The Council on Ethics recommends that Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) be excluded from investment by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) due to an unacceptable risk that the company sells weapons to a state that uses the weapons in ways that constitute serious and systematic violations of international law. The background for this recommendation is the sale of military equipment to the armed forces in Myanmar.
BEL is an Indian producer of aviation and defence electronics. In July 2021, BEL delivered a remote-controlled weapons station to Myanmar. This weapons station has been developed to remotely control weapons from inside an armoured vehicle. It is reported that such vehicles are used in attacks on civilians in Myanmar.
In February 2021, the armed forces in Myanmar staged a coup d’état. Both before and after the coup, the armed forces have committed extremely serious abuses against Myanmar’s civilian population, relating in part to ongoing armed conflicts in the country. Several UN bodies have reported that the Myanmar armed forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, have deliberately attacked civilian targets. The attacks have been numerous and, in the Council’s view, constitute serious and systematic violations of international law. This information has long been in the public domain, and the Council takes the position that anyone selling weapons to Myanmar since 2018 should have understood that they could be used in violation of international law.
When assessing the risk of the company’s potential contribution to new abuses forward in time, the Council has attached importance to the fact that it delivered military equipment to Myanmar despite the military coup and the information concerning the Tatmadaw’s abuses. BEL has not responded to the Council’s queries.
The Council on Ethics issued its recommendation on exclusion on 23 August 2022. Norges Bank announced its decision to exclude the company on 24 January 2023.