Talking to mediapersons at 'Defexpo 14' here, Antony said that modernization of forces was the government’s top priority.

He said taking action on malpractices and complaints of corruption might have created some delay in procurement but overall it has helped us.

"Action to streamline the system sends a clear signal to industry in India and outside that in area of defence everybody will get equal opportunity if products are good and prices are low. No need of lobbying," he said.

Antony said the government was giving all support to the modernization plans of the armed forces.

"We are living in volatile surroundings. Security situation is not very pleasant. Armed forces have to be ready 24 X 7. Modernization (is) top priority (of the government)," he said.

Answering a query on middlemen, Antony said the government may not have fully succeeded but had ‘cleaned up the system to a large extent’.

The Defence Minister said the vendors were convinced that there was no political decision in defence procurements.

"Decisions are on merit. (There is) clear cut signal...In India (if you) try to do mischief that will be dangerous," he said.

Answering a query about action against former air chief SP Tyagi, who is among the people being probed by the CBI in VVIP chopper deal, Antony said that punishment was not decided by the probe agency.

"The (CBI) inquiry is going on smoothly. It is in advanced stage," he said.

Antony said another investigation was being done in the deal in Italy.

The Defence Ministry has cancelled bookings of AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica from defence exhibition as the two companies were "under investigation" in the now-cancelled Rs 3,600 crore deal to supply choppers for VVIP use.  

The Defence Ministry had last month scrapped its contract with AgustaWestland to supply 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force for ‘breach of pre-contract integrity pact and the agreement’.

The deal with AgustaWestland - the British subsidiary of Italian firm Finmeccanica - was scrapped more than a year after reports that two top officials of the company allegedly paid bribes to bag the contract for the chopper maker.

Answering another query, Antony said China had not been invited as an exhibitor to Defexpo but its delegation had been invited.

(Agencies)

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