New Delhi: After Army Chief Gen V K Singh's letter on ammunition shortages, Government on Monday said it was working towards a speedy solution to make up the shortfall and made it clear that the Armed Forces were ready to meet any challenge.

Replying to supplementaries during the Question Hour, Defence Minister A K Antony also sought to down play the Army Chief's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying that the three chiefs write such letters to him and the Prime Minister occasionally.

Antony said that after Gen Singh's March letter to the Prime Minister, he had two meetings with the Army Chief, senior Army officers and Defence Ministry officials.

"We found deficiencies in certain areas. There were some deficiencies in General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) by Army, some issues had arisen due to blacklisting of Israel's IMI, Rheinmetall Air Defence of Germany. This had also led to delays," Antony said.

He said the government was taking decisions to speed up procurement.

"Two rounds of discussions have been held. We are working towards a speedy solution. As far as the Armed Forces are concerned, they are ready to face any challenge," he said.

Noting that shortage of equipment was not a one-day affair, Antony pointed out that even during the height of Kargil War the then government was importing ammunition on a day-to-day basis from Russia.

He said that while 558 contracts worth Rs 1.35 lakh crore were awarded for various modernisation schemes under the 10th Plan, the amount increased three times in the 11th Plan.

"Under the 11th Plan, 780 contracts worth Rs 3, 50,430 crore (were signed). Almost three times of the 10th Plan. We also spent almost the entire amount allotted to defence for modernisation. Last year also we spent 99 percent," he said.

COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY IN COPTER PROCUREMENT PROCESS

Antony assured the Lok Sabha that complete transparency would be maintained in the on-going procurement process for 197 helicopters for defence forces after the earlier Eurocopter deal was scrapped.

He informed the Lok Sabha during Question Hour that the Eurocopter deal was cancelled after some anomalies were discovered.

"There was a proposal by the Indian army and the Air Force to procure 197 helicopters from Eurocopter. It was in final stages and the contract was about to be signed. We received some complaints of malpractices in trials," he said.

Antony maintained that he immediately ordered an inquiry and found there was truth in the complaints. "Eurocopter contract was cancelled immediately," he said.

Subsequently, a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for 197 helicopters was issued.

"When the process was in final stages, again we got a series of complaints from MPs.... We decided to appoint a Special Technical Oversight Committee," Antony said. The procurement process for these choppers is on.

"After going through everything, if anything goes wrong we will again cancel it," Antony said.

(Agencies)

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