Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday said he thought “someone has taken money” in the controversial deal worth Rs. 3,546 crore for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland.
“[The] CBI is vigorously pursuing its investigation. My commitment to Parliament [in this regard] stands. I have a feeling that someone has taken money. The inquiry is at a crucial stage… We will not show mercy to anyone, however big and powerful, who has gone against the integrity pact,” he said in response to a query from The Hindu.
Mr. Antony was at the Southern Naval Command here to receive sail training ship INS Sudarshini on its return from a six-month voyage to the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries.
Asked if India would go ahead with the purchase of ‘Black Shark’ torpedoes from Italian firm WASS, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, he said a final call on the acquisition had not been taken. “Nothing has happened so far. We will proceed only as per the law. We are waiting for the inquiry [against Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland] to be over,” he told the media.
The return of the Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen was the result of a bold stance taken by the Indian judiciary. “Our action has been internationally acclaimed and proved correct.”
Referring to the new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), he said the policy, due for release in a few months, would give a major fillip to indigenisation. His Ministry was particularly keen on indigenisation, especially after “our experiences with foreign countries.” A biannual affair so far, the DPP would henceforth be reviewed every year.
Asked about alleged atrocities on Sri Lankan Tamils, he said the whole nation and the government stood in solidarity with them and were trying to help them within limitations.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) was reviewing the process of acquisition of 197 light utility helicopters for the Army. It was terminated in 2007 after the selection of the Eurocopter. The second round of selection was launched after re-tendering.
The Ministry was in the final stages of issuing RFP (request for proposal) for the Navy’s future line of submarines under the long-delayed Project 75-I.
On strengthening of ties between India and the Asean, he said he was slated to attend a meeting of the Defence Ministers of Asean in Brunei in June in which China and the U.S. would also participate. “The meeting will discuss ways to further expand our cooperation with these countries.”