Armed forces modernisation not at cost of transparency: Antony

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New Delhi, Nov 5 (UNI) The government today said it was making all-out efforts to modernise the country's armed forces by equipping it with sophisticated weaponry systems, but it would neither tolerate corruption nor allow transparency to become a casualty in the process.

''Every reference from any responsible quarter on issues of corruption will be taken cognizance of and necessary probe will be carried out,'' Defence Minister A K Antony said.

He also said India's relationship with Russia was a time-tested one and would continue. ''We will not abandon old friends for improving relations with new ones,'' he asserted.

Mr Antony was addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, attached to his ministry.

Reiterating his keenness to modernise the Armed Forces in the earliest possible time to make it a strong fighting force through the acquisition of the latest arms and weapons, he made it amply clear that it would not be at the cost of transparency.

''In the past there have been controversies relating to deals with some companies 'under cloud' and we will not proceed unless those doubts are cleared. We will not tolerate corruption,'' the minister said.

Mr Antony said India's defence cooperation with other countries had undergone a sea-change after the end of the Cold War era. India now sources its equipment and platforms from many countries, including Russia, the UK, France, Germany, Israel and, of late, the US.

However, India's relation with Russia was a proven fact and ''old friends would not be abandoned,'' he said.

Describing his visit to Russia last month as 'successful', he said the two countries signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the Joint Development and Production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft.

Mr Antony admitted that there was some delay in the delivery schedule of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov but said the two countries were trying to find a solution to the issues involved.

Commending the role of the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), the minister said said the country's defence industry had reached a high-level of maturity. Last year the value of production in the DPSUs was Rs. 17,855 crores against a target of Rs 15,625 crores.

The value of sales during the same financial year was Rs. 15,570 crores which exceed the target by Rs 2,263 crores. The DPSUs also earned profit after tax deduction to the tune of Rs 2,445 crores, which was more than the target of Rs 1,034 crores. Mr Antony said the DPSUs had reached the stage of undertaking design and development work as well as product upgrades independently.

''They are, in fact, on the threshold of a position enjoyed by the defence industry in the developed countries,'' he said, but cautioned the top brass of the DPSUs not to rest on laurels and ceaselessly work towards value addition, proper product support and serviceability of the supplies made to the Services.

He said the DPSUs should ensure cost-effectiveness and adherence to time and cost milestones.

''Stiff competition is going to be the fact of life and only the fittest will survive. Although the Government supports the DPSUs but they have to survive in the market through their performance alone,'' he pointed out.

Cutting across party lines, all members of Parliament present at the meeting complimented the role played by the DPSUs over the years to help the country move towards the goal of self-reliance.

However, they expressed concern over delays in the development and production of the Light Combat Aircraft, MBT Arjun and Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft. They also made a strong case for giving a fillip to public-private partnership (PPP) in the defence sctor in a bigger way to take advantage of the talent and capital of the private sector.


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