New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony on Friday made it clear that there will be "no political considerations" in awarding the multi-billion dollar 126 combat aircraft deal which entered its last phase with the opening of commercial bids of two bidders.
Two companies including European Eurofighter and French Dassault Rafale are now left in the medium multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA) tender and their commercial bids were opened on November 4 by the Ministry.
"There will be no political considerations in defence procurement and that is our stand which everybody knows," he told reporters here.
The minister was asked if the Defence Ministry would take into account geo-political considerations before deciding on the winner of the mega deal.
Antony said as far as his ministry was concerned, "defence procurement is strictly professional and (based on) price. Technical evaluation is 101 per cent professional and then after that comes the price."
The Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft bid is backed by four partner nations including Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain whereas the Rafale bid is backed by the French government.
In April, the Defence Ministry had shortlisted the two aircraft while four companies including American Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Russian MiG 35 and Swedish Saab were rejected.
After the opening of commercial bids, the Defence Ministry is now busy with the process of determining the Life Cycle Cost (LCC) of the two aircraft to determine the lowest bidder, which will be offered the contract.
Asked to react on recent reports about the cancellation of howitzer tenders, the Defence Minister said, "We have cancelled only when there was controversy in the `ghost episode` and after that no tender has been cancelled."
However, he did not elaborate what the ghost episode was.
"Instead of having difficulties at the final stages, we have to be careful at every stage of procurement processes," he said, noting that modernisation programmes were picking up and plans of three Services "gaining momentum".
The Army artillery modernisation plans are likely to be delayed as its two projects to procure 145 ultra-light howitzers and 180 self-propelled wheeled guns have run into rough weather due to different reasons.
To a query on the "critical shortage" of ammunition faced by the Army, Antony said, "In the last one year, we have made continuous efforts to find solution to the historical baggage and there is nothing new now.
"There are some practical problems in the past and we are now sorting out those things. In the past, procurement was only for six months. Now we are signing long time contracts for spares and we think very soon we will be able to find
solutions," the Defence Minister said.