Kickback scandals delay defence purchases: Antony
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Last Updated: Wednesday, October 06, 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."


First Published: Wednesday, October 06, 2010, 23:13

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