation ballistic missile submarine: The S-5 Class.

Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu visited the Naval Science and Technological Laboratory in the city of Visakhapatnam on Aug. 28 and tweeted a picture of the prototype of the nuclear submarine.

Defense experts say while this new submarine will protect India’s nuclear arsenal, it also adds lethal value to its weaponry. The new submarines will join the existing nuclear-powered Arihant submarines, which are indigenously built.

“India’s defense forces are in a continuous modernization process, and it has a huge budget of $25 billion for that,” Laxman Kumar Behera, a defense expert at the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, told Arab News.

“The army, air force and navy are being upgraded at a fast pace. India is building its own nuclear submarine — it’s not clear how many — but the indigenously built submarine Arihant is already active,” he said.

“India faces two challenges: One from Pakistan and the other from China. New Delhi isn’t so concerned about Islamabad because it enjoys superiority over its neighbor in conventional warfare. The long-term challenge comes from China,” he added.

“Beijing is giving New Delhi a big challenge in the Indian Ocean, and is building and acquiring new assets. It’s building strategic ports around India, and this is the biggest challenge New Delhi faces today.”

Behera said modernizing the navy is a big challenge as India faces budget constraints. “Another challenge is to modernize the air force and have 30-40 combat squadron aircraft,” he added.

He said linking India’s defense modernization to the Kashmir dispute is “far-fetched,” adding: “India enjoys the support of the larger international community on its Kashmir policy, and it doesn’t need to worry about the security situation.”

He said: “India needs a strong and modern defense force to position itself for a larger geopolitical role in the future.”

This year, India allocated $61.96 billion for its defense budget, around the same as last year.


Former Unaoil managers convicted in Britain of Iraq bribery

Updated 13 July 2020

Former Unaoil managers convicted in Britain of Iraq bribery

  • The verdict marks a milestone in the British arm of a 4-year, global inquiry

LONDON: Two former managers of Monaco-based energy consultancy Unaoil have been convicted in Britain of bribing Iraqi officials to clinch lucrative oil projects as the war-ravaged country tried to boost exports after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The verdict marks a milestone in the British arm of a four-year, global inquiry into how Unaoil, once run by the prominent Ahsani family, helped major Western companies secure energy projects across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa over two decades.
A London jury found British-Lebanese Ziad Akle, Unaoil’s former Iraq territory manager, and Stephen Whiteley, a British former manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan and Angola, guilty of plotting to make corrupt payments to secure oil contracts between 2005 and 2010.
But after a marathon 19 days of deliberations, the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case against Paul Bond, a British one-time Middle East sales manager for Dutch-based oil and gas services company SBM Offshore. He faces a retrial, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) confirmed on Monday.
The three men denied any wrongdoing.
The judge lifted reporting restrictions on Monday after a drawn-out trial that was suspended in March as the coronavirus brought parts of the criminal justice system to a halt, and restarted in May in a new court to allow jurors to socially distance.
“These men dishonestly and corruptly took advantage of a government reeling from dictatorship and occupation and trying to reconstruct a war-torn state,” said SFO head Lisa Osofsky following the verdicts against Akle and Whiteley.
“They abused the system to cut out competitors and line their own pockets.”
The agency has now secured three convictions in the case after Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s 71-year-old former country manager for Iraq, pleaded guilty last year.
The principal suspects in the case, brothers Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, evaded British investigators and pleaded guilty to bribery in the United States after an extradition battle in Italy in 2018.
Akle, 45, Whiteley, 65, and Al Jarah will be sentenced on July 22 and 23, the SFO said.
BRIBERY
Prosecutors said the defendants had conspired with others to pay bribes to public officials at the Iraqi South Oil Company and, in Al Jarah’s case, Iraqi Ministry of Oil representatives, to secure oil contracts for Unaoil and its clients.
Al Jarah admitted to paying more than $6 million in bribes to secure contracts worth $800 million to supply oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys. Akle and Whiteley were found guilty of paying more than $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55 million contract for offshore mooring buoys.
In his defense, Akle said payments were authorized for security purposes. Whiteley denied knowing about payments but said he wanted a “level playing field” during a competitive tender.
A lawyer for Whiteley was unable to comment and legal representatives for Akle and Bond did not immediately respond to requests for comment.