India says "too early" to look for foul play in Rafale deal

Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:25am EST
 

By Manoj Kumar and Andrew Osborn

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said on Tuesday it was "too early" to consider the possibility of foul play in a planned $10 billion deal with France's Dassault Aviation for Rafale war planes.

India has threatened to scrap a $750 million deal for a dozen AgustaWestland helicopters after Italian police arrested the former head of parent company Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, last week for allegedly paying bribes to Indian politicians to win the contract.

The Rafale purchase, one of the world's largest defense deals, has come under increased scrutiny in the Indian media because of the Finmeccanica case.

The allegations surrounding the AgustaWestland deal also hung over the visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron to India this week. After meeting his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, Cameron promised to assist India's investigation into the sale of the helicopters, which are manufactured in Britain.

Antony was responding to a question from Reuters at a news conference on whether the government was looking into any possibility of corruption in the deal with Rafale to buy 126 fighter jets, which is in the final stages of negotiation between Dassault and India.

"It is too early," he said, adding that there were many levels of scrutiny in the deal.

"I can assure you one thing, as far as our government is concerned, regarding integrity, transparency, we will not compromise," he said.

"We will go to any extent to take action," he said, if there was any evidence of corruption.   Continued...

 
India's Defence Minister A.K. Antony (C) arrives to address a news conference at BrahMos Aerospace office in New Delhi February 19, 2013. Antony said on Tuesday it was "too early" to consider the possibility of foul play in a planned $10 billion deal with France's Dassault Aviation for Rafale war planes. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal