Govt to keep tab on arms agents: PM

Manmohan Singh calls for a reappraisal of the registration system for arms dealers, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2006 02:13 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday called for a reappraisal of the registration system for arms dealers but refused to comment on the CBI report naming former defence minister George Fernandes.

Singh did not want to get into any specific case, much less the one that the CBI says involves the former defence minister. Fernandes has since then thrown the ball in President APJ Abdul Kalam's court, claiming that the purchase was made with the consent of Kalam, then scientific adviser to the defence minister.

Singh said he was not surprised at Fernandes' comment. "Nothing surprises me, particularly a comment from Mr George Fernandes." But the prime minister refused to comment saying "the legal process must proceed under the established rules."

The prime minister suggested that the government would review the rules for keeping a tab on arms agents.

"If (arms) agents cannot be done away with, it is much better that we should know who the agents are. I think registering or some variant of the mechanism should be explored."

The government had introduced a policy in 2001 to register middlemen in defence deals, some applied but not even one applicant was registered due to stringent conditions.

Defence ministry officials have also pointed to the reluctance of the dealers to register themselves, fearing that it would enable the government to keep track of their rather generous commissions. It is understood that a part of this commission is used for pay-offs.

First Published: Oct 14, 2006 23:33 IST