The latest findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have given the Left enough ammunition to attack the UPA over US-sold equipment and a flowering Indo-US military romance.
After CAG’s criticism of the government over the acquisition of the “ageing 36-year-old USS Trenton” (now INS Jalashwa) for $50.53 million, the CPI(M) on Saturday demanded a probe into the “dubious” purchase made without a “physical assessment”. The CAG, in a report tabled in Parliament on Friday, said clauses in the contract placed “restrictions on the offensive deployment of the warship”.
Besides, the US officials can inspect the warship under the “end-user monitoring clause”.
“The country would like to know why the government is going in for such defence deals with the United States? Is it due to the pressure of the Bush administration,” asked a statement issued by the politburo.
Terming the Trenton acquisition imprudent, the CAG said the warship had outlived most of its service life before joining the Indian Navy fleet.
The Left’s latest outburst typifies its resistance to warming of Indo-US military ties. American manufacturers Boeing IDS and Lockheed Martin are competing with global rivals for India’s $10 billion tender for 126 fighter jets. New Delhi recently decided to buy six C-130J military transport planes worth over $1 billion.
The CAG report has also underlined how the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s repeated failures are eroding its credibility. Even after guzzling Rs 165 crore and squandering 27 years, the efforts of DRDO and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to develop a pilotless target aircraft (PTA) for the air force’s fighter training have come to naught.
The CAG said weapon training had been seriously affected, leaving the IAF at the mercy of foreign vendors. The IAF requires PTA to train air and ground crew in air-to-air and surface-to-air combat.
According to the CAG report, “sub-optimal performance” of three PTAs (Lakshya-I) delivered to the IAF drove it to refuse the remaining 12. The DRDO has been held responsible for pushing ahead with limited series production of the PTA despite a prototype not meeting the IAF’s requirements.
The report said the clearance given by the Defence Ministry for bulk production, without evaluating performance, illustrated severe flaws in development of technology and the production programme.
The IAF has withdrawn its commitment to the PTA-II programme in favour of imports. It requires about 158 airborne targets for missile firing and weapon training.