‘They have a narrow view of national security’
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, on a campaign tour across the State, has brushed aside BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s criticism that India’s defence preparedness hit a rock-bottom under his tenure. “BJP is just voicing the feelings of blacklisted arms manufacturers and middlemen who used to procure deals worth crores of rupees,” the Minister has said.
Mr. Antony told The Hindu at Kalamassery near here recently that those who attempted to torpedo India’s defence preparedness by selling sub-standard weaponry to the forces were upset when he started taking corrective measures.
“The Defence Ministry never yielded to the motives of middlemen and corrupt elements under my tenure. There may be aberrations, but I have taken strong corrective measures without fearing and favouring any,” he said.
Mr. Antony said the BJP and NDA were targeting his Ministry because they always used ‘national security’ to whip up passion for nationalism of their choice.
“The Defence Ministry has always been their target for attack to evoke Hindutva sentiments. They have a very narrow perspective on national security,” said Mr. Antony. He also accused Mr. Modi of perpetuating politics of hate.
Asked why the country did not have a Navy Chief for the past one month, Mr. Antony said the normal process to choose a new chief would take six months. “The Navy Chief resigned unexpectedly and we are fast-tracking new appointment. There is an acting chief now and the selection process is progressing fast,” he said.
Mr. Antony said he had initiated a process for infusing new life into the three forces. Transparency and probity were brought back to the defence deals.
When asked about the Opposition charges of delay in arms procurement, Mr. Antony said his ministry had always utilised budgetary allocations to the full. “Quality weapons were bought through fair means,” he said. “The Opposition is targeting me for initiating modernisation and transparency. It is distortion of facts,” he said.
On the two recent tragedies involving submarines and another involving an Air Force flight, Mr. Antony said accidents were common in the history of Indian defence. “All these happened within a short span of time. We are trying to find the reasons and take corrective measures,” he said.