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Monday, April 08, 2013 11:37:12 AM (IST)  

Rajiv Gandhi was middleman for Swedish jet, says US cable

Chennai, Apr 8 (The Hindu): Much before he became Prime Minister, during his years as an Indian Airlines pilot, Rajiv Gandhi may have been a middleman for the Swedish company Saab-Scania, when it was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s.

The astonishing revelation that he was the “main Indian negotiator” for a massive aircraft deal for which his “family” connections were seen as valuable, is contained in the Kissinger Cables, the latest tranche of U.S diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and accessed by The Hindu as part of an investigative collaboration. The cables will be released on Monday.

The British SEPECAT Jaguar eventually won the race, from which Saab was forced to withdraw by the US.

Rajiv Gandhi, who kept away from politics until he was pushed into it by his mother Indira after the death of his brother Sanjay in 1980, came into public life with a squeaky clean image. Years later, a controversy over bribes paid in another military deal with a different Swedish company, Bofors, was to lead to Rajiv’s and the Congress’s defeat in the 1989 elections.

A series of 41 cables between 1974 and 1976 give glimpses into the “fighter sweepstakes” in India, with one wryly observing that the Swedish company had “understood the importance of family influences in the final decision in the fighter sweepstakes.”

Dassault, the French aircraft maker, too had figured this out. According to the cable, their negotiator for the Mirage fighter aircraft was the son-in-law of Air Marshal O.P. Mehra, then Air Chief.

An October 21, 1975 cable from the New Delhi U.S. Embassy (1975NEWDE14031_b, confidential) details information given to it by a diplomat in the Swedish Embassy. “Mrs Gandhi’s oler [sic] son’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.”

Having noted what the Swedes had said, the cable makes the comment that there was no additional information to either refute or confirm the information.

The cable goes on to say, “Mrs Gandhi (according to the Swedish info) has made the personal decision not to purchase the British Jaguar because of her prejudices against the British. The decision would be between the Mirage [Dassault Mirage F1] and the Viggen.”

Importance of ‘family’

In another cable (1976NEWDE01909_b, confidential), the Swedes also made it clear they “understood the importance of family influences” in the final decision. The cable adds: “Our colleague describes Ranjiv Gandhi [sic] in flattering terms, and contends his technical expertise is of a high level. This may or may not be. 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.”

The first cable adds that Air Marshal Mehra’s son-in-law was the chief negotiator for the competing Mirage, but it does not give his name.

Contacted in New Delhi, Navin Behl, the former Air Chief’s son-in-law, denied that he was ever involved in any such negotiations. “I was never an arms dealer. We’ve got nothing to do with it. I am a chartered accountant, [I was] practising then [in the 1970s], and now we're in the manufacture and export of home furnishings,” he told The Hindu.

The Swedish diplomat quoted in this cable said his country’s neutral position in world politics was offsetting the Viggen’s higher cost. The cable also records the official’s “irritation at the way Mrs Gandhi is personally dominating negotiations, without [the] involvement of Indian Air Force officers. According to him, negotiations with the Swedes are for 50 Viggen aircraft to be delivered at $4-5 million per aircraft with the Swedes believing that the Indians have made the decision not to purchase any more Soviet military aircraft.”

US blocks deal

But Sweden had to do an abrupt about turn with what appears to be a bit of arm-twisting. An August 6, 1976 cable (1976STOCKH04230_b, secret) titled “Saab-Scania requests for US permission to export Viggen and license to India” appears to confirm this with a blunt message: “The USG, after careful consideration, has concluded that no version of the Viggen containing any classified US components would be acceptable for transfer to India. It would also oppose any transfer to India, for local production, of the advanced US technology represented in the Viggen’s aerodynamic design, engine and flying controls, navigation system, electronic components and weapons systems.”

Another 1976 cable (1976STOCKH04231_b, secret) details the negative USG response to Saab-Scania president Curt Mileikowsky’s informal request for export of Viggen aircraft to India and licence to manufacture such aircraft to India. Senior Swedish officials have also emphasised “that [the] most important consideration to their government was preservation of cooperation with the US on military R&D, which they recognised as vital to maintenance of a viable Swedish defence effort and that the sale of the Viggen to India was of secondary consideration to them in comparison with the value of military cooperation with the US.”

Scramble for contract

The earliest reference to the IAF upgrade plan is in a 1974 cable (1974LONDON00554_b, secret), which elaborates how the Indians had nearly completed negotiations for two Navy Corvettes and an unspecified number of Jaguar aircraft, though negotiations temporarily stalled because of the oil crisis.

India, according to the FCO South Asian Department head, had “expressed desire for [a] modest alternative to the Soviets as an arms supply source, and had begun discussions with the British early last summer.” The British were smelling a deal “in the neighbourhood of 30-35 million pounds, probably only the first tranche of an ongoing program which could reach 100-120 million pounds over a period of time.”

The Viggen pitch to India was of immense interest to the US As one cable (1975STATE270066_b, secret) said, the aircraft “contains a large number of parts and components of U.S. origin which are therefore subject to USG control in third-party sales.”

Jaguar, meanwhile, was aggressively in the hunt. A November 19, 1975 cable (1975NEWDE15350_b, confidential), said: “London has now decided to offer the Government Of India a more favorable financing arrangement, 71/4 percent over five years, than was earlier the case. The GOI has asked for two percent over 15 years, but the British tell us this is impossible. The GOI still wants 40 aircraft to be delivered within 36 months. The original British offer was 60 months, but they are now talking in terms of 40 odd months.” The cable ends by saying that the final decision was expected to be political and made by the Prime Minister.

Another cable (1975PARIS33184_b confidential) details French concern that “Mrs Gandhi’s advance toward dictatorship is now irreversible, and that French Prime Minister Chirac was unhappy with the idea of appearing to condone this development through his official visit” but also nursed the hope that the visit would be able to improve sales prospects for the Mirage F-1.

By the next year, the French Embassy is convinced (1976NEWDE00845_b, confidential) that it is Prime Minister [Indira] Gandhi alone who will make the final decision, and it will be on political grounds. The Swedes are also pushing their product. The French believed that the Swedes had dropped their price and offered to take rupees in payment. They were seen as moving towards delivering the first 24 to 36 aircraft to India, with the next aircraft being assembled in India under licence.

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Comments on this article
Huduga, udipi
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

if tomorrow CAG find some irregularity in purchase of building material for Taj Mahal then again Gandhi family name will be dragged Unnecessarily Gandhi family name is used to get mileage i think so

simple, Bangalore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Gladson, Brahmavar and
Jude, Mangalore
Both of them comment so well and always good to read their matured comments - unlike many here (including me)
Hope they will keep commenting.

Indian, Mangalore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Congress, BJP or any other pary supporters ...please don't support Corruption....

rahul, mlore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Jude There is a difference between a broker & asking donations during emergency get your facts right,
God only knows what these Italians have brokered, undersold till date

simple, Bangalore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

It was not allowed in Congress for any Minister or official to be corrupt as such many left the party and formed new political parties where they are happily swimming in various corruptions\scams\communal agendas to divide Indian society which is together as one wherever Congress is in power.
Due to this communal divide a couple of parties had good backing
and it is natural too. But people now are aware of these tactics and how these politicians fleece the peoples' money and are wise to the extent that they may replace non-working\corrupt governments as they may do in this election in Karnataka.
They are also against Janlokpal bill and bring in various non-relevant objection during discussion of the bill to delay as much as possible from implementing it.
Everyone knows which is the best and only party that can give good governance and stability to the country.

s, Bangalore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

To enact lokpal bill there is a hurdle from the most corrupt party in the opposition otherwise it would have been in force by now!!!
They had a chance too to enact this bill - remember..

rahul, mlore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The so called janlokpal bill to be tabled by khangress was full of holes that is the reason opposition was against it.

Naveen Netakere, Netakare
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

All these debate would have been shut in a day if WikiLeaks were in India by sending CBI behind him/them and file FIR like JagM Reddy, put them behind bar etc etc, khel khatam.

Dodanna, mangalore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

US is one of the biggest problem creator in the Universe. Never trust.
They never allow any one to leave in peace.

Allen DSouza, Mangalore/Houston
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Many people here are jumping to conclusions, but honestly I don't understand what this ruckus is all about. Where does it say in the US cable transcript that Rajiv Gandhi was the mediator/middleman for the Swedish Jet deal? Headlines are written by journalists without reading the facts. Moreover, India didn't even buy those jets.

Ooshigala Shunna, Bajpe/Mangalore
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Once watch and hear the explanation given by Nathuram's brother for ending Gandhi in youtube. You will also feel that there was no alternative.

My View , managlore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Rajiv was a corrupt PM , thats been proved over the years, Cong's always tried to hide it.
If some BJP PM or top min had involved in such case, they would have highlighted for decades.

Kumar, Bangalore/mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Hi Jude,
Dont judge people that they belong to particular group like you have mentioned. There are still people left with independent view without any political ideology or association who thinks for the betterment of India.Never carry bigoted view because they criticized particular view.Anyways whatever you may justify your congress stand,one cannot deny the fact that congress made this great country to top most corrupt nation in the world.
Never sell the nation for someone's own benefit, but this is what exactly UPA is doing from last 8 years.I am not sure whether you underatnd these points and facts but as long as congress rules this nation, I am sure India will be below Africa in the development index for sure.

Don, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Dinesh Poojary I know you are a smart man and so are many in the BJP, to get back power and even with the Congress may I suggest that you’ll consider giving a ticket to another Gandhi (I’m sure you’ll find someone by that last name) and make him your leader. Then with the Gandhi name all villagers will get fooled and this time vote for BJP, and the next Prime Minister of India will be a BJP-Gandhi.

Bulsam, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

It was known to everyone in that period that he had accompanied other defense engineers to Sweden to inspect the specification of the war-planes that India was supposed to procure.
What is wrong in it?
If Kissinger and the Swedish firm feels that way than Indian Govt cannot help it. In fact, he had gone there with good intention and not as a middleman.
There is nothing sensational about it. Hence, the opposition need not blow this incident out of proportion to create the vote bank on false note, for the coming election.
Jai Hind!

Basil, Mangalore/Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Why wikilickies (US Cable)interested in Indian politics. They will disappear after 2014 general election. Once Mrs. Mayavathi critisized & insulted them for their baseless allegation, now these shameless people are back again.

Kumar, Bangalore/Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Jude and all who hard-core supporter of Gandi Dynasty,
Accept the fact and entire country knows how Congress have been looting g this nation. Only thing in the past it was congress absolute control, no one could dare to question then Congi leaders and now things have changed. Even CIA could not deny the Wiki Leaks cable news because all are authenticated messages. I don’t know when people will realise that Congress done more harm to this nation than any other party ( pls note all other parties) and they are still looting . Any country take it for that matter, all political parties do make money but not at the cost of their own country. But in our great nation it is opposite. From last 60 years congress looting this nation from every possible corners.
So stop saluting Gandi dynasty members, look for some good leaders in congress. If they have potential count my vote too

Jude, Mangalore Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Ok Kumar and hardcore supporters of the sangh, please also in the same vein accept what the cables say about your defense minister George Fernandes having accepted money from the CIA. Don't be ive. Everyone also knows how Pramod Mahajan a once small time school teacher amassed crores and crores worth of wealth.Don't tell me God apapared in the night and poured wealth on him.Remember the old saying that when you point one finger at others, four others point back at you.

Prakash Shetty, East Africa/Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

This is not scare we are worried about misusing the great mahatma gandhi....he knows these people will misuse congress name once they get independce that is the reason he asked all leaders to dis continue congress after Independce.

Gladson, Brahmavar
Monday, April 08, 2013

Yup Dinesh! Many Indians have this confusion...most of us still think that Narendra Modi is the cousin of Dr M C Modi while L K Advani is maternal uncle of Pankaj Advani and Sushma Swaraj's hubby is Lord Swaraj Paul's nephew. In fact DD Bharati channel is named after Uma Bharati and Rajnath Singh and Milka Singh are neighbours. Venkaih Naidu is the great grandson of Sarojini Naidu. Yashwant Sinha and 'Shotgun' Shatrugan Sinha are first cousins and Ravi Shastry is the descendant of Lal Bahadur Shastry while VVS Laxman is closely related to Bangaru Laxman. Isn't Mohd Kaif's grandfather and Katrina Kaif's father were brothers and for that matter even Kalpana Chawla is the maternal aunt of Piyush Chawla? Sunita Williams and Serena Williams are sisters and Venus Williams is their another sibling?

But Kumaraswamy and Revanna are not related to H D Deve Gowda since they are not Kumarasway Gowda and Revanna Gowda and may be Sadanand Gowda is the 'opposite' of Deve Gowda since the former never ceases to 'smile' and the latter has never 'smiled'...what say?

Dinesh Poojary, Kundapura/Bengaluru
Monday, April 08, 2013

Actually their surname came from FEROZE GANDHY (pronounced as ಗ್ಯಾಂಡಿ). GANDHY is different from GANDHI. To take political advantage, they took surname of MAHATMA GANDHI. Still many village people believes that Rajiv, rahul, indira Sonia belongs to Mahatma Gandhi family.

Lingappa, Kuppepadavu / Dublin
Monday, April 08, 2013

Dinehsanna, With all due respect to political parties, you are right.moreover Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka too are not the real names, these names are simply Indianised versions to fool the naive public, The real names are Antanio Mano, Raul Vinci & Bianca Vinci.

Rajesh Shetty, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Dear Jude
your justification may bring some relief to Congi's..that too temporary.

Jude, Mangalore Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Yes relief to Congis and stomach ache to Sanghis, but permanent.

Gladson, Brahmavar
Monday, April 08, 2013

It's that 'Kissinger' again. Why 'Kissinger cables' never revealed anything about US-Israel nexus or even about the Rothschilds? That's a pure guess work. The title of the news says that Rajiv Gandhi was the 'middleman' for Sweedish firm and the very first sentence of the news says that Rajiv 'may have been the middleman'. Now only 'Kissinger' can explain the difference between 'was middleman' and the 'may have been middleman'. Endless bubbles came up and busted in the history. Veracity of this article is highly suspicious as it looks like inconclusive, incomplete, time barred and hypothecated speculation. Apart from it, can we believe Sweedish firm losing tender despite Rajiv Gandhi being the 'middleman'. Someone must be kidding to the core. He was far from politics during those years, working as commercial pilot in AI and busy settling down in life with Sonia. The allegation would make sense if the deal was sealed in favour of Saab-Scania, otherwise it is just speculations. It was at a time when no one including Rajiv himself would have ever thought that he would be the future PM. He might have been from the influential family but the cables also state that Indira Gandhi was not the one who would be influenced by anyone, including her son. Then why so much of noise for nothing? As general election is just a year away, printed and electronic Medias will get lots of such century-old news and make big hype of it. Who pays for this kind of hype is not important since the buyer is only one, 'voter'. Wait and see. Before the next general elections a lot more will come out from secret chambers.

Stany D'sa, Balehonnur/Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Rumours cannot be true.One need to prove in the court of law or else it has no bearing at all. We Indians cannot tolerate if some one is tarnishing the image of our late prime minister.

Gurudath, M'lore/Mumbai
Monday, April 08, 2013

People suspected him in Bofors. Now we know that the loot probably started much earlier..

Jaimini P.B., Manipal,Sharjah
Monday, April 08, 2013

I don't know how much Mr.Rajiv Gandhi made out of Bofors deal..but becuase of Bofors Guns,India could win Kargil war against Pakistan.Normal tanks can't be taken to that Kargil war place so easily..Even the Military officers accepted that truth.
Mr.Rajiv Gandhi is little different from present politicians.India missed him very badly..

C Sharath, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Any thing new ?
Dear Wistle blowers...please give us some refreshing news of other fly may be Modi or Reddy or Yeddi or any other than this fly. The whole country knows the Hanebaraha of this commission fly, its nothing new.

For the Corrupt-sevaks wikileaks are under payroll of BJP/RSS & the PR group of Modi including Adhani...any surprise !!!

Ajith, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

We are sick of hearing this.Only allegations but no proof.It gives sensational news to people for a few days and nothing else.The fact is Gandhi family baiters are just jealous of them.

R.Bhandarkar, M'Lore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Ab Naam se 'Gandhi'
Duniya Nahin He 'Andhi'
Pehle Sab The is Naam se' Bandhi'
Ab Judi Hain Isse Hawa Bahut'Ghandhi'

Sachidanand Shetty, Mundkur/Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Come on Congi Supporters, Cheers it. One more Crown Jewel on your dirty kitty. Now start blaming BJP for this revelation. I think same family members are arriving at Karnataka too to give corruption lecture to beg votes for them!! Hip Hip Hurray

Jude, Mangalore Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Your silly comments shatter your own stupid allegations and accusations. If Rajiv Gandhi was so influential and powerful in decision making in the 70's then why did the contract finally end up with Jaguar and Mirage? Secondly even if Rajiv Gandhi was trying to influence the purchase of the Viggen fighter, the arm twisting of Sweden by the USA not to sell it to India proves that it was really an advanced and superior fighter that was suited for the IAF and which the Americans did not want to get into Indian hands. Therefore both your theories are proven wrong. Secondly the governments of V P Singh, Chandrashekar, Gujral and Devegowda were not able to prove any wrong doing on the part of the Gandhi family even though they had come to power on the back of the Bofors controversy. Finally your own NDA government which was in power for over 4 years could not find or prove anything.......So why are you shouting now. You think everyone is as stupid into believing that lies repeated again and again will be accepted as truth?By the way the worth of the Bofors guns were proven during the Kargil war.

Sachidanand Shetty, Mundkur/Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Don’t be silly Dear Jude or Superman and no need for your stupid justification. Cable itself said so not me. Its’ not mere accusations, its’ fact only. So, it’s up to you now to digest the business deal or act as a dumb and dumber

Jude, Mangalore Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

Yes, The cable also said MAY HAVE been.... Secondly it was sent by Kissinger. Since when have you BJP guys have begun believing in and loving that man. Back in the 60's and 70's he was an enemy of the Sangh parivar during your artificial nationalistic drama acts, Now suddenly he has become your trusted friend.

Jude, Mangalore Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

If these cables are the truth to you, then also accept everything that they say. Agree that your then defense minister George Fernandes accepted money from the CIA. Maybe he accepted it on behalf of some of your other great BJP leaders.Don't try to dance with one foot.

Rahul, Manglore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Please give us some GOOD NEW NEWS without corruption done by CONGRESS public are feedup with this party rule this time will show them proper place

Bollu, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

How the people are minting a's much easier job..everywhere u will find ..during even iran-iraq war...russia is supplying weapons to iraq..and on other hand..america was supplying weapons to iran thru middleman. weapons which supplied in iran..funds diverted to nicarguaa..for rebels who fight against communist rule..!! ek theer se do shikhar..and it's happened during reagan regime...fall of reagan main reason behind hit..!! most popular middleman in weapons are khassogi - uncle of dodi al-fayed (harrods) and one more isarel guy..!! world is spinning with rich people..!!

mahendra shetty, mumbai,Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013


R.Bhandarkar, M'Lore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Matter Simpalu
So what if not Rahulu
There is Robert Priyankalu....

Jossey Saldanha, Mangalore/Mapusa/Mumbai
Monday, April 08, 2013

I wonder why people are so scared of Gandhi Family. Now even BJP has a Gandhi Ambassador...........

jeevan, mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Indians are not scared at all for Mahatma Gandhi but sure scared duplicate gandhis family.... yes also scared how long we tolerate congi's cheaters and looters family in democractic set up....We want our india safe and secure, we cant run and take shelter in Italy...

We are the biggest fools. We love cheaters and looters as our rulers. When will we change?

Sachidanand Shetty, Mundkur/Dubai
Monday, April 08, 2013

So, finally you accept that all remaining Gandhis are not Mahatma…….

pavan, mlr/USA
Monday, April 08, 2013

Please dont forget RSS man killed Mahatma gandhi .Nathuram Godse India's first terrorist from RSS

ravi shetty, mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

There is nothing new in this revelation all 3 the trinity Rajiv, italian lady & amul baby are middleman for various companies.

Bollu, Mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

To whom so much wealth accumulated..rahul baba..still not married..!!

jeevan, mangalore
Monday, April 08, 2013

Bofor deal king and Italian chopper deal queen... borned to loot, loot , loot... Enact Janlokpal or India is not safe and secure...

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