No Question of Middlemen in Defence Deals: Antony

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New Delhi, Feb 16 (UNI) Defence Minister AK Antony today categorically ruled out allowing middlemen or commission agents in defence deals.

Addressing the press shortly after inaugurating the fifth edition of the DefExpo India here, Minister Antony said the Government's stand on the issue was very clear -- ''No question of middlemen in defence deals.'' He, however, discounted apprehensions about timely procurement of weapon systems and platforms for the Armed Forces averring that the Government would be able to spend budget allocations on capital expenditure head and would be asking for more resources in the next budget.

The Defence Minister also ruled out any compromise on transparency.

''Of course, we cancelled two-three contracts... Do you want us to compromise on transparency? Even at a later stage when we find something is wrong somewhere, we are not concerned about the status of the company; we will cancel it... So we have gone for fresh RFP,'' he said.

Replying to a wide range of questions, the Minister said the Defence Procurement Procedure 2008 would be ready by this April.

''It is being fine-tuned with a great deal of diligence after taking into account the suggestions received from various stakeholders including the Services and the industry....'' On the status of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) -- being jointly developed by the Defence Research&Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Defence Minister spoke of ''major breakthroughs'' in the project having been achieved in recent times and expressed confidence that ''it will be in the skies within a few years.'' He said the Indian Air Force, which was not willing to accept even one of this aircraft earlier, had now decided to receive two squadrons -- indicating their confidence in the aircraft.

The Defence Minister admitted that there were ''still some problems'' with the high-powered Kaveri engine and negotiations were on for a suitable partnership.

As a result, development of a fully operational Kaveri engine may take some more time but ''we will not abandon the project,'' he declared.

Earlier, inaugurating DefExpo India-2008 at Pragati Maidan, Minister Antony said the DPP-2008, to be announced by April, would address the concerns and opinions of various stakeholders relating to issues like banking of offset credits, Transfer of Technology (ToT), licensing requirement for software industry and the like.

The Minister further stressed the need for greater synergy between the private players and the government.

The DefExpo India exhibition was conceptualised in 998 by the Department of Defence Production in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to promote defence exports from India and at the same time exhibit the capabilities of Indian Defence R&D and production.

The DefExpo India exhibition which began in 1999 with 197 exhibitors has now grown to one of the most internationally recognised defence exhibitions in the world. Of a total of 475 exhibitors in DefExpo India-2008, there are 273 foreign exhibitors and 202 Indian exhibitors.

Dedicated to global land and naval systems business activity -- from suppliers to manufacturers, technology providers to services, it allows the international defence industry to promote and showcase their products and services to an international audience.

For the first time, Defexpo India-2008 will be showcasing the products and services of Telecom and IT companies.

Besides, 47 Official Delegations would be visiting Defexpo India-2008 including 6 Ministerial delegations from Afghanistan, Belarus, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Nigeria.

A major highlight of DefExpo India-2008 is the inclusion of 16 seminars coinciding with it to enable exhibitors to make technology/product specific presentations to target audience from Indian Defence establishments, R&D Institutions, visiting official delegations, Defence Public Sector Undertakings, Ordnance Factories and Indian Industry.

International participation in Defexpo India-2008 is from over 30 countries displaying an array of technology and new products.

Countries participating are Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the Netherlands, UAE, UK, Ukraine and the United States.

UNI DG SK BD1818

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