New Delhi : India and Sweden Thursday discussed a wide range of issues, including the inking of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on deepening their defence ties and on India’s purchase of the Bofors artillery gun.
“They discussed a gamut of issues during their 30-minute meeting,” an official said of the discussions here between Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
An impending Indian Air Force order for 126 combat jets, for which the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen is a contender, is also believed to have figured during the discussions.
The Antony-Bildt meeting came two decades after allegations surfaced of payoffs in the Indian Army’s purchase of 400 150mm Bofors field howitzers in 1986.
The gun had performed creditably during the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan and the army has projected a requirement for another 400 but a decision on this has been stalled for almost a decade due to the payoff charges.
Sweden has pointed out that the Bofors company is now owned by Britain’s BAE Systems and that even the Indian Supreme Court had thrown out the corruption charges.
“The gun is still manufactured in Sweden and the technology for the gun is very good,” Bildt has been quoted as saying.
The Bofors gun had emerged on top in a series of trials with three other weapons’ systems conducted by the army over the last two years in varying climatic conditions like deserts and icy Himalayan heights.
While the army is believed to have indicated its preference for the Bofors gun, the defence ministry will now have to take a decision on this.
In all this, the army’s inventory of Bofors guns is now down to about 200 due to normal wear and tear and cannibalism to keep the other systems operational.