Govt aiming at rapidly modernising armed forces: Antony

With "violent disturbances" in the neighbourhood posing a security challenge to the country, Government today vowed to rapidly modernise the armed forces and said the defence expenditure was bound to go up in the coming decades.

Last Updated: Feb 09, 2011, 23:17 PM IST

Bangalore: With "violent disturbances" in
the neighbourhood posing a security challenge to the country,
Government today vowed to rapidly modernise the armed forces
and said the defence expenditure was bound to go up in the
coming decades.

Inaugurating South Asia`s biggest air show Aero India
2011 at Yelahanka Air Force Station here, Defence Minister A K
Antony said the IAF`s USD 11 billion Medium-Multirole Aircraft
(M-MRCA) deal comprising 126 planes was likely to finalised in
the next fiscal.

"India has always been a votary of peace. Yet, violent
disturbances in our immediate and extended neighbourhood pose
security challenges for our nation and the region as a whole,"
Antony said.
The Minister said India`s democratic credentials and a
fast growing economy have convinced the world that it can play
a responsible and a stabilising role in the region.

"Our Government is steadfast in its resolve to meet
any challenge. We are, therefore, committed to ensure rapid
modernisation of our armed forces and equip them with
state-of-the-art systems, equipment and platforms," the
Minister said.

Antony said, "Our current defence expenditure -- 2.5
per cent of its GDP, is consistent with our projected security
requirements and is bound to increase over the next two
decades".
With countries pushing hard to support the bids of
their companies M-MRCA deal, he said the decision to award the
tender will be based on merits.

"The decision will be based on merit only.... There
will be no political decision in defence acquisition process
including the M-MRCA. As far as India is concerned, there will
be no political decision and interference in defence
acquisition process," Antony said when asked about reports
suggesting that the US was asking India to award the M-MRCA
contract to one of its companies.

Two American aircraft -- Lockheed Martin`s F-16 and
the Boeing`s F/A-18 E/F along with European Eurofighter,
Swedish Gripen, French Rafale and Russian MiG-35 are in the
race for the deal for 126 fourth generation combat aircraft.

Heads of state of all the countries have visited India
in the last one year and pitched for the bids submitted by
their companies. The list includes US President Barack Obama,
British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President
Nicolas Sarkozy.

Antony said the decision to award the contract was
likely to be taken in the next fiscal.

Aero India 2011 took-off on an impressive note with an
exquisite flying display and mid-air manoeuvres by Indian and
foreign aircraft and an impressive flypast at the biennial,
five-day event.

Five units of home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)
Tejas, recently given initial operational clearance, stole the
show with breathtaking vertical loops and mid-air manoeuvres,
demonstrating their aerial agility and quick manoeuvrability.

PTI