New Delhi: With Parliament scheduled to meet in two days, the government is prepping for accusations from the opposition of allowing a helicopter scam to unfold on its watch.
Defence Minister AK Antony said today that details of the CBI investigation commissioned last week into the 4000-crore deal for Italian helicopters will be shared with parliament. But he also warned, "Don't raise a doubt for every purchase. India has a volatile neighbourhood and the Indian military needs to modernize fast."
The minister ruled out his resignation, and pointed out that in recent years, six defence manufacturers had been blacklisted for allegedly misusing middlemen, which illegal in India.
"I am sad, in spite of taking all precautions ... we blacklisted 6 companies for bribery. I thought that will be a warning to everyone. Still, greedy people are working around the world," Mr Antony said.
The contract was signed with AgustaWestland or AW in 2006, when President Pranab Mukherjee was Defence Minister. Last week, Italian investigators arrested the head of AW's parent company, Finmecannica, for paying bribes worth 350 crores in India. The developments in Italy created a firestorm in Delhi.
With national elections scheduled for next year, the government is already battling the perception of intrinsic graft, courtesy a long list of financial scandals in sectors ranging from telecom to coal.
The Italian enquiry says that Indian officials were paid to revise the tender for helicopters to create a virtually bespoke contract for AW. The government has tried to deflect the blame by stating that the changes to the contract were instructed by its predecessor in 2003. But the revisions were authorized in 2006 after Dr Manmohan Singh's coalition came to power, and the deal was signed in 2010.