Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday said a deal to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) would be signed with due diligence.

“Before a deal is signed, a lot of procedures have to be completed. The utmost care is exercised at each stage of finalising the contract. We will not do anything in a jiffy,” he told journalists after unveiling a plaque to mark the laying of the foundation stone here for the National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding (NIRDESH) under the Department of Defence Production.

Mr. Antony said the reported missing and recovery of a secret file on MMRCA was being investigated. ( Boeing's F/A-18, Lockheed Martin's F-16, Russian aircraft MiG-35, European consortium EADS' Eurofighter, French Rafale, and Swedish SAAB's Gripen competed in the MMRCA field trials conducted by the Air Force.)

On indigenisation and self-reliance in defence, the Minister said the Defence Production Policy and Defence Procurement Policy, to be released soon, would place extra emphasis on indigenisation.

“Currently, we are nowhere near attaining self-reliance. The NIRDESH is set up as a top-notch centre of excellence in the design and development of as many naval equipment and platforms as are possible within the country. We [the Defence Ministry] prefer procuring available equipment and materials made within the country, even from the private sector. But as of now import is inevitable.”

Sea pirates

Asked about his recent statement that sea pirates received support from “other elements,” Mr. Antony said they would not have been in a position to launch “orchestrated” strikes without the backing of “other forces.”

Were these elements terrorists? “Not only terrorists, they have assistance from some other forces as well. This is what many other countries also think,” he said.

On the indigenously developed MBT (Main Battle Tank) Arjun and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Mr. Antony said these grand projects had made it to the realm of reality now. “LCA will get its initial operational clearance on January 10.”

On the recent deal India signed with Russia for joint development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, Mr. Antony said the contract was for a preliminary design. “Given the circumstances, we require a fifth generation fighter. Only they [the Russians] were ready to give us the technology.”

Mr. Antony said all coastal States had been asked to provide adequate berthing facility to the Cost Guard.

Earlier, speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony, the Minister said coastal security was a grave issue demanding urgent attention. “It has become an important agenda for the country. This is why the Navy and the Coast Guard have begun maintaining extra vigil along the coast.” Kerala Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem presided. Gyanesh Kumar, Joint Secretary (Naval Systems) and founding Director-General of NIRDESH, introduced the mission and goal of the institute, to be funded jointly by the Centre and defence shipyards.

Kerala Ministers K.P. Rajendran and Binoy Viswam, Opposition leader Oommen Chandy, Union Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran, Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed; M.K. Raghavan, MP; and Defence Production Secretary Raj Kumar Singh spoke.

Senior Navy and Coast Guard officers and chairmen and managing directors of defence shipyards attended the function.

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