Kickback scandals delay defence purchases: Antony

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - 23:13

New Delhi: Defence Minister A K Antony today
regretted defence procurement delays over the last two decades
due to kickback scandals, even as he called India`s dependence
on imports for its military equipment as "a shame".

"There are lot of non-military persons who are concerned
over the lack of equipment for our armed forces. But they
should not forget the past controversies in defence
procurements from 1980s to 1990s that engulfed the
governments. As a result, we lost 20 years," Antony said
addressing senior armed forces officers here.

But he assured them that the government was trying to
change the situation now through its defence production policy
that was aimed at curbing corruption in defence deals.

"We will continue that effort and try to get the
equipment for the armed forces at the earliest. But I am
confident as Defence Minister that our armed forces are ever
ready to meet any challenge that the nation faces," he said
speaking at the Field Marshal K M Carriappa Memorial Lecture
organised by the Army.

Noting that he wanted to flag an issue of real concern,
Antony said even with a large industrial infrastructure, "we
are still importing about 70 per cent of our defence
requirements."

"A large country like India...a fast developing country
like India...this large volume of import is not a healthy one.
It is a shame for our country. We have to find a solution to
this at the earliest," he said.

The government, from now, would try to buy defence
equipment from the domestic market in areas in which India
could produce them internally within the required time frame,
he said, adding that only when that became difficult would the
country look at imports to meet the defence requirements.

Pointing out that imports also posed a problem of another
nature, Antony said the countries that sold the equipment also
imposed conditions after the contracts were signed or did not
provide proper product support later.

This was an apparent reference to the US, which had asked
India to sign some enabling agreements such as communication
interoperability and end-user monitoring after selling
military hardware to India, and Russia which had perennially
posed problems with spares supplies.

"Many a times, there are pulls and counter-pulls by these
countries. Hence we must development a strong defence
industrial base within India in coordination with defence
scientists. In the long run, indigenous capabilities are the
only solution," he said.

Noting that India was still far off from establishing
itself as a major defence equipment manufacturing nation,
Antony said, "our efforts to reduce the import content of our
defence requirements are not yielding the desired results."

He said, "given our economic status, this not a very
desirable state of affairs. If modernisation is to be more
meaningful, it must go hand-in-hand with indigenisation."

The Defence Minister said the government was alive to the
urgent need to quicken the pace of modernisation of the armed
forces and that it had initiated a number of measures to
provide an impetus to the defence procurements.

"Defence Ministry is in the process of implementing a new
procurement policy (DPP), which would be even more effective
and quicker that the current DPP-2008. We believe that the
private and public sector can and must coexist in the defence
sector," he said.

Pointing out the initiatives of the government on
public-private partnerships to put military modernisation on
the fast-track, Antony said there were efforts to ensure
maximum synergy among DRDO, Ordnance Factory Board, Defence
PSUs and private sector.

"All the agencies in the public and private sector must
cooperate to share efforts and resources to address design,
manufacturing and maintenance concerns of our defence forces.
On their own, the Defence PSUs are unlikely to be able to meet
all the requirements of the armed forces at the desired pace
and within the required time-frame," he said.

Noting that the private industry had over the years
evolved in the defence sector, Antony said, "we should
leverage the strengths of both -- the Defence PSUs and the
private sector -- to achieve our objectives in the realm of
defence."

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - 23:13

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