Indian Army promises transparency in defence deals

March 10th, 2008 - 7:52 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) The Indian Army Monday assured the country’s public and private sectors of “total transparency” and “a level-playing field” in purchases of military hardware. The assurance came from Indian Army deputy chief Lt. Gen. Z.U. Shah during his keynote address at the second interactive Army-Industry Meeting on Modernisation of the Armed Forces organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) here.

Shah also outlined the core areas where the participation of industry was vital.

These included improvements in night fighting capabilities, developing precision guided ammunition where each round would mean a kill, and improvement in battlefield command and control systems, Shah said.

This apart, Indian industry needed to upgrade its capabilities for manufacturing missiles and all-weather battle that are still being imported.

Responding favourably to the industry’s demand for its participation in weapons procurement at the categorization stage as recommended by a high-powered committee, Shah said: “We will find a way to make that happen.

“We will put the exact equipment required by the army on the net so that industry knows well in advance what is expected of it,” he added.

The Indian armed forces are expected to purchase a whopping Rs.2,400 billion worth of equipment over the next five years as they aggressively modernise.

The Indian Army is expected to account for the bulk of these purchases. Currently, nearly 70 percent of the armed forces’ hardware is imported - and this situation is likely to continue for a while.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Feb 29 hiked the defence expenditure for fiscal 2008-09 by 10 percent to Rs.1,056 billion ($26.5 billion) - and promised even more funds if these were required.

Of the total allocation, Rs.480 billion has been earmarked for the purchase of hardware and Rs.579 billion for the three services and for R&D.

Of the three services, the 1.1 billion-strong Indian Army expectedly got the lion’s share of Rs.362 billion, followed by the Indian Air Force (Rs.108 billion) and the Indian Navy (Rs.74 billion).

“I have assured the raksha mantri (defence minister) that more money would also be provided if necessary, especially for capital expenditure,” Chidambaram added while delivering his budget speech in parliament.

Speaking at the interactive session, V.R.S. Natarajan, who heads the state-owned Bharat Earth Movers Ltd, underlined the need for creating Centres of Excellence for the production of weapons and other products for the defence forces.

Suggesting the setting up of special economic zones for defence production units, Natarajan, who heads the FICCI defence committee, called for a consortium approach to enable the development of multiple products to lend flexibility to the manufacturing facilities.

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