Thursday, August 30, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

MoD to examine Italian AJT
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29
Negotiations with the British Aerospace struck over the price of the Hawk Advance Jet Trainer (AJT), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is likely to send a team of experts to Italy next month to have a look at the trainer being produced by Armacchi.

Sources in the Defence Ministry said with negotiations with the British Aerospace unlikely to move further the officials here have already starting looking at other options to fulfil the long standing demand of the IAF at an early date.

The MoD officials have already had a look at the MiG-AT trainer and are now likely to have a closer look at the Armacchi trainer. A team of experts is likely to visit Italy in the coming weeks to analyse the aircraft and also if possible have initial discussions with the Armacchi officials on the offer being made by them.

Both MiG-MAPO and the Armacchi had approached the Indian Government to have a look at the trainers being produced by them after the officials negotiating with the British Aerospace were unable to reach anywhere on the issue of price.

The interest in the trainers has become more as the two companies are not only offering the aircraft at a price which is likely to suit the Indian pocket but also because they are ready to incorporate features as per the demands of the IAF.

The sources, however, indicated that the team was going to have a look at Armacchi also because there were reports of some internal trouble at MiG-MAPO and wanted to have another option in hand also.

The Defence Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, had also yesterday indicated that India was likely to look at other AJTs being put on offer. In his reply in the Rajya Sabha the minister although did not say that the deal with the British Aerospace was being called off but did admit that India was not ready to be dictated by a single vendor.

The minister said the Price Negotiation Committee was yet to come out with its recommendations and it would take sometime as “we have got into a single vendor syndrome” on the project. While criticising the previous government for delaying the setting up of the Price Negotiation Committee despite the project having been cleared in late eighties, Mr Jaswant Singh very clearly said, “it was unwise to be dictated upon by one vendor”.

The sources said it was now clear that India was unlikely to go ahead with the deal with the British Aerospace as the company was offering the trainer at a much higher cost. Apparently the Indian officials are not happy with the price being quoted by the British company for the various components and sub-components to be fitted in the Hawk as per Indian requirements.

Incidentally, the Russians, with whom India has a long standing defence relationship, are producing the MiG-AT in collaboration with France, who is also emerging as India’s strategic partner, particularly in the nuclear field. The French are supplying the Larzac engines for the trainer which give the plane high manoeuvrability.

The Union government had cleared the proposal for purchasing 66 AJTs and after evaluating various trainer aircraft available then. At that time the British Hawk had been shortlisted as the one meeting IAF’s requirements. As per the initial agreement the delivery of the planes was to start between 24 to 36 months after signing of the contract.

However, several months have elapsed since the final selection with problems arising on the price of the British Hawk. The MoD is now expected to seal a contract for the AJTs after seeing the presentations from the Russian and Italian manufacturers.


Indo-Australian strategic talks today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29
In an event of immense strategic importance, the first Indo-Australia strategic dialogue is going to be held here tomorrow, signifying the emerging importance of India in international affairs.

The thrust of this dialogue will be to remove Australia’s misgivings over New Delhi’s nuclear programme, and India’s naval expansion in the Indian Ocean, official sources said today. The dialogue is taking place shortly after India announced its decision to set up a tri-service strategic command in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Major international powers like the USA, China, Japan and France have already started the process of strategic dialogue with India. With Russia, India has gone a step further as New Delhi and Moscow have entered into a strategic partnership.

The one-day dialogue with Australia, scheduled to be held in South Block tomorrow, also signifies normalisation of relations between New Delhi and Canberra which had suffered a setback by that country’s prompt and hard reaction after the May 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests by India. Australia had post haste withdrawn its defence attache from its embassy here, prompting a similar reaction from New Delhi. However, the two countries’ defence attaches have since taken over in each other’s embassies.

Australia’s Assistant Secretary for International Security, Bill Patterson, arrived here today. The Indian side would be led by Mr Sheelkant Sharma, Joint Secretary (Disarmament).

Officials of the Ministry of Defence would also be participating in the dialogue.

Australia has repeatedly voiced its concern over India’s nuclear programme and feels that India has “long-term expansionist designs”. Indian Navy’s projects for another aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine have buttressed this feeling.

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