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India seeks details from UK on VVIP helicopter deal

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Defence minister on Saturday said India had sought details from the UK in connection with corruption allegations in the with Italy and “strong action” would be taken in case any foul play was detected in the procurement process.

“The contract is with a particular company based in the UK. We have also requested MEA () to take up the case with UK. We are making all efforts to find the truth in media reports,” he said when asked about the progress in the case.

The minister was interacting with reporters on the sidelines of an IDSA awards ceremony.

Antony said the government was making “serious and sincere” efforts to find out the truth in the allegations levelled in the media reports.

“We have already written to the Italian government through the MEA about the media reports to get the details whether any middlemen are involved or any Indian entities are involved as this is not permitted in our laws,” he said.

The minister said the Italian Ambassador to India had also been conveyed the “seriousness” India gave to the issue and was asked to provide details at the earliest.

“If there is any iota of truth in media reports, if there is any foul play or mischief we will take strong action,” Antony said.

The allegations surfaced recently when media reports suggested that two people had been arrested in Switzerland for allegedly paying kickbacks to secure the ^560-million Euro Indian chopper deal for 12 AW-101 helicopters.

Asked if a Central Bureau of Investigation () probe would be ordered into these allegations, he said, “First, let us get facts and details from the UK and Italy and then we can see what can be done.”

On reports suggesting that his predecessor had changed the qualitative requirements of the VVIP chopper deal, Antony said the staff requirements for procurement of equipment were prepared by the Services headquarters. Asked about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Antony said violence levels had come down but increasing infiltration attempts was a “matter of concern”.

“Attempts of infiltrations are not reducing but increasing and that is a matter of concern. That is why I said we cannot take a decision on AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act) in a hasty manner,” the minister stated.

A few days back, Antony had said violence levels in the terrorism-affected state had come down but the infiltration levels were on a rise.

To a query on Siachen, he said, “Our stand on the issue is very clear. There is no change in it and we are not for its (Siachen’s) demilitarisation.” The minister was asked if the government was considering the recommendations of a group to remove armed forces from the world’s highest battlefield.

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