A K Antony stressed a number of times Thursday that his ministry had used up 92 per cent of the defence budget and major acquisitions may have to wait till the next fiscal. The Defence Minister was addressing the media after inaugurating Defexpo 2014 at Pragati Maidan here.
“There is no money left. All major projects have to wait till April 1,” Antony said.
The statement is significant considering that the armed forces are struggling with obsolete equipment.
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On his continuation as the Defence Minister, he said, “I am happy with my performance.”
Facing criticism over delayed procurements and scandals in defence deals, Antony said action against malpractices “might have caused a delay but overall, it has helped streamline the system and a strong signal has been sent to the industry that everybody in defence procurement will get equal opportunity if products are good and prices low”.
“There will be no compromise on transparency. The guilty will be punished,” he said.
Clearly visible throughout his presence at Defexpo was emphasis on indigenisation, as Antony recalled revised offset guidelines, additional priority to “buy Indian” and “buy and make Indian” in the defence procurement policy as achievements of his government to provide a “robust structure for encouraging Indian defence industry”.
On the multi-billion-dollar medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal, the Defence Minister said there was “delay” but “negotiations are going on, because of shortage of funds, the deal will finalise in the next financial year”.
There have been concerns regarding life-cycle costs of the MMRCA deal in which French fighter Rafale has been short-listed as the lowest bidder. Rafale was finalised for the 126-aircraft deal from among six contenders in January 2012, but the contract is yet to head towards a closure.