Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said that the country would have known about corruption in the Bofors gun deal had controversial Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrochhi, who was the main accused in the alleged scandal, been tried.
“Had we tried Quattrochhi, we would have known about corruption in the gun deal,” Parrikar said, while interacting with industry czars in Mumbai on Friday.
The Defence Minister’s remarks come four days after a Swedish daily had quoted President Pranab Mukherjee as saying: “First of all, it is yet to be established that there was a scandal. No Indian court has established it. I was the defence minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my generals certified that this is one of the best guns we are having. Till today, the Indian Army is using it. The so-called scandal which you talk of, yes, in the media, it was there. There was a media trial. But I’m afraid, let us not be too much carried (away) by publicity.” However, the video of the interview reportedly shows no such comment being made by the President, who is scheduled to visit Sweden next month.
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Parrikar, however, seconded Mukherjee’s remarks that the Swedish Bofors guns were of good quality. But he added that the quality of guns and corruption of the deal were different issues, which could not be seen in the same vein.
“I can say this that because of this single act (Bofors episode), there has been no procurement of artillery guns in the past three decades,” the minister said, saying further that he had attempted to break the Bofors jinx and had recently cleared a proposal to acquire new artillery guns. “Procurement of avionics and choppers will follow,” he said.
Meanwhile, pushing the ambitious “Buy and Make” plans in the defence sector further, Parrikar told industrialists that plans to set up special zones for defence manufacturing equipment were under active consideration. “I’ve set myself a three-month deadline to roll out the initiative,” he added.
While declining to announce a date for the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) norm, Parrikar said: “Some war-veterans and non-veterans had linked the pension issue to sacrifice of war heroes.”
“Sacrifice of defence personnel cannot be counted in terms of money. Linking the OROP issue with sacrifice of war heroes is inappropriate. The contribution of such war heroes is immeasurable. The nation is grateful to them.”
In a jibe at the previous UPA regime, Parrikar said, “People who promised OROP did not understand the issue. The earlier government did not understand its financial implications. We too did not understand these earlier since a finer (thorough) exercise in this regard was never previously done. Congress put this financial implication at Rs 500 crore.
We (the NDA) had set aside Rs 1,000 crore for the same reform in our budget. The Petitions Committee of the Parliament estimated the cost at Rs 1,300 crore, while some other people have pegged the cost at Rs 22,000 crore,” Parrikar said, adding, “For the first time, we have now been able to crystallize the format. The file was sent to the finance department last month, and is on its way of getting approved.” He said that two or three steps still remain in implementing the reform, which he clarified will be implemented with effect from April 1, 2014.