In the backdrop of the recent storm over alleged corruption in defence procurements, Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday said the country's interests were paramount and there will be "no cover up and no vendetta".
"India's interests are our only concern. We are not against any company or country. But India's interests are paramount", he told reporters on the sidelines of a function at the Indian Coast Guard in New Delhi.
Replying to questions in the light of Army Chief General V K Singh's recent claim about alleged attempts to bribe him to favour a sub-standard contract, he said "Corruption will not be tolerated. Even if there is suspicion, a probe will be ordered".
"No cover up, no vendetta is our policy," he said, adding if there is an iota of doubt, it would be looked into.
Antony said efforts were on to make defence procurement more transparent. "When people do not get contracts, there will be criticism and allegations. Some companies do try to influence officials and if it is proved action will be taken."
He said six companies from Israel, Russia, Germany and Singapore and two from India had recently been blacklisted. The Defence acquisition council meeting last week had
sanctioned Annual projects, five-year projects and Long Term Plan from 2012-27, he said.
On reported differences between the Army and the Defence Ministry, he said, "Both are functioning from the same building. There is no communication gap, no confrontation. I function as a joint family. I am very comfortable. I respect the armed forces, their commitment, their dedication. I am proud of it".
Antony said there was so much demand for joint exercises with the Indian defence forces that "everyone wants to do (it) ...
To a query, Antony said the morale of the armed forces had not been hit due to the controversies. The armed forces are willing to sacrifice anything for the nation. "Armed forces are our asset. The country's national security is in their hands," he said.
Antony said the Armed forces are stationed in inhospitable terrain like Siachen Glacier. "I want to give them good training, welfare fund, shelter. I am seeing them as family. We speak very frankly and openly."
On the Defence Parliament Panel summoning the three service chiefs, he pointed out that they had been called last year by the Murli Manohar Joshi committee also. Earlier, speaking at the Coast Guard Investiture ceremony, Antony said 46 remote radar stations would be set up along the Indian coast in the first phase, of which four would be in Kerala. These would be activated as early as possible.
On piracy, Antony said India has demanded that the United Nations take a strong stand on it. "There are some strong forces working behind the pirates," he said.
"We have to take strong efforts to make our waters piracy free. The Coast Guard and Navy are taking efforts in this direction. 'Island watch' a new system has been introduced in Lakshadweep for coastal security," he said.
Antony said the vulnerability of Indian waters and coastline from "inimical forces" and non state actors not only poses new challenges to security but also has an impact on economic growth of the country.
"Peace and security has a direct relation with trade and economy. Post 26/11, government has paid particular attention to enhance coastal security and strengthen the capacity of the Coast Guard," he said.
The minister said ship construction and aircraft production are time consuming processes, involving a long lead time. Coast Guard has 68 ships and boats and 52 aircraft.
"We are trying our best to ensure these capacities are nearly doubled in a few years. The Coast Guard would also have five regional headquarters, 14 district headquarters, 43 stations and 16 air units and a dedicated training academy," he said.
Antony said the vast seas surrounding the country can be safe only when all stakeholders involved in coastal and maritime security - Navy, Coast Guard, Customs, Marine Police, Fisheries Department, Central Industrial Security Force and Ports pool in their efforts and work in tandem.
The centre has approved setting up 18 coastal police stations in two phases in Kerala to strengthen coastal security, he said, adding these would be equipped with fast interceptor boats and function on the concept of 'Hub and Spoke' with CG.
The Coast Guard and Navy would provide security to Kerala fishermen, he said referring to two Italian marines on board 'Enrica Lexie' who shot dead two Indian fishermen on February 15, mistaking them for Somalian pirates.
Before the investiture ceremony, he inspected a ceremonial guard. He also awarded the President's Tatrakshak Medal and Tatrakshak Medal to 30 officers and enrolled CG personnel.
The President's Tatrakshak Medal and Tatrakshak medal are the highest awards presented to Coastguard personnel for displaying exemplary courage, dedication, sincerity and devotion to duty.