April 22, 2021
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Descending heights
MoD scared to move forward with chopper deal

After bribery allegations surfaced in VVIP chopper deal, Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is scared to take a bold decision and once again heading for the cancellation of 197 chopper deal after failing to forge a consensus over the issue of meeting stipulated parameters laid out by the Army Headquarters where both vendors have not met key specifications during the trial.

Indeed, there are allegations that Army Headquarters had reportedly created such stringent parameters probably keeping an eye that the whole game could suit to a specific vendor, a third vendor which is now out of the race.

Army’s technical specifications put out in the RFP are too ambitious as there is no chopper existing in the world market which can fulfill such an astounding requirement.

Now the whole confusion is if the MoD goes ahead after the Technical Oversight Committee report which has already made suggestions that the MoD should lower the parameters so that Army can get choppers which the force badly needs, there is a fear it may create controversy.

At the same time, the MoD wants to acquire choppers for the Army under emergency purchase as deployment in the Line of Actual Control has widened due to rising tension with China and former Army Chief General V K Singh had also written a controversial letter citing lack of preparedness.

Now, the question is will the MoD take a bold decision to clear the 197 chopper deal?  

But for that it has to follow certain trajectory and meet Indian bureaucratic necessities. After scandals which have tarnished the image of MoD time and again despite UPA-II’s brand honesty promotional voucher for defence deals, no bureaucrat is willing to take a decision on chopper deal.

As a result, the chopper deal issue is now referred to Defence Acquisition Council for review and the DAC will look through the recommendations of the Technical Oversight Committee in a fresh mind.

While Antony is scared to take a decision on the most pressing issue of 197 chopper, the VVIP chopper deal was cleared on a priority basis and the payment was cleared within a record short time of 10 days.

The VVIP chopper deal which is under probe by the Italian authorities has taken place under the brand honesty of Defence Minister A K Antony who has successfully credited himself as the most so-called honest Defence Minister of Independent India.

Although it will take time to bring down the façade that has been created with the handful of cronies, the 197 chopper deal is going to suffer a set back if DAC decides to adopt a wait and watch style strategy.    

As words could be cheap and honest image could be deceptive, it is record third time the chopper deal is all set to go for cancellation and in this case the Army will have to wait for another two years before anything could be decided.

Since the Defence Minister has surrendered his discretionary power to intervene in the issue as a matter of tactic, probably being fearful of UPA’s scandal ridden governance of ‘mango people in banana republic’, there is little hope that the whole chopper can be salvaged at this stage.

Indian government in 2004 had floated the requirement for light helicopters and after retendering on two occasions only Kamov and Eurocopter are now in the fray.