New Delhi, Jan 11 (IANS) Dismissing as 'nothing earth-shaking', the case of a missing file relating to the $10 billion deal for 126 fighter aircraft, India's air chief said Tuesday this will not adversely impact on the contract, which is expected to be signed later this year.
'The file has got nothing earth-shaking and it has nothing to do with national security. It is not going to affect the deal,' the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, told reporters here on the sidelines of a defence function.
The file dealing with the offsets plans of the six foreign vendors vying for the deal went missing in the last week of December 2010 and was later found by the roadside on Khelgaon Marg in south Delhi.
The incident forced the defence ministry to order a probe into the role of two Indian Administrative Service officers of the defence production department for the lapse.
The tendering process for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), initiated in August 2007, has entered its final phase after the IAF carried out the flight and weapons evaluation of the six fighter planes competing for the contract, described as the 'mother of all deals' because of its huge cost.
US majors Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Boeing's F/A-18 are in the fray along with Russian MiG-RAC's MiG-35, French Dassault's Rafale, Swedish Saab's Gripen and European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon for the high value deal.
The defence ministry has made it mandatory for the winning firm to reinvest 50 percent of the deal's value in the Indian defence industry. The missing file dealt with how the six firms would go about this.
'It was part of the (MMRCA) file dealing with some of the offsets proposals and there were three or four enclosures in the file, which dealt with some comments on the offsets proposals. So, it has nothing to do with the deal as such,' Naik contended.
He said two probes had been ordered into the incident, separately by the defence ministry and the IAF.
'The IAF inquiry is into whether correct procedures in handling confidential documents were followed or not. That inquiry is nearing completion. By and large, the procedures were followed. The file was handed over to the ministry nice and proper,' he noted.
On the ministry's enquiry, Naik said he was not aware of what was happening on that front.
The IAF needs the 126 jets to replace its ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircraft that have earned the sobriquet 'flying coffins' due to the high rate of air crashes in the late 1990s and the early years of this century.