Army Chief row: AK Antony insecure? Praises Defence chiefs

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AK Antony
New Delhi, Mar 29: While the country is still trying to grapple the Army Chief's bribery allegations, Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday said that all three defence chiefs enjoyed government's confidence.

"All the three defence chief enjoy the government's confidence. All the three defence chiefs are working today. I am comfortable, and I am not in an embarrassing situation," said AK Antony while answering the controversy around General Singh.

Talking about the allegations made by the Army Chief, he admitted that General VK Singh had earlier complained to him in this regard adding that he told him to take concerned action in the case.

"I do not know of the letter General VK Singh has sent to CBI. I do not have any knowledge on the complaint of the Lieutenant General. I read it in the newspapers. The Army Headquarters had sent a proposal to make Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag an Army Commander," said Antony.

"My first priority is to find out who leaked the letter. I appeal to you not to demoralise our soldiers. We should maintain the prestige of armed forces. The prestige of armed forces should be protected. Defence has no relation with politics," said Antony asking the media not to hamper the image of the Army.

"The Intelligence Bureau has started the enquiry into letter leak. We will act after receiving the Intelligence Bureau report and strongest action under the Indian law will be taken against the person responsible for the letter leak," he added.

Talking about the Army's attitude towards corruption, he said that the government blacklisted six companies for 10 years. The banned companies include four foreign and two Indian companies.

"If we find anything wrong, we will not hesitate to cancel the contract at any stage. There will be zero tolerance to corruption. We have cancelled many major contracts following corruption charges. We have very strong safeguards on integrity form. For any contract beyond Rs 100 crore integrity pact is a must. In the integrity pact, strongest action will be taken against anybody found to be involved in malpractice.We will protect our interest and money," he said.

"Delays will be there as we have to inquire into complaints of corruption. If there is corruption, then the contract has to be cancelled. We are slow on modernisation as we are aware of corruption allegations. We want to ensure that there is no corruption. We are continuously reviewing our defence preparedness and we are increasing the procurement of ammunition for the Army," he said.

He said that atleast 40 percent of the arms and equipments for the military was now being manufactured in India.

"Indigenisation is gaining speed and will become faster in coming years. We have to move cautiously. Our aim is to encourage indigenous technology. In areas like radars and missiles India is moving forward," said Antony.

Talking about the Defence Budget, Antony said that though the year saw 18 per cent increase, Defence needed more money but they were still constraints.

"At the moment it is better to confine FDI to 26 per cent," he said.

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