by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) June 24, 2014
India's new defence minister promised Tuesday to speed up the procurement of military equipment after a series of corruption scandals under the last government brought deals to a near standstill.
Following a meeting with top naval commanders in New Delhi, Arun Jaitley said the "slow pace of acquisition" was a matter of concern for his government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"There are several decisions in the pipeline and I think there is a good case for these processes to be expedited," he said.
"The effort of the government would be to work in that direction," Jaitley, who is also the finance minister, told reporters.
Jaitley said that significant funds must be provided to "those in the defence of the country", hinting that a lack of resources would not stand in the way of acquisitions when he unveils his first budget next week.
India is one of the world's biggest arms importers but the collapse of a series of defence deals during the last decade of rule by the centre-left Congress party years has left the military short of key equipment.
In January, India cancelled a deal with the Italian-owned AgustaWestland to buy 12 luxury helicopters amid allegations the company paid bribes to win the 556-million-euro ($753 million) contract.
India's military has grown increasingly frustrated at the state of its equipment as it looks to defend itself against an increasingly assertive China and from its arch rival Pakistan.
The navy in particular needs an urgent revamp, with barely a half of its fleet of 14 submarines operational at any one time because of regular repairs.
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