Defence minister hints at Pilatus probe

New Delhi, May 6: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday indicated a probe into the 2012 deal inked with the Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus, but clarified the trainer aircraft from the firm already in service will not be grounded.

Responding to a calling attention motion on the AgustaWestland deal in the Lok Sabha, the minister mentioned the Pilatus deal and said there were "discussions" about it in 2012, the year the deal was sealed. 

Manohar Parrikar

"There were a lot of discussions over Pilatus in 2012; when I came (to office), around 62 planes were already flying," Parrikar said.

"I thought, if I raise it (the deal) now, the (Indian) air force (pilot) shortage, which has come to 164, would have gone up to 1,000," the minister said.

"Sometimes, you are under strain to continue even (if it is) not very healthy...." he said.

"I will investigate, but will not stop flying the aircraft," Parrikar added.

The minister indicated there may have been corruption involved in the earlier deal for buying 136 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviations of France.

Parrikar targeted Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, saying he "took liberties with truth" by saying that the then United Progressive Alliance government was buying Rafale jets for $10 billion.

"First of all, the Rafale deal was not concluded. Their defence minister had kept it in writing that he was very scared that his (public) image will get tainted."

"So he wrote that L1 (lowest bidder) has been determined, negotiate and finalise the price and then come back to me to check whether this company is L1. He insured himself with this comment," Parrikar said referring to the then defence minister A.K. Antony.

"He had this doubt that it is a 'corruption negotiation committee'. He must have gotten experience from Agusta (deal); so he wrote this on Rafale," the minister said.

According to informed sources, the Pilatus deal was under the Modi government's scanner as it got highlighted after income tax raids at a company that did liasoning for Pilatus.

India bought 75 PC-7 Mk II aircraft from Pilatus in 2012. The aircraft was chosen over American Beechcraft T-6C Texan II and the South Korean KT-1.

The sources said the South Korean government had then lodged an official protest with the defence ministry over the selection of Pilatus as the "lowest bidder".


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