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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Army Chief General VK Singh's letter leak an anti-national act | Antony

New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday said that the three defence chiefs enjoyed the government's confidence while refusing to outline the Centre's position on Army Chief General VK Singh. Antony called the leak of the Army Chief's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the state of preparedness of the Army to wage a war an anti-national act while addressing a press conference at the Defence Expo in New Delhi and added that strict action would be taken against those involved in its leak.

"All the three defence chief enjoy the government's confidence. All the three defence chiefs are working today. I am comfortable, and I am not in an embarrassing situation," replied Antony when asked about the controversy surrounding General Singh.

Antony admitted that the Army Chief had complained to him about a Lieutenant General and he had told him (General Singh) to take action if there was any specific allegation of corruption against the concerned officer.

"I do not know of the letter General VK Singh has sent to CBI. I do not have any knowledge on the complaint of the Lieutenant General. I read it in the newspapers. The Army Headquarters had sent a proposal to make Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag an Army Commander," said Antony on the Army Chief seeking an investigation against Lieutenant General Suhag.

"My first priority is to find out who leaked the letter. I appeal to you not to demoralise our soldiers. We should maintain the prestige of armed forces. The prestige of armed forces should be protected. Defence has no relation with politics," said Antony while asking the media not to damage the image of the Indian Army.

"The Intelligence Bureau has started the enquiry into letter leak. We will act after receiving the Intelligence Bureau report and strongest action under the Indian law will be taken against the person responsible for the letter leak," he added.

Assuring zero tolerance to corruption in defence contracts, he said that six companies have been blacklisted for 10 years by the government. The banned entities included four foreign companies and two Indian companies and the action against them was taken following recommendations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

"If we find anything wrong, we will not hesitate to cancel the contract at any stage. There will be zero tolerance to corruption. We have cancelled many major contracts following corruption charges. We have very strong safeguards on integrity form. For any contract beyond Rs 100 crore integrity pact is a must. In the integrity pact, strongest action will be taken against anybody found to be involved in malpractice. We will protect our interest and money," he said.

"Delays will be there as we have to inquire into complaints of corruption. If there is corruption, then the contract has to be cancelled. We are slow on modernisation as we are aware of corruption allegations. We want to ensure that there is no corruption. We are continuously reviewing our defence preparedness and we are increasing the procurement of ammunition for the Army," said the Defence Minister.

Antony said that almost 40 per cent of the armament and equipments for the military was now being manufactured in India. The Defence Minister stated that India was moving towards indigenisation to meet the needs of the military.

"Indigenisation is gaining speed and will become faster in coming years. We have to move cautiously. Our aim is to encourage indigenous technology. In areas like radars and missiles India is moving forward," said Antony.

Pointing out there has been 18 per cent increase in the Defence Budget for 2012-13, Antony said the military needed more money but there are some constraints too.

He said that private sectors companies were being involved in production of defence equipments but added that foreign direct investment in defence was a sensitive matter and the government cannot increase it at the moment.

"At the moment it is better to confine FDI to 26 per cent," he said.

Antony said that modernisation and procurement of defence equipments could not be taken in isolation and the security scenario had to be looked at while adding that India had a sensitive security surrounding.

He also said that the current offset policy incorporated into defence contracts with foreign companies need to be expanded as the present policy would not be able to absorb the ongoing offset amount.


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