External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Saturday said that all procedures were “strictly followed” by the UPA government in the controversial VVIP chopper deal and the matter should not be politicised.
“I don’t think it is right to politicise the issue. It is a matter of national interest. All procedures were strictly followed by the government,” he told Indian journalists accompanying him on a two-day visit to Bangladesh.
Asked whether steps were being taken to cancel the deal with AugustaWestland for delivery of helicopters, he said, “the government has issued a show-cause notice to them. There are procedures involved which have to be followed.”
To a question on the names of top dignitaries coming up in the matter like the President or Governors, Mr. Khurshid said “I don’t think there could have been better and tighter compliance of procedures in the matter. We shouldn’t involve them at all.”
He asked all political parties, including the Opposition, “not to get distracted from the core issue. The core issue is to get to the bottom of the facts.”
On whether the matter would come up during the upcoming visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr. Khurshid said the issue was not on the agenda, but it could come up as it has come up only recently.
Asked why didn’t the government react to the scandal earlier, Mr. Khurshid said, “we attempted to get details but there were procedural issues and therefore, there was paucity of information. Now that the investigations (in Italy) have reached the stage for making an arrest, that is indicative of the seriousness.”
In February 2010, India had inked Rs 3,600 crore deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for IAF’s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, PM and other VVIPs.
With the scam unfolding in the deal, the delivery of three helicopters from AgustaWestland scheduled for next month has been put on hold along with the remaining six which were to arrive later.
India has already received three of the 12 helicopters.
A CBI team is also being sent to Italy where the CEOs of AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica have been arrested on charges of bribery.