Sending a strong message against corruption in defence deals, Defence Minister A K Antony said on Wednesday that the government will not hesitate to cancel contracts "if there is malpractice" in procurements. "At times, we found certain manipulations and malpractices. We cannot ignore that so we ruthlessly cancelled big ticket items. In future also, I cannot say if there is malpractice we will take a lenient view," Antony said on the sidelines of a defence communications seminar In New Delhi.
During Antony's previous tenure as Defence Minister, the government had cancelled at least two defence deals, including the Eurocopter light utility helicopter deal last year owing to some malpractices by the original equipment manufacturer. Giving a stern warning to Indian private industries who intend to enter into contracts with foreign suppliers and OEMs, the Defence Minister said; "They should not try to bribe our people". He said, "If they try, they will face the consequences, as also the officers and manufacturers who are in touch with them". Indicating the government's strong conviction in rooting out corruption, Antony said, "We will not be lenient. We will take strong action".
Earlier after inaugurating the seminar, Antony told the army officers and industry representatives that the government would no more tolerate "wheeling dealing or corruption". He said, "We will ruthlessly cancel contracts in the future also as in the past. This is not a happy experience but we will be forced to take such action."
Antony was responding to remarks of Confederation of Indian Industry vice president Hari S Bhartia, who had earlier requested the defence minister to allow more private participation in the defence industry. Referring to the instability in India's neighbourhood, the defence minister said the government wanted to modernise the armed forces which mandated more procurement of defence equipment and weapons.
"The situation (in India's neighbourhood) is not that encouraging. We must be always ready to meet any kind of threat. For that, the armed forces need more modern equipment." Referring to the procurement process, he said: "While we are determined to speed up procurement, we cannot compromise on transparency". Antony strongly favoured indigenisation of defence equipment and to promote self reliance in meeting the requirements of the armed forces.