Armed forces modernisation not at cost of transparency: Antony


New Delhi : Modernisation of the Indian armed forces would not be at the cost of transparency, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Monday.

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“The government is making all efforts to modernize the Indian armed forces in the earliest possible time to make them a strong fighting force by equipping them with the latest weapons and platforms but this will not be at the cost of transparency,” he maintained.

Antony was addressing the parliamentary consultative committee attached to the defence ministry here.

According to Antony, every reference “from any responsible quarter” on corruption will be taken cognisance of and the ministry or the organizations under it would carry out the “necessary probe”.

“In the past, there have been controversies relating to deals with some companies under a cloud. We will not proceed unless those doubts are cleared.

“We will not tolerate corruption”, Antony declared.

The minister said India’s defence cooperation with friendly foreign countries had undergone a “sea-change” after the end of the Cold War era.

India now sources its equipment and platforms from many countries including Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel and, of late, the United States.

At the same time, “India’s relationship with Russia is a time-tested one and will continue. We will not abandon old friends for improving relations with new ones”, he pointed out.

Describing his visit to Russia last month as “successful”, he said the two countries had signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the joint development and production of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

During the visit, the two countries had also resolved the contentious issue of the increased cost escalation Russia had demanded for the 40 Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat jets the Indian Air Force (IAF) is purchasing in addition to the 190 already contracted for.

Admitting to “some delay” in the delivery schedule of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, Antony said that the two countries are trying to find a solution to the “issues” involved over the additional money Russia is demanding.

Commending the role of the defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs), Antony said that the Indian military industry had reached a “high-level of maturity”.

Last year, the DPSUs had produced goods worth Rs.178.55 billion against the target of Rs.156.25 billion. Sales during the year were valued at Rs.155.70 billion – exceeding the target by Rs.22.63 billion.

The DPSUs also earned profit after tax of Rs.24.45 billion, which was higher than the target of Rs.10.34 billion.

According to Antony, the DPSUs had reached the stage “where they are now capable of undertaking design and development work as well as product upgrades independently”.

“They are in fact on the threshold of a position enjoyed by the defence industry in developed countries,” he added.

In this context, the defence minister cautioned the DPSU top brass “not to rest on your laurels but ceaselessly work towards value addition, proper product support and serviceability of the supplies made, cost effectiveness and adherence to time and cost milestones”.

“Stiff competition is going to be a fact of life and only the fittest will survive. Although the government supports the DPSUs, they have to survive in the market through their performance alone,” Antony said.

Cutting across party lines, the MPs who attended the meeting complimented the role played by the DPSUs over the years to help the country move towards the goal of self-reliance.

At the same time, they also expressed concern about delays in the development and production of the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), the Arjun main battle tank (MBT) and the intermediate jet trainer (IJT) aircraft.

They were also of the view that the government should encourage more public-private partnerships in the defence sector so that the talent and capital of the private sector can be taken advantage of.

The MPs who attended the meeting included Suresh Kalmadi, Naveen Jindal, M.A. Kharabela Swain, Jayaben B. Thakkar, Samik Lahiri, A. Shivajirao Patil, Sanjay Dhotre, Shankhlal Majhi, M. Shivanna and Prem Kumar Dhumal from the Lok Sabha and Karan Singh, Santosh Bagrodia, Syed Azees Pasha, Vinay Katiyar and Dharam Pal Sabharwal from the Rajya Sabha.