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Was Rajiv Gandhi a middleman for Swedish jets before becoming PM?

CNN-IBN
Apr 09, 2013 at 10:06am IST

New Delhi: The latest WikiLeaks revelations from US Embassy cables have named former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a scandal. National daily The Hindu has published their findings of the Kissinger cables, which claim that Rajiv Gandhi may have been a middleman for a Swedish Company before he became the Prime Minister.

This, during the 1970s when Swedish company Saab-Scania was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India. The US cables call Rajiv Gandhi 'the main Indian negotiator' for a massive aircraft deal for which his 'family connections' were seen as valuable.

ALSO SEE Credibility of WikiLeaks is questionable, says Congress

An October 1975 cable from the New Delhi US Embassy details information given to it by a diplomat in the Swedish Embassy. It says, "Mrs Gandhi's older son's only association with the aircraft industry has been as a pilot for Indian Airlines and this is the first time we have heard his name as entrepreneur."

But Sweden had to do an abrupt about turn after the US cable indicated a bit of arm-twisting. The British SEPECAT Jaguar eventually won the race.

ALSO SEE Cong always involved in dubious defence deals: BJP

Incidentally, the Kissinger cables also claims that the defence minister during the NDA regime and firebrand anti-US socialist leader George Fernandes sought CIA funds during the emergency.

The Congress has reacted to the story saying, "The credibility of WikiLeaks is questionable and any case the author is planning a political party. We don't give importance to the allegations and the cables".

The Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded that the Congress comes clean on it. "Today, the WikiLeaks revelations are serious. They are connected to the first family of Congress. All defence deals have some relation with the Congress's 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," BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said.

The Shiv Sena has demanded an answer from Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the allegations. "I'm sure if he did this when he wasn't in power, it must have been for someone in Italy or some relative of Sonia Gandhi. Since he is no more, it is Sonia's responsibility to respond to this," Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said.

A controversy over bribes paid in another armed forces deal with a different Swedish company, Bofors, had led to Rajiv Gandhi's and the Congress's defeat in the 1989 elections.

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