Defence ministry headed by AK Antony is divided over the vexed issue of blacklisting AgustaWestland and its group companies to do business in India. Official believe that the move can seriously impede several ongoing defence modernisation projects worth thousand of crores.
After canceling Rs. 3600 crore deal to procure 12 VVIP helicopters from Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland, the defence minister is in the process of consulting the law ministry and CBI on the issue of blacklisting AgustaWestland and its group companies in the defence sector. If this were to happen, other major defence modernisation projects would be drastically affected because in many of them Finmeccanica is the source company, according a senior defence ministry official.
While another top defence ministry official told dna that New Delhi fears several of its key defence modernisation projects would crash-land and would lead to legal tangle in case it blacklists Finmeccanica.
But AK Antony has been maintaining the a tough stand against tainted defence firms at the cost of inordinate delays in procurement process. "We have to take strong actions to end corruption and malpractices in the defence procurement process. Sometimes this may lead to delays and setbacks but this helps us to streamline the system," Antony said.
In fact, the defence ministry has already shown its intentions by keeping AgustaWestland's parent company Finmeccanica out of the Defexpo show along with its other group companies including Selex, Alenia Armacchi, Oto Malera and WASS.
Key projects like country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (INS Vikrant) to Rs. 17,000 crore IAF’s Mirage fleet upgrade could get detailed in the event of blacklisting. Besides, various on-going military projects of communication and radar systems for army, navy and IAF, Defence Research Development Organisation(DRDO)’s pet project of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, would be affected as the fall out of the barring Finmeccanica and its subsidiary companies to do business in India. “Our defence modernisation programme is going to get a major hit once the government puts blanket ban on Finmeccanica and its subsidiary firms. It is a major cause of concern for the security forces,”said an official.
A sources told dna that India’s prestigious 40,000 tonne Indigenous Aircraft Carrier under construction at Cochin Shipyard too would face a setback, as Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex ES has been awarded the contract for supplying air surveillance radars for this warship.
India’s Mirage fleet upgrade too will be hit, as MBDA is the supplier of weapons for the project worth Rs.17,547 crore.
Among weapons package to be supplied for these two aircraft fleet are the MICA and Meteor air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground Shadow and maritime superiority Exocet missiles. Among the projects that could get derailed in the event of blacklisting are:
* India’s Mirage fleet upgrade.
* Indigenous Aircraft Carrier’s air surveillance radars.
* DRDO has ordered ultra lightweight radars from SELEX ES for their UAV-RUSTOM.
* Bharat Electronics Limited, a defence PSU, has ongoing contracts with SELEX ES for military communication programs for army, navy.
* Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, ongoing contracts with SELEX ES for radars and other military communication programs for navy.
* Airport Authority of India’s contracts for civil aviation air traffic control systems with Selex Ex.