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Chopper deal: Jaswant backs NDA decision

Posted on Feb 14, 07:13PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Feb 14 : Amid growing political blame game over the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh backed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's decision to change the chopper deal norms in 2003.

The former Defence Minister said the decision was taken for 'good reason' and also defended the then National Security Advisor (NSA) Late Brajesh Mishra.

"That's true that technical parameters were changed during that time. I don't see why there is so much excitement as there was a plausible and good reason. The original proposal emerged in 2000 and the Air Force had said that helicopters for VVIP movements ought to be able to go up to 18000 feet," Singh told CNN-IBN.

"When it came to the Cabinet Committee of Security, the National Security Advisor very rightly suggested that a single vendor proposal would be improper," he said.

Pertinently, ex-Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi had earlier claimed that Mishra had suggested changes in technical parameters.

Reacting to Tyagi's claims, Singh said: "He (Mishra) did no wrong by doing that."

Speaking on the scam, Tyagi earlier told CNN-IBN: "When the requirements were made out, the height decided was 18,000 feet, subsequently we found that only one particular helicopter which met this requirement, because there was only one, we could have still bought, if there is only one of its kind. One problem was the government is always charry about handling a single vendor situation."

"Mr Brajesh Mishra who was then the NSA wrote to say that this helicopter doesn't meet the SPG's requirement and since there is no other helicopter available at this height, we need to change the requirements and it was then suggested, the height be changed," he said.

Italian investigators have alleged that Tyagi was bribed by Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica to swing the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers in favour of the company.

Tyagi, however, denied the charges.

Defence minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday said the Indian government was awaiting a report from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers before taking action.

"We have blacklisted six companies in the past out of those, four are biggest. We don't fear how big they are. Whoever is found guilty will have to pay the price. Nobody will be spared," Antony said.

However, the minister said there would be no "jumping to conclusions" and so the government would wait for the probe report.

On Tuesday, the Indian government ordered a CBI probe into the AugustaWestland deal for 12 VVIP choppers.

Italian police arrested Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi in Rome for alleged bribes paid in order to secure the deal.

"Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, was arrested on Tuesday in relation to a probe into international corruption," Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"Orsi is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale to the Indian government of 12 helicopters produced by AgustaWestland, which Finmeccanica controls," it said.