08 apr 2013
Rajiv Gandhi may have been middleman for Swedish jet deal: US cable
New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may have operated as a middleman for a Swedish firm that hoped to sell fighter jets to India, US diplomats said in the ’70s in cables sent from Delhi to Washington DC.
The Hindu today reports that a cable dated October 21,1975, talks of information passed on by a Swedish diplomat to US officials about a Swedish company named Saab-Scania that wanted to sell Viggen fighter jets to India.
The cable says that Mr Gandhi’s “only association with the aircraft industry (to our knowledge) has been as a pilot for Indian Airlines and this is the first time we have heard his name as entrepreneur.”
The cable adds that US officials have no information to corroborate or reject the Swedes’ theory.
Mr Gandhi entered politics much later, after his mother, Indira, was assassinated in 1984. At the time when the controversial cables were sent, Henry Kissinger was the US Secretary of State. Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister and an emergency had been declared in India.
The Hindu said that in another cable, US officials report that the Swedes “understood the importance of family influences” that would decide which company won the fighter jet deal.
US diplomats reported to their home office that they were not sure of Mr Gandhi’s ability to evaluate a fighter plane, “but then we are speaking of a transport pilot who has another and perhaps more important qualification.”
A British firm SEPECAT eventually won the contract, the Hindu reported.
The BJP has demanded an explanation from the Congress. “These are 30 year old cables which mean they have nothing to do with the politics of today. They are connected to the first family of Congress. All defence deals have some relation with the Congress’ first family. They should come clean on this, all the documents should be made public. We want the government, Congress and the family to come clean on it,” said the party’s Prakash Javadekar.