Another six months for 126 combat planes deal: Antony

February 17th, 2012 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) India could take another six months to sign a contract for 126 combat planes for which it is holding cost negotiations with France’s Dassault Aviation, the lowest bidder, that is offering its Rafale aircraft.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters here Friday that the over $10.4-billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal signing could take that long as it had to pass through at least eight stages from cost negotiations to cabinet approval.

He also noted that the proposal for buying Swiss Pilatus PC-7 turbo trainer aircraft too was going back and forth from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to the finance ministry due to clarifications that were sought to ensure a controversy-free deal for 75 planes for training rookie Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots.

“It is a long process and it will take six months. We have to pass through eight stages from cost negotiations, which has already started for procurement of Rafale…after cost negotiations, it will go to defence ministry, where there are four stages, then to an independent monitor appointed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner, to the finance ministry, national security secretariat and then to CCS,” Antony said when asked about the MMRCA deal.

Earlier this month, India had announced that Rafale was cheaper compared to European consortium EADS Cassidian’s Eurofighter Typhoon, after which there have been reports that the latter will come back into the race by reducing its prices.

Antony said at every stage of the procurement, the government will scrupulously scrutinise the proposal. He said there will be transparency in the process through out with everybody including the vendors kept in the loop.

“Nobody can corrupt the Indian system. We will not tolerate that. Everybody should be clear on that,” he added.

On the Pilatus deal, Antony said all processes in the proposal from qualitative requirements to Defence Acquisition Council approval, to trials of the competing aircraft, and cost negotiations were over.

“But at every stage we want to be absolutely clear that the process is going through as per the defence procurement procedure and there is absolute transparency. So discussions are going on with the finance ministry.

“It is not a problem…it is part of the process….because the government is very particular that everything is clinched after clarifying all the issues so that future controversy can be avoided,” he added.

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