Gandhi ‘helped Swedes’ in India fighter jet bid

A Swedish weapons group reportedly hired the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to secure a fighter jet deal to India in the 1970s, reveal diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Gandhi 'helped Swedes' in India fighter jet bid

The Hindu newspaper cited confidential US embassy cables stating that Swedish group Saab-Scania wanted help to sell its Viggen fighter jet, and drafted in Gandhi, whose grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was independent India’s first prime minister and whose family still dominates India’s ruling party.

At the time, Gandhi (not related to Mahatma Gandhi) had not yet entered politics but was working as a commercial pilot. The WikiLeaks documents show he reportedly served as the “main negotiator” for Saab-Scania and was paid because of his access to his mother Indira Gandhi, who was prime minister at the time.

The documents cite information given by Swedish embassy officials but also state that US officials were unable to confirm or deny the information.

“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,” a US diplomat noted wryly in one of the cables.

Saab-Scania “understood the importance of family influences in the final decision in the fighter sweepstakes,” one US diplomat wrote in one of the 41 cables sent between 1974 and 1976.

A 1975 cable cited a Swedish diplomat who reportedly said that Indira Gandhi favoured the French or the Swedes over the British.

“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,” the cable read.

Saab-Scania ultimately lost its bid, with British-made Jaguars selected for the tender.

After later on reluctantly becoming a politician, Rajiv was tarnished by Swedish gun manufacturer Bofors being accused of bribing middlemen including an Italian businessman close to the Gandhi family.

Rajiv was assassinated in 1991. His Italian-born widow Sonia is now head of the ruling Congress party and their son Rahul is positioned as a prime ministerial candidate before elections scheduled for next year.

AFP/The Local/dl

Follow The Local on Twitter

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.