IAF inducts Mi-17 V5 helicopters

Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Friday announced the start of negotiations with French firm Dassault Aviation for the acquisition of Rafale, and gently brushed aside Britain's suggestions to rethink the decision.

In an interaction with journalists after an IAF function to induct Mi-17 V5 helicopters here, Mr. Antony said the Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) has started its work for the procurement of the French aircraft in pursuit of the multi-billion dollar deal for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft.

The Minister's response came when he was asked to comment on a statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron that he would ask India to reconsider and make a case for the Eurofighter Typhoon — a product of the four-nation European consortium.

While the entire process would take several months, the Defence Minister re-emphasised that transparency would be maintained over the eight stages and cautioned both the Indian officials and the foreign vendors against indulging in wrong practices.

“We will scrupulously scrutinise the whole process at every stage [to maintain] absolute transparency… everyone, our people and foreign vendors should be careful nobody corrupts the Indian system…we will not tolerate this.”

Elaborating on the process, he said after the CNC does its work, the Ministry would go through it and get the documents examined by its finance wing and later sent to independent monitors of the Central Vigilance Commission.

Thereafter, it would go to the National Security Council, Finance Ministry and then the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval.

Mr. Antony has in the past referred some cases, especially deals of high value or those against whom complaints of irregularities were reported, to the CVC.

The Minister also said that India was modernising its armed forces keeping in view the economic growth of the country and not any particular country.

Asked whether improvement of ties between New Delhi and Washington was undertaken keeping China in mind, he said: “No, that is not correct. We are strengthening our armed forces by providing most modern and complex equipment not against any country, but to protect our territorial integrity and challenge from any quarter, from land, skies and seas.”

Explaining the rationale behind India's foreign policy, Mr. Antony said while India had a strong and long-standing relationship with Russia, it also had friendly ties with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Israel — countries which provide defence equipment to India.

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