New Delhi, October 9
There is sustained pressure from Islamabad on Colombo to buy substandard Pakistani military equipment in view of the intensification of the conflict between Sri Lankan troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Pakistan and interested parties in the Sri Lankan army are understood to be pushing for the sale of Al Zarrar tanks, though Colombo had earlier rejected the offer, diplomatic sources told this correspondent yesterday.
The Sri Lankan Army preferred to buy T-72 tanks from Belarus , which are technically far superior and nearly 4 times less than the price of Pakistani Al Zarrar. Pakistan offered its tanks at $ 1.6 million each. As Sri Lanka proposed to buy 25 number of tanks, this would cost $ 40 million.
While Sri Lanka would save more than $ 20 million if they opt for the T-72, the Pakistani defence establishment has gone into an overdrive to clinch the deal with the help of willing senior defence personnel in Sri Lanka . The two sides are now working to manipulate and arrange a new technical team to inspect the Al Zarrar tank and give a positive report in its favour.
While the deal is being worked out, there seems to have been a dispute over the commission to be paid by the Pakistani side to their Sri Lankan ?facilitators?. The Pakistani side is prepared to enhance the commission from 2 to 2.5 per cent keeping in view the help rendered by the Sri Lankan side, but the latter has been demanding much more. The Pakistani side also stated that they look at Sri Lanka as a major arms market and several other military equipment is in the pipeline and so there could be more business with more commission.
These proposed deals amount to more than $ 200 million. The Pakistani defence establishment has been trying to palm off old and used military equipment to Sri Lanka by paying exorbitant commission to its ?facilitators ? there. There is already growing discontent in the lower levels of Sri Lankan army as they had to struggle with substandard military equipment. Some such equipment supplied in August last year include 350 radio sets, supplied by NRTC, Pakistan , 25 battery chargers and tank ammunition.
Most of the defence dealers from the two countries are mainly retired armed forces officers, which allowed them easy accessibility to the top-ranking decision makers. This has influenced the decision making officers to bend the rules and allow the deals to go through which benefited their pockets immensely.