Antony warns defence top brass against graft

Defence Minister AK Antony Monday warned the armed forces` top brass not to "fall prey to corrupt practices by vested interests".

New Delhi: With major deals including the $10.4-billion tender for 126 combat planes tender in its final stages, Defence Minister AK Antony Monday warned the armed forces` top brass not to "fall prey to corrupt practices by vested interests".

Inaugurating separate commanders` conferences of the Air Force and the Army here, Antony also asked them to strive for probity and fair play in their day-to-day dealings.

"Time and cost overruns apart, there is always the danger of falling prey to corrupt practices perpetrated by vested interests in the garb of aggressive marketing. I strongly urge you all to stand guard with resolve against any such overtures. You must strive to uphold sincerity, probity and fair play, even in your day-to-day administrative work," Antony told the Army commanders here.

"At times, vested interests bring about unnecessary pressure and resort to corrupt practices that can wreak serious havoc upon our security in more ways than one. We must resist such efforts collectively and resolutely in national interests," Antony said at the Air Force commanders meet.

"Even though I have full faith in your capacity and ability to uphold our security interests, I strongly urge you to remain vigilant, cautious and alert to any wrongdoing at all times," he added.

His comments come even as the defence ministry is on the verge of finalising the deal for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) in which American firms Boeing`s F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin`s F-16s, Russian United Aircraft Corporation`s MiG-35, French Dassault`s Rafale, Swedish SAAB`s Gripen and European consortium EADS` Eurofighter Typhoon are in contention.

The government is also to soon decide the winner of a $650-million tender for 22 attack helicopters and a $700-million bid for 15 heavy-lift cargo helicopters.

The MMRCA tender process was threatened early this year after the file containing the offsets proposals of competing firms had gone missing when a bureaucrat was taking it home in the capital and was recovered later by the roadside in south Delhi.

A probe ordered into the episode had rapped the bureaucrat, but concluded that the incident had not compromised the tendering process, thus facilitating its continuance.

At the two conferences, Antony also gave a bird`s eye view of the global security scenario, pointing out that the political disturbances in West Asia and North Africa had thrown up fresh challenges.

"Any adverse developments will without doubt have a far reaching effect on the energy security and overall security of the nations across the world," he said.

The defence minister said the government remained fully committed to the modernisation of the armed forces and upgrading of infrastructure.

"For far too long, we have remained over-dependent on foreign equipment. No nation will ever part with its first generation equipment," he said, adding that modernisation and indigenisation must proceed apace.

"If our efforts to achieve self-reliance are to assume greater relevance, our soldiers, scientists and the defence industry must regularly consult each other -- at every stage of designing, manufacturing and production of equipment to minimize procedural delays and understand each other`s requirements," he added.


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