New Delhi: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh has defended the NDA government's decision to change the chopper deal norms in 2003, saying it was taken for purely professional reasons. "That's true that technical parameters were changed during that time. I don't see why there is so much excitement as there was a plausible and good reason. The original proposal emerged in 2000 and the Air Force had said that helicopters for VVIP movements ought to be able to go up to 18000 feet. When it came to the Cabinet Committee of Security, the National Security Advisor very rightly suggested that a single vendor proposal would be improper."
When asked about former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi's claim about the then NSA Brajesh Mishra having suggested changes in technical parameters, Jaswant Singh said, "He did no wrong by doing that."
This came after former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi dragged in some crucial names including Brajesh Mishra, the former National Security Advisor during the NDA regime into the Italian chopper deal controversy. "When the requirements were made out, the height decided was 18,000 feet, subsequently we found that only one particular helicopter which met this requirement, because there was only one, we could have still bought, if there is only one of its kind. One problem was the government is always charry about handling a single vendor situation. Mr Brajesh Mishra who was then the NSA wrote to say that this helicopter doesn't meet the SPG's requirement and since there is no other helicopter available at this height, we need to change the requirements and it was then suggested, the height be changed," Tyagi said while speaking to CNN-IBN.
However, former Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy denied receiving any letter from the Prime Minister's Office in 2003 on the AgustaWestland chopper deal. "I don't think there was any request for proposal or anything that started in my time. We have been working on VVIP helicopters since 1993," S Krishnaswamy said.
"I am saddened if it's true. The investigation has been ordered and they will go to the depth of it. Time is right that truth must come out and people must be punished whosoever has done wrong," he added. When asked about the alleged involvement of former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi's family members, Krishnaswamy said, "We never met the Tyagi brothers."
Meanwhile, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar has demanded a probe monitored by the Supreme Court. "This whole probe needs to be monitored by the Supreme Court, otherwise this will also be a cover-up operation. Let us understand that both the Bofors and this have common elements in it. Both have Italian connection and middlemen and that is why we need to be more cautious," Javadekar said.
While SP Tyagi named the NSA during Vajpayee's term, the Italian report alleged that 51 million euro kickbacks were paid between 2005 and 2011, during the UPA regime. The kickbacks were paid in the form of monthly remittances disguised as payments for engineering contracts.
Italian officials say at least 21 million euros was paid from 2007 to 2011, making the UPA government accountable, as it was in power. The payments were allegedly made through two companies - IDS India and IDS Tunisia - and no taxes were paid on the same.
The report has a detailed list of payments which continued till as late as December 2012. The Rs 3,600 crore deal has also come under the scrutiny of the Enforcement Directorate. It is expected to lodge a criminal case of money laundering to probe the allegations.