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Rajiv Gandhi was 'middleman' in defence talks: Wikileaks

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Rajiv Gandhi
NEW DELHI: Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi may have worked as a middleman for Swedish company Saab-Scania.

According to a latest WikiLeaks revelations, Rajiv Gandhi became the negotiator for the Swedish company Saab-Scania, when it was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s, much before he became the prime minister.

However, Saab-Scania eventually could not seal the deal, which went to British SEPECAT Jaguar. According to a report published in The Hindu, Rajiv was considered to be a valuable negotiator because of his family connections, states the paper, citing the Kissinger (former secretary of state Henry Kissinger) Cables, the latest bunch of classified cables of the US administration released by WikiLeaks.

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."

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

But Sweden had to do an abrupt about turn after the US cable indicated a bit of arm-twisting.

The Congress, meanwhile, has rejected the WikiLeaks revelations. Reacting to the allegations, Congress said, "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.

Millions of US documents in the open

Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks today published more than 1.7 million United States diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s, founder Julian Assange has revealed. Assange says that these records throw light on the "vast range and scope" of US influence around the world.

The collection published today has not been leaked, but Assange says WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the US national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.

The documents are a variety of records including cables, intelligence reports and Congressional correspondence.

The records, dating from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976 and they include many communications which were sent by - or to - then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Many of the documents, which WikiLeaks has called the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, while others were originally marked as secret.

WikiLeaks sent shockwaves around the diplomatic world in 2010 when it released a set of more than 250 000 leaked US cables.

Assange has carried out much of the work from his refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London. Assange has been holed up in the tiny diplomatic mission for nine months as he seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.

Assange founded the WikiLeaks website that enraged Washington by releasing cables and war logs relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in one of the biggest security breach in US history.

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