The astonishing revelation that he was the “main Indian negotiator” for a massive aircraft deal is contained in the latest tranche of obtained by WikiLeaks and accessed by The Hindu.
According to the newspaper, 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.
The first cable said that Air Marshal O P Mehra's son-in-law was the chief negotiator for the competing Mirage, but it does not give his name, the paper said.
Contacted in New Delhi, Navin Behl, the former Air Chief’s son-in-law, denied that he was ever involved in any such negotiations, it added.
The paper said that in another cable, the Swedes also made it clear they “understood the importance of family influences” in the final decision.
“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, said the newspaper.
According to the paper, the British SEPECAT Jaguar eventually won the race, from which Saab was forced to withdraw by the US.