NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Defence has sought answers from the Army on the leak of the trial report of ultra light howitzers as an embarrassed A K Antony on Tuesday sought to reassure that acquisitions would not be allowed to be manipulated.
This is the second case in recent months when documents relating to a high-ticket deal came out of the realm of secrecy exposing vulnerability of acquisition process in which billions are at stake. In the first case, the MoD itself was responsible when a file relating to IAF’s multi-role combat jet contract was found roadside. Though inquiry revealed the file did not contain any confidential information that could have jeopardised an estimated $11 billion deal, it established that rules of handling sensitive documents were flouted.
The Defence Minister has now asked its official to be more careful. The MoD officials said howitzer acquisition process would come to a halt until conclusion of Army’s high level probe. This meant yet another setback for Army’s plan to add new artillery to compensate for gun drought since Bofors scandal broke out
In January, Army chief V K Singh had hoped that 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers, manufactured by BAE Systems and offered through the foreign military sales by the US for $647 million, would be acquired within this year. The Army officials tried to explain that the five pages from a comprehensive trial report were not enough to give an impression about the results.
During the trials, Indian ammunition was fired from the guns, said officials. What has come to light is the fact that by circulating unsigned papers, an attempt was being made to get the contract scrapped. A similar attempt was made around three months ago when some media persons received unsigned documents claiming that the M777 deal should not be finalised as the gun was not required by the Army.
The government had decided to take the US offer of direct sale after another vendor, Singapore Technologies, was black-listed on allegations of corruption.
Howitzer deal put on hold till Army files repor | Howitzer deal | AK Antony | Indian Express