No politics in deciding combat plane winner: Antony

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 11, 2011 14:40 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 11 (IANS) Geo-political considerations will not play a role in India deciding the winner of a contract worth more than its originally estimated $10.4 billion for 126 combat jets, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Friday.

He was responding to queries from reporters on the sidelines of an event at the Institute for Defence Studies and Anlyses (IDSA) here on the matter.

'There will be no political consideration in defence procurement and that is our stand which everybody knows,' Antony said.

Six aircraft were origianlly in the fray and the number has now been narrowed down to two -- European consortium EADS Cassidian's Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Dassault Rafale. In the process, jets from the US, Russia and Sweden have been eliminated.

India is now in the final stage of finalising the winner, with the commercial bids of being opened at the defence ministry's South Block headquarters last Friday.

The IAF needs the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to replace its aging fleet of Soviet-origin MiG-21s.

'As far as the ministry was concerned, defence procurement is strictly professional and (goes by) price. Technical evaluation is 101 percent professional and then after that comes the price,' Antony said, explaining the procedure being followed.

While EADS Cassidian has the backing of four governments -- Germany, which is spear-heading the campaign in India; Britain; Italy and Spain, Dassault has the might of the French government behind it in the tender, which was issued in August 2007.

The defence ministry, while opening the commercial bids Nov 4, had indicated that the Rs.42,000 crore($10.4 billion) 'Acceptance of Neccesity' for budgetary allocation may 'significantly increase' in view of the cost escalation due to the four-year period taken to finalise the winner and in view of the rupee weakening against the US dollar.

The defence ministry is now processing the bids to figure out the two firms' offers of life-cycle costs, technology transfer cost, offset proposals before arriving at the winner of the contract, described by some as 'mother of all deals'.

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