Change in defence procurement policy soon, says Antony

FP

In the backdrop of the controversy over the alleged payment of kickbacks in the VVIP helicopter deal, Defence Minister A K Antony announced in the Lok Sabha on Monday that the central government would change its defence procurement policy.

The minister, who was responding to a question by MIM member Asaduddin Owaisi during Question Hour, said, "Within a few months we are going to change the defence procurement procedure again." The policy had last undergone a change in 2011.

Owaisi, who represents Hyderabad, said while referring to the allegations of payment of kickbacks, "We have the dubious distinction of being the largest importer of defence equipment...besides this, defence requirements are met by Ordnance Factory Board, Tatas, Birlas, Mahindras, Reliance.... You must have a vision for indigenisation and then only can we control this bigger malice of corruption."

"I fully agree with the member," Antony told the House, adding, "The ultimate solution to the scourge of corruption in defence deals is indigenisation...because of the operational necessity of the Services, on the request that they need the most modern equipment to meet the operational necessity, the government moves to import any high value equipment from foreign sources.... But now the government is giving topmost priority to indigenisation...within a few months, we are going to change the defence procurement procedure again...in that, we will give more priority to indigenisation so that Indian public sector and private sector can play a major role in producing state-of-the-art equipment for the Indian forces."

Referring to the CBI investigation into the deal, Antony said in his written reply that it would be early to pass an opinion on the extent to which this case was likely to affect other defence deals in the pipeline.

India, according to him, had also taken up with Britain the issue of the alleged involvement of a British consultant in the deal and the fact that the contract had been signed with AgustaWestland, UK.

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