New Delhi: Indian Defence Minister AK Antony today hinted that the modernization of the Indian Air Force would be hit, saying his ministry was probing complaints to see if procedures had been followed in calculating the life cycle costs of procuring the 126 Rafale fighter jets from France.
Despite the complaint Antony was confident that the deal may be finalised in the financial year 2014-15 commencing April 1, 2014. Antony was addressing the media at the DEFEXPO that opened today in New Delhi.
“ The Government is looking into complaints against the procedure of calculating the life cycle cost and that issue is not yet settled. Before bringing the deal before the Cabinet Committee on Security for final approval, we would like to get clear on that aspect”.
The life cycle of product is calculated by the costs to operate it. In this case the fighter jets engines, its spares and som consumables will form the life cycle cost. Antony did not specify who was the complainant in the case.
India taking steps to safeguard interest in Afghanistan: Antony
India is taking precautionary steps to contain the fall out in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international troops from the strife torn country in June 2014.
Defence Minister AK Antony today said “We have no military role in Afghanistan, but we are concerned at the fall out after withdrawal of forces and we are taking precautionary steps.”
He refused the share the steps the country has taken. One worry is that so far Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with US that would allow international forces in a supportive role of training and counselling after forces starts withdrawing in June 2014.
In January 2012, Rafale fighter aircraft, produced by French Company Dassault Aviation, was selected as the lowest bidder in the medium-multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal of the Indian Air Force. Valued at some US $ 11 Billion. It is tipped to be the biggest defence deal in the world. The decision was made after a long process that began in 2007. India had selected the Rafale over European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet.
French Rafale fighter aircraft has been the lowest bidder in the medium-multirole combat aircraft deal, which is touted as the "mother of all deals" and is expected to cost India more than Rs 60,000 crore.
Despite the issue of complaints Antony asserted that the negotiations in the deal were still progressing. He said the Government was making headway in the deal and taking all the possible care in the process to ensure that there are no loose ends.
The financial condition of the government was not good and "there is no money for this. Almost all the budget has been spent. Many other projects are also in the pipeline," he said.
On being asked about back plan and whether the Government would buy more Su-30MKI combat aircraft from Russia if the deal with the French aircraft manufacturer did not work out, Antony said "The MMRCA will materialise next year."
Commenting on the ceasefire violations between India and Pakistan at the Line of Control, Antony said "After the talks ( between DGMO’s), there has been a dive in the number of such incidents but the real test will be in the summer months”.
On accidents involving Naval warships AK Antony said today he has asked the Navy to follow procedures and take corrective measures to avoid such accidents. "It is a matter of serious concern.. They are in the process of taking corrective actions and see that these kind of incidents do not take place in future”.
Indigenization is the mantra
Defence Minister said efforts are being made to accelerate the pace of indigenization in defence sector and the Government was encouraging joint public-private participation in defence sector, while thrust is also being given to the private sector to make a far more meaningful and substantive contribution.
A regular review of the Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) was being carried out with certain objectives in mind among which balancing the competing requirements of expediting procurement, developing a robust base for indigenous defence sector and to adhere to the highest standards of transparency, probity and public accountability are some of them.
In the latest Defence Procurement Procedures approved in 2013, he said emphasis have been laid upon to provide a boost to Indian defence industry both in public and private sector by according preference to the ‘Buy’ (Indian), Buy and Make (Indian) categories of acquisitions.
The latest Defence Offset Guidelines articulates the key objectives of the policy document, besides adding some new features and modifying some of the earlier provisions.