New Delhi: "Earlier, the Government tried to get the agents to register themselves. However, nobody accepted the offer, so the scheme was a complete non-starter," says Pranab Mukherjee
The Defence Ministry had recently decided to restore the ban on middlemen in arms deals.
However, that was before the Prime Minister stepped in. He says that India cannot do without middlemen, but that it is important that these middlemen be regulated.
The PM's remarks makes it clear that there is a debate going on in the UPA Government whether to ban middlemen in arms deals or just regulate them.
After defence scams began to tumble out of the cupboard, middlemen were banned in 2001 during the NDA regime.
However, this ban was later lifted with the idea of bringing the shadowy arms bazaar into the sunlight to ensure transparency.
Middlemen were asked to register themselves with the Ministry of Defence but they preferred to remain in the shadows and not a single one came out in the open.
"Nobody did come forward and we were neither here nor there. Now it is not possible to carry foward the scheme of registeration because we have put a blanket ban on it, by having an integrity pact," says Mukherjee.
With hardly any takers for voluntary transparency in the arms market, the Prime Minister's latest remarks suggest that the Defence Ministry's approach will not be the last word on the role of middlemen in arms deals.