New Delhi: Ruling out any question of political interference in military acquisitions, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday promised a level playing field for all firms in defence deals and asked them to refrain from corrupt practices.

"I want to tell vendors that in defence acquisition, there is no question of political decisions," Antony said, stressing that decisions related to defence acquisitions wouldnever be based on political considerations.

Addressing an international seminar on defence acquisition, he said quality and price would be the only criterion for buying equipment from such firms, adding "Don't try to corrupt our people... Quality and price are the only criteria in terms of acquisition. All the vendors will get level playing field."

The Defence Minister also asked the sellers of defence equipment to inform the Ministry about the "corrupt and greedy persons" they come across during such deals.

"In an effort to modernise our defence forces, we are not willing to waste even one rupee of our tax payers money to corruption," Antony said.

On participation of the private sector in the acquisition process, he said, "There is a lot of space for private and public sectors to coexist. In the years to come, both public and private sectors would have to work together to meet the country's demand."

Commenting on the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), the Minister said, "We want to strengthen defence industrial base. The offset policy has far more potential than that has been tapped. Offsets need a greater thrust to enhance research and development, logistic capabilities and defence infrastructure."

Army in Naxal areas only for training

The Army was venturing into the Naxal-infested areas of Chhattisgarh only for training and had been provided with guidelines for self-defence while operating in the region, said Defence Minister A K Antony while speaking to reporters here on Tuesday.

"We are there not to fight or engage Naxals. At the same time, government has given them (Army) Standard Operating Procedures for self-defence," Antony said, stressing that the purpose of locating Army units in the Narayangarh ranges of Chhattisgarh was not to engage Naxals.

"Army is now having presence in some of the areas where they were not present earlier. But it is going into these areas purely on professional grounds. They want more training grounds (as) they are short of firing ranges," he said.

The Minister was responding to queries on Rules of Engagement which were sought by the Army before stationing its troops in the forest area of Narayangarh ranges.

Over the last two and half decades, the number of field firing ranges available to the Army has shrunk from 104 to 40. The scenario is expected to worsen as the notifications of more such ranges are nearing their expiry dates.