In a letter that contradicts former defence minister George Fernandes' claim, A P J Abdul Kalam had opposed import of Barak missiles in 1999, months before the National Democratic Alliance government placed an order for its acquisition from Israel.
A day after Fernandes claimed that the deal was okayed by the Government in 2000 after receiving clearance from Kalam, who was the then scientific advisor to the defence minister, sources said Kalam had on June 23, 1999 written against procurement of Barak Anti-Missile Defence System.
The letter by Kalam had come in response to the then Naval Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar, who had on June 15 sought acquisition of two Barak AMDs.
Kalam, in his letter, had said the development of indigenous Trishul missile was in final stages and various systems were working properly. He had argued in favour of Trishul saying it was cost effective and would be free from problems that could arise out of foreign policy changes, they said.
On June 25, 1999, Kumar had put up a note to Fernandes favouring acquisition of Barak AMDs despite stiff opposition from Kalam, with whom he had a meeting on the same day. In 1996, when Pakistan was in the process of acquisition of missile system from abroad, Kalam, who was also Chief of Defence Research and Development Organisation, had favoured Barak Missile on condition that Navy would induct Trishul, which was expected to be ready by 2002.
However, former Navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar, who was charged by the CBI with misusing his position to push through the Barak defence deal in 2000, defended the purchase of the missile system by saying it was selected after extensive trials conducted with the DRDO.
There was 'no dissent within the navy about the requirement' of the Barak system, which was needed as warships were 'extremely vulnerable' to sea-skimming and underwater missiles possessed by neighbouring countries, he said.
The CBI has registered an FIR against former defence minister George Fernandes, his associate Jaya Jaitley, Kumar and others for irregularities and corruption in the Rs 1,150-crore deal to purchase seven Barak systems.
Kumar told NDTV that the Barak system was 'recommended' after joint navy-DRDO trials in 1995 as it performed 'very successfully.'
"The Barak was very well evaluated, analysed and professionally tested by the navy and found to be a very operationally effective system," he said.
The possible involvement of middlemen in the deal 'does not concern' the Navy as the chief is expected to perform his duties 'truthfully, honestly and in a forthright manner.'
"I do believe for the sake of the service, you must and ought to frankly state your requirements," he said, defending the purchase of the Barak systems.