Govt-Owned Munitions India Ltd Exported Ordnance to Israel as Gaza Was Reduced to Rubble

R. Ramachandran : 

New Delhi: The Adani group’s drone sales may be the most high profile weapon export from India to a country accused of genocide at the world court but there is evidence that Indian-supplied ordnance may have made its way to Israel as well.

In a recent report, The Wire established that the Hyderabad-based Adani-Elbit Advanced Systems India Ltd. – a joint venture company between Adani Defence and Aerospace and Israel’s Elbit Systems – had exported munitions in the form of Indian-made aero-structures and subsystems purposed specifically for military use for over 20 Hermes 900 UAVs/drones, if not complete drones, to Israel between 2019 and 2023.

Publicly available records now indicate that Munitions India Ltd (MIL) – a public sector enterprise under the Ministry of Defence – has also been permitted to ship its products to Israel as recently as January 2024. On April 18, 2024, the company has again applied for exporting the same products under a repeat order from Israel. Approval for the company’s second export to Israel is under consideration by the licensing authorities.

MIL was established in 2021 as part of the restructuring and corporatisation of the 41 ordnance factories as seven different PSUs. According to a company brochure, MIL is engaged in the “production, testing, R&D and marketing of a comprehensive range of ammunition and explosives for the army, navy, air force and para-military forces”. Its 12 manufacturing units across the country provide an “integrated base for production of small, medium and high calibre ammunition, mortars, rockets, hand grenades etc. with in-housing manufacturing of initiatory compositions, propellants and high explosives” and the company’s objective is “to provide competitive edge to the armed forces by equipping them with modern and quality battlefield ammunition”.

Given the above, one would think that MIL’s entire range of products would fall under the Munitions List of SCOMET, or Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (Category 6), and would, therefore, require authorisation by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) for export.

However, the licence approved on January 01, 2024, for MIL to export some of its products to Israel was by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) – meaning, thereby, that the product MIL sought to export is a ‘dual-use’ item, and not an item explicitly for military use under the Munitions List (Category 6 of SCOMET). Such products could be in the form of explosives, and pyrotechnics, initiators, fuses and charges thereof, which, besides their direct military use, would also have non-military applications such as rock blasting, clearing mineral mines, blasting for tunnel excavations and other geo-engineering work.

Unfortunately, information on SCOMET licence applications and approvals put out in the public domain by the DGFT does not give the details of items for which export licences have been issued.

Similarly, a private Indian company, Premier Explosives Ltd. (PEL), which has been exporting explosives and allied accessories to Israel under SCOMET licence from the DGFT at least since 2021, has been permitted to export these items twice since Israel’s war on Gaza began last year – on November 20, 2023, and January 01, 2024.

The Telangana-based company’s products, according to its website,“include emulsion and slurry explosives, LD cartridge explosives, bulk explosives, small-dia non-permitted explosives, permitted explosives, cast boosters, pillow-packs for secondary blasting; detonating fuse of various core-loads, plain detonators, instantaneous electric detonators, electric delay detonators, permitted detonators, cord relays and non-electric shock-tube detonators”. All these are dual-use items. Lately PEL has also begun to manufacture solid propellants for missiles.

The Wire contacted both MIL and PEL by email to get information about the nature of products exported by them to Israel. While no response has been received from MIL, PEL responded thus: “Required information to the extent possible is already in public domain as we have been transparent and made disclosures to the stock exchanges. Due to the sensitivity of the nature of products and also level of competition, we are unable to share further information.”

Applications for the DGFT licence to export items on the SCOMET List are required to be accompanied by an End-User Certification (EUC) certifying that “the item will be used only for stated purpose and that such use will not be changed, nor items modified or replicated without consent of the Government of India… End-user shall facilitate such verifications as are required by the GOI.”

Thus, just as the SOP rules for DDP authorisations permit pre- and post-shipment end-use verification and review of the approved export licence for munitions, DGFT regulations for licence approval also allow for these provisions.

All SCOMET licence applications to the DGFT are decided upon by an Inter-Ministerial Working Group (IMWG) on the basis of general criteria, which include:

“Credential of end-user, credibility of declaration of end-use of the item or technology, integrity of chain of transmission of item from supplier to end-user, and on potential of the item or technology, including timing of its export, to contribute to end-uses that are not in conformity with India’s national security or foreign policy goals and objectives, goals and objectives of…India’s obligations under International Treaties/Agreements/Conventions to which it is a State party…Capabilities and objectives of programmes of the recipient State relating to weapons and their delivery (Emphasis added).”

In other words, if a SCOMET licence was issued to MIL and PEL by the DGFT, and not the DDP, for export to Israel, it would have been under a specific non-military end-use declaration by the company. But there is every possibility that, in the context of the ongoing bloody war being waged on the Palestinians in Gaza, these would be used by the IDF for its military ends.

So, given the timing of the licence approval and India’s vote at the UN in favour of an immediate ceasefire on December 12, 2023, the pertinent question that should be asked of the government is why an export licence was given to MIL in the first place when there was a distinct possibility of its use in the ongoing war in Gaza given the timing of the export – an important criterion for consideration by the IMWG.

In case of any violation of the conditions specified in a SCOMET licence issued by the DGFT (the end-use declaration for instance), the licence issued can be suspended/cancelled, the exporter’s business identification number – the Importer-Exporter Code (IEC) — is liable to be revoked and the exporter penalised under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992.

Given the current context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, has the Modi government taken any steps to ensure there is no violation of the stated end use of items exported by MIL? Otherwise, it would be seen as being complicit in the ongoing genocidal war.

The question is all the more pressing in the light of what the International Court of Justice said about arms exports to Israel in its order of April 30, 2024.

Noting Germany’s stringent licensing procedure and also the fact that “there has been a significant decrease since November 2023 in the value of [military] material” exported to Israel, the ICJ rejected Nicaragua’s urgent request for provisional measures that would have put a stop to German arms sales to Israel.

At the same time, the court said that it “considers it particularly important to remind all States of their international obligations relating to the transfer of arms to parties to an armed conflict, in order to avoid the risk that such arms might be used to violate the [Genocide and Geneva] Conventions. All these obligations are incumbent upon Germany as a State party to the said Conventions in its supply of arms to Israel.”

As a party to both Conventions, India too has a similar obligation.

R. Ramachandran is a science writer.

source : thewire

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