The Hindu, in investigative collaboration with WikiLeaks, has accessed a new set of U.S. diplomatic communications, The ‘Kissinger Cables, from an earlier but highly turbulent period in India's political history: the early-to mid-1970s that comprise more than 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic records for the period 1973 to 1976, relating to a period when Henry Kissinger was the U.S Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford Administrations. The first major revelation from these set of cables, as revealed by the Hindu is that much before he joined politics, 'Mr Clean" Rajiv Gandhi "may have been the “main Indian negotiator” for a massive aircraft deal for which his “family” connections were seen as valuable for the Swedish company Saab-Scania, when it was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s".
An October 21, 1975 cable from the New Delhi U.S. Embassy (1975NEWDE14031_b, confidential) says:
1. THE SWEDES HERE ARE ONCE AGAIN OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THEIR CHANCES OF SELLING THE VIGGEN TO THE INDIAN AIR FORCE. THE SAAB SCANIA SALES MANAGER AND THE CHIEF TECHNICAL ADVISOR, THE FORMER ACTING COMMANDER OF THE SWEDISH AIR FORCE, RETURNED TO NEW DELHI TEN DAYS AGO FOR CONFERENCES WITH THE INDIANS. THE TECHNICAL ADVISOR IS STILL HERE AND WILL REMAIN AS LONG AS NECESSARY TO HANDLE QUESTIONS FROM THE NEW INDIAN DEFENSE MINISTER AND NEW IAF CHIEF OF THE STAFF, BOTH OF WHOM ACCORDING TO OUR SWEDISH COLLEAGUE, REQUIRE TIME TO BRIEF THEMSELVES ON THE COMPETING FIGHTERS. CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 02 NEW DE 01909 061554Z
2. THE SWEDES HERE EXPECT THAT THE IAF WILL SEND A TEST PILOT TO SWEDEN TO FLY THE VIGGEN SINCE THE CURRENT MODELS COMING OFF THE LINE ARE AIRWORTHY. HE TELLS US THE INDIANS HAVE ACCEPTED THE EXPLANATION FOR THE WING STRUCTURAL DEFECT WHICH TEMPORARILY GROUNDED THE EARLY MODELS.
3. THE SWEDES BELIEVE THEIR MOST TELLING POINT, HOWEVER, IS THE LONGEVITY OF THE AIRCRAFT. THEY SAY THEY HAVE CON- VINCED THE IAF THAT THE REPLACEABLE AVIONICS PACKAGES IN THE VIGGEN RENDER IT CAPABLE OF PERIODIC MODERNIZATION WITH THE RESULT THAT IT WILL BE VIABLE UNTIL 2000 (WHICH SOUNDS A BIT FAR FETCHED TO US). OUR SWEDISH COLLEAGUE SAID THE PROPOSAL CONTINUES TO BE THAT THE INDIANS BUILD THE AIRFRAMES AND POSSIBLY SOME ENGINES OR ENGINE COMPONENTS, BUT THE SWEDES PROVIDE THE AVIONICS. SINCE THE INDIANS WANT "THE BEST", ACCORDING TO OUR SWEDISH CONTACT, THE IAF REGARDS THE AVIONICS AS VITAL. MOREOVER, THE SWEDES WOULD NOT CONSIDER SELLING THE VIGGEN WITHOUT THE "BLACK BOXES." THESE FACTORS, THE SWEDES ASSERT, GO A LONG WAY TO OFFSET THE DISADVANTAGE OF RELATIVELY HIGH INITIAL UNIT COST. ANOTHER INDUCEMENT, AS SEEN BY THE SWEDES HERE, IS THAT SAAB SCANIA HAS COMPLETED ITS SURVEY OF INDIAN EXPORTS AND CONCLUDED IT COULD MARKET SEVERAL ITEMS IN SWEDEN OR THE WEST MAKING A BARTER TYPE ARRANGEMENT AT LEAST FEASIBLE FROM THE SWEDISH POINT OF VIEW.
4. THE SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER IS DUE ON A VISIT TO NEW DELHI CIRCA MARCH 1. THE SWEDES ARE BRACED FOR ANOTHER INDIAN APPEAL FOR CREDIT WHICH OUR COLLEAGUE SAYS SWEDEN WILL NOT GRANT, BUT HE DID SAY THE MINISTER WOULD STRONGLY SUPPORT THE VIGGEN SALE. OUR COLLEAGUE WOULD NOT SAY WHAT OTHER CONCESSIONS THE SWEDES MAY BE CONSIDERING. 5. THE SWEDES HERE HAVE ALSO MADE IT QUITE CLEAR THEY UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY INFLUENCES IN THE FINAL DECISION IN THE FIGHTER SWEEPSTAKES. OUR COLLEAGUE DESCRIBES RANJIV GANDHI 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 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. CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL
For more context about the Jet Deal, read on at the Hindu: Rajiv Gandhi was ‘entrepreneur’ for Swedish jet, U.S. cable says.
Also See at the Hindu: Fernandes ‘sought CIA funding’ during Emergency
See all the Kissinger Cables at Wikileaks