Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Conveying a zero-tolerance to corruption message, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday announced that the government would not “hesitate to ruthlessly cancel” contracts if malpractices were detected in procurements.

Deviating from the prepared text at the inauguration of DEFCOM India 2009, organised by the Corps of Signals and the Confederation of Indian Industry here, the Minister said that at times the government had detected certain manipulation and malpractices and taken ruthless action.

Mr. Antony’s obvious reference was to the decision by the previous government under his ministership leading to cancellation of two major defence deals — the Eurocopter light utility helicopter and 155mm field guns.

Addressing the assembly that included members from the private industries, the Minister said they should tell their foreign collaborators that India was changing and they should not try and bribe people here.

He warned that the government would not tolerate “wheeling dealing or corruption. We will ruthlessly cancel contracts in the future as also in the past. This is not a happy experience but we will be forced to take such action.”

“Buy and make”

Reiterating the focus of the government, he said it had taken a conscious decision to minimise dependence on import of defence systems and platforms. More products should be sourced on the basis of “buy and make” rather than “buy” category alone. He lamented that nearly 70 per cent of the requirements of the weapons needed by the country were being imported.

He said India needed to modernise defence forces to preserve its territorial integrity in the face of asymmetric and unconventional means of warfare.

Synergy of efforts

He called for a synergy of efforts by the Armed Forces, the industry, the academia and research and development establishment to transform the defence forces to be a network-centric force.

Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor was present during the inaugural session of the two-day seminar on Information for Defence Force Transformation and Technology Development in the Information Age (DEFCOM).