Wednesday, October 26, 2005 00:50 IST
NEW DELHI: They have carried it around the world, flown at air shows, even put it on an aircraft carrier as an exhibit and taken it to foreign nations.
India’s desperate efforts to sell its indigenously produced Advanced Light Helicopter may finally take off in a big way in the next few days when defence minister Pranab Mukherjee visits Chile.
Sources indicate that Chile may close the deal for a dozen Dhruv advanced light helicopters from India, and the deal is estimated to be worth over Rs 200 crores. It would also be India’s biggest one time defence export, though it pales before the kind of imports it undertakes for its own armed forces.
Mukherjee is visiting Chile, leading a high level delegation from October 27 to November 1. The visit to Chile is of “special significance to India because Chile has in recent years undertaken an impressive modernisation of its Armed Forces” and “importing weapons, armaments and technologies from various countries,” an official statement said.
The statement also said that the Chilean side has shown “heightened interest in the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd”.
“HAL is confident that it will be in a position to meet the needs of Chilean Armed Forces and Security Services for the supply of ALH,” the statement said.
Chile was one of the first countries to show interest in Dhruv. Last year then air force chief Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy led a high level delegation to Chile to demonstrate the Dhruv’s capabilities. The ALH was picked over American and European competitions because of the fact that it was much cheaper and easier to operate.
With a glass cockpit and avionics integrated with assistance from Israel Aircraft Industries, the helicopter is eyeing several foreign markets. Israel already has a Dhruv on lease, while India’s only sale of the helicopter has been to Nepal.
But India has been pushing Dhruv desperately . In July-August this year, the Indian Navy carried Dhruv on aircraft carrier INS Viraat to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Mauritius Prime Minister Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, who is on an official visit to India now, would be taking a look at Dhruv.
Jaswant hits out: The defence ministry had come to a standstill due to its “viewing every activity, particularly those pertaining to acquisitions, with a malafide intent”, Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh said in Mumbai on Friday.
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