According to a WikiLeaks revelation, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi worked as a middleman for Swedish company Saab-Scania, which had tried to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s.
The WikiLeaks revelation flows from newly-released secret “Kissinger” cables dispatched by US embassy in India between 1973 and 1976 that claim Rajiv was the “negotiator” for a Swedish firm trying to sell fighters to Indian Air Force (IAF) by referring to a Swedish Embassy official in India.
A cable from October 21, 1975, speaks of a closely-fought deal between three European manufacturers to supply 140 jets to the Indian Air Force. The cable quotes a Swedish diplomat revealing the ace up his sleeve to his US counterparts: “The main Indian negotiator with the Swedes at New Delhi end has been Mrs Gandhi’s oldest son, Rajiv Gandhi.”
The cable notes that while as a transport pilot, Rajiv would hardly be qualified to evaluate a fighter jet, the connection to the prime minister is what mattered.
The cable was sent out from the US embassy in New Delhi four months after Indira Gandhi declared an internal Emergency.
WikiLeaks sent shockwaves around the diplomatic world in 2010 when it released a set of more than 250,000 leaked US cables.
A decade later, another Swedish manufacturer, Bofors AB, would haunt Rajiv Gandhi and force his government out of power in 1989. This 1970s contract for IAF had an eerie recent replay. The Viggen’s successor, the Gripen, battled Dassault’s Rafale, Russia’s MiG, US F-16 and F-18 and the Eurofighter for a Rs 82,000 crore contract to supply 126 aircraft for IAF. In October 2010, a year before IAF zeroed in on the Rafale as the finalist, a representative of Saab briefed a group of visiting international journalists that the contract for 126 Indian fighter jets had moved into the “political phase”. “In the political phase, climb rates, turning radii and cockpit displays of the aircraft don’t matter,” the Saab representative shrugged. Little, it seems, has changed since the 1970s.
Sources: India Today
Times Of India