TNN Mar 30, 2012, 01.32AM IST
NEW DELHI: India will not hesitate for a moment to cancel any defence deal, even if it’s in the final stages of finalization after technical and commercial evaluations, if any malpractice or corruption is found in it.
With murky wheeling and dealing in arms deals again resurfacing after Army chief General V K Singh’s allegations as well as some unsubstantiated charges of irregularities in the $20-billion MMRCA project doing the rounds, defence minister A K Antony on Thursday made it clear that action would be taken even if the contract had already been inked.
India, said Antony, had enough safeguards like the “integrity pact” to protect its “interests and money” in already-inked contracts worth over Rs 100 crore. “We will take strong action if any malpractice, corruption or lobbying is established…there will be no mercy, there is zero-tolerance for corruption,” he said while speaking at the inauguration of the ‘DefExpo-2012’ here.
As for the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project, under which final commercial negotiations are now being held to acquire 126 French Rafale fighters after elimination of other contenders, Antony said an inquiry was being conducted into an MP’s complaint of alleged wrongdoings in it since the government has to be “careful” at every stage to ensure “no foul play”.
Two of the 15 members in the defence ministry’s Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) have questioned the methods adopted to conclude that Rafale was cheaper than Eurofighter Typhoon in lifecycle costs.
“But the matter was resolved, with the observations of the two being recorded…all committees face dissent from one or more members…it does not mean the process will come to a stop,” said a senior official.
Antony said the CNC would take at least six months to conclude. Then, there will several layers of scrutiny at different levels, ranging from finance to the Cabinet Committee of Security, to vet the deal.
“We do not throw any complaint into the dustbin. There is a parallel inquiry also going on to inquire into the MP’s complaint. If we are satisfied that there is no foul play, then only will we go forward…We will proceed only if everything is clear,” he said.