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Let transparency be part of arsenal

In perhaps the first major defence acquisition since the NDA government of Narendra Modi came to power, Arun Jaitley, union minister for defence and finance cleared the blocks for projects worth a whopping Rs 80,000 crore. The highlight of this arrangement has been that six submarines will now be built indigenously at a cumulative cost of Rs 50,000 crore rather than being sourced from international players.

This is a major incentive for the nation and could be a follow up after the success of INS Arihant: the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine that was launched for sea trials by August 2013.

Although INS Arihant had been developed under the US$ 2.9 billion Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project, this time around DRDO will have to go solo. However, India has been laggard with its defence production capabilities. It becomes mandatory here to talk about the Hindustan Aeronautics’ Light Combat Aircraft programme which began as early as 1969. Till this date the 1983 commissioned Tejas, the aircraft which would have been an outcome of this exercise and should have replaced the ageing Mig-21’s is under production and the March 2015 date of induction looks all set for another relapse.  In all, it has cost the Indian exchequer an astonishing Rs 55,000 crore and even after 30 years of it being in production it still has major issues with its design and performance.    

Even the first INS Arihant took nothing less than 15 years to finally being unveiled in the sea. The others are expected to join its ranks by 2023-2024, an inordinate jump of 25 years since 1998. In the fray also are 8,356 Israeli anti-tank guided missiles which will be priced at Rs 3,200 crores and 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircrafts which will be purchased at a cost of Rs 1,850 crores.

It becomes pertinent here to note that the NDA government in all probability wouldn’t have forgotten the infamous Tatra trucks and AgustaWestland deals wherein the previous UPA government had to face the opposition’s ire at reports emerging of alleged kickbacks being offered through middlemen in lieu of confirmation of the deals even when the cost to the exchequer was significantly inflated. Centre must ensure that it is in complete control of the defence deals it is a signatory to. It is also important for the government to make certain that it has complete knowledge of what it may be acceding to.  
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