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Weekly report on submarine deal full of contradictions: govt

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New Delhi, Feb 22 (UNI) Asserting that a weekly magazine's report on the alleged role of middlemen in the Scorpene submarine deal with France was riddled with discrepancies, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said his ministry had already issued ''contradictions'' in this regard.

Replying to a supplementary on the indigenous production of defence equipment raised in the Rajya Sabha by BJP member Ravi Shankar Prasad, Mr Mukherjee said the 'Outlook' magazine had pegged the submarine deal at Rs 18,000 crore. However, there were discrepancies in figures, he contended.

Further, ''both the purchaser and the French embassy have denied any role of middlemen in the deal,'' the Minister told the House.

To a specific query whether middlemen were involved in the deal, he said the Defence Procurement Policy, 2005, which had been put on the ministry's web site, had effected certain modifications in the earlier policy.

''The Integrity Pact with prospective suppliers envisages no role for middlemen in defence deals,'' he said, adding that penal action would be initiated against any such person if his role was ascertained during investigations.

Mr Mukherjee also pointed out that in some cases, penal action had already been taken against middlemen after their role was established in defence deals.

Replying to another query, he said there had been a substantial growth of R&D base towards making the nation self-reliant in defence equipment.

''HQ Integrated Defence Staff, with participation of all stake-holders, is working on methodologies for effective conceptualisation, execution and monitoring of R&D projects with a view to minimising dependence on foreign suppliers.

On the Kelkar Committee set up to look into the modalities for increased private sector participation in defence production, the Minister said its report had been received. ''We will take action on it after a thorough discussion,'' he added.

Certain recommendations about corporatisation and modernisation of ordnance factories merited a full-length discussion before these could be implemented, he said.

Asked whether the government was considering to make the integrity pact applicable for defence deals over Rs 100 crore, he said the government was looking into the proposal as per the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Defence.

UNI SKS LR ND1255

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