South Africa focuses on paramilitary forces for arms, equipment sales

New Delhi, Feb 18 (Calcutta Tube) In a significant shift, South Africa is now focusing on India’s paramilitary forces to market arms and equipment it says is tailor-made for counter-insurgency operations.

‘We are there with the armed forces and we are now using this exhibition to create wider awareness among the paramilitary forces,’ an official of the South African high commission said of the country’s participation at the DefExpo 2010 land and naval systems exposition that concluded here Thursday.

In this context, Ravi Issar, an advisor in the high commission’s economic office, specifically pointed to a grenade launcher that can also be used to lob tear gas shells and fire ink dots to identify trouble-makers in a mob.

‘A grenade that is thrown by hand can, at best, travel 40-60 metres. With the launcher, it can go up to 200 metres and with greater accuracy,’ Issar explained.

‘Then, let’s say you want to identify a trouble-maker in a crowd. You can use the launcher to fire ink dots that light up the individual and enable him to be targeted,’ he added.

Among the other products displayed at the South African stall were sniper rifles, ceramic plates for bullet-proof jackets and a range of communications and surveillance systems that have both military and civilian applications.

‘For instance, we have border management systems that can also be used to guard airports, nuclear power plants and other sensitive installations,’ Issar pointed out.

‘What we had on display was not exhaustive. We have got much more and the next time around (at DefExpo 2012), we plan to have our own national pavilion,’ he added.

Interestingly, India is the only country outside the African continent where South Africa participates in a defence exhibition.

‘Africa is our biggest market. India comes second and given this, we could even participate in more security-related exhibitions in this country,’ Issar said.

South Africa’s participation at DefExpo 2010 also means that it has put behind it the controversy relating to its armaments major Denel being blacklisted on corruption charges.

Denel was to provide the gun turret for the indigenous Arjun main battle tank, as also the technology for setting up an ordnance factory at Nalanda in Bihar. Both projects are now on hold.

South Africa apart, the African continent was represented at DefExpo 2010 by official delegations from Egypt, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda.

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