In his first major decision after taking over as defence minister, Manohar Parrikar has scrapped a Rs 6,000-crore deal to buy eight mine counter-measure vessels from South Korea. The move comes amid allegations that the firm shortlisted to supply the minesweepers had hired middlemen to swing things in its favour.
HT was the first to report on October 14 that the controversial deal would be cancelled. This comes 11 months after India terminated a Rs 3,727-crore VVIP chopper deal mired in corruption allegations. Middlemen aren’t allowed in the Indian defence sector.
Parrikar had earlier said several defence deals were stuck due to lobbying, vested interest and kickbacks. He will on Saturday chair his maiden meeting of the defence acquisition council.
After taking over on November 10, Parrikar had said he would ensure transparency and speed in the arms procurement process.
The decision to scrap the deal will hurt the navy as its minesweeping capabilities are at an all-time low and a fresh tender will add to the force’s agonising wait — the procurement will be delayed by five to six years.
South Korean shipyard Kangnam Corporation was to supply two minesweepers to the navy, while the remaining six vessels were to be built by Goa Shipyard Limited through technology transfer.
These vessels are used for keeping sea lanes mine-free to protect the country’s warships as well as clearing minefields near enemy shores to facilitate offensive action.