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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi may have been "a middleman" for Swedish company Saab-Scania when it was trying to sell fighter aircraft to Delhi in the 1970s"...


Former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi may have been "a middleman" for Swedish company Saab-Scania when it was trying to sell fighter aircraft to Delhi in the 1970s, allege cables released by Wikileaks.

Cables from the whistleblowing site claim he was the "main negotiator" for the Viggen fighter aircraft deal.

He was not in politics at the time but was valued for his "family" connections as the son of the PM, they allege.

Saab ultimately did not win the deal which went to Britain's SEPECAT Jaguar.

On Monday, a spokesman for Saab told the BBC: "Since the information dates back to over three decades and it's based on conversations that really don't have any determinable basis, we can't comment on third party communication."

Mr Gandhi was assassinated by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in 1991.

India's ruling Congress party, to which Mr Gandhi belonged, has rejected the Wikileaks revelations.

"The credibility of WikiLeaks is questionable... We don't give importance to the allegations and the cables," the party said.

'Family influences'

The Wikileaks claims are based on the Kissinger Cables, the latest tranche of US diplomatic cables obtained by the whistle-blower, reports The Hindu newspaper, Wikileaks' partner for India and Pakistan cables.

It says a series of 41 cables between 1974 and 1976 give glimpses into the "fighter sweepstakes" in India, with one observing that the Swedish company had "understood the importance of family influences in the final decision in the fighter sweepstakes".

"Our colleague describes Rajiv Gandhi in flattering terms, and contends his technical expertise is of a high level. This may or may not be," the cable reads.

"Offhand, we would have thought a transport pilot [is] not the best expert to rely upon in evaluating a fighter plane, but then we are speaking of a transport pilot who has another and perhaps more relevant qualification."

Members of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised the Congress party over the Wikileaks allegations involving Mr Gandhi.

In his lifetime too, Rajiv Gandhi had faced a controversy over alleged bribes paid by Swedish arms firm AB Bofors to clinch the sale of more than 400 howitzers to India.

Last year, retired Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom, who led the probe into the Bofors scandal, said there was no evidence to prove that Mr Gandhi took a bribe, but that he did nothing to prevent a cover-up in the scandal.

The scandal came to surface in 1986 and eventually led to Rajiv Gandhi's electoral defeat three years later.

In 2004, he was posthumously cleared of any wrongdoing in the deal.

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