Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Defence Minister A.K. Antony has called upon all concerned to set aside their differences in the larger interest of Kerala’s progress.

Formally launching the BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited here on Monday, Mr. Antony also called for greater cooperation between the Centre and the State government for Kerala’s development. “Let this be a new beginning and not the end. Let there be greater cooperation between the Centre and the State not only in the field of defence production, but also in other areas as well. Let the success of this endeavour prompt us to take the pledge to work for greater cooperation between the Centre and the State in other areas as well,” the Defence Minister said.

Pointing out that there was strong opposition to the takeover of Kerala Hitech Limited (Keltec), and transforming it into BrahMos Aerospace, Mr. Antony warned trade unions and political parties in Kerala about the need for greater responsibility in running such institutions.

He also regretted the controversy over the setting up of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram for which, he pointed out, ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair had worked hard. He said the takeover of Keltec was opposed on two counts, one because nobody wanted such a missile production unit to be set up in Kerala and the second, because of the argument that BrahMos did not require a second production unit after the one in Hyderabad. Earlier, formally handing over the key of Keltec to the Defence Minister, Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan called upon the Defence Minister to facilitate an additional investment of at least Rs.1,000 crore in the State in view of the fact that Keltec had been handed over to the Centre for a nominal sum of Re.1.

Mr. Antony responded that if the BrahMos experiment succeeded, the Defence Ministry would be ready to invest much more than what the Chief Minister had asked for. Presiding over the function, Industries Minister Elamaram Karim said the State government had initiated five joint venture proposals involving Central and State PSUs as a new strategy to revive public sector units keeping them under public ownership. He thanked Mr. Antony for the efforts he had made to bring the proposal for handing over of Keltec to BrahMos to a success.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Madhavan Nair said the BrahMos Aerospace unit in the State capital had great potential as the number of space missions of the ISRO would go up to 80 during the Eleventh Plan period raising the need for BrahMos’ technologies and products.

BrahMos Aeorospace CEO A. Sivathanu Pillai said the establishment of the BrahMos unit in Thiruvananthapuram would mark a new beginning in Kerala.