Iype,Aiyar alleges that some of Rajiv's aides suppressed facts
in the defence scandal.
It is now proved that huge kickbacks were paid in the Bofors
gun deal. Is the Rajiv Gandhi government to be blamed for it?
Not at all. It has been known ever since June 4, 1987 when
the Swedish National Audit Bureau confirmed that kickbacks changed hands
in the Bofors gun deal, notwithstanding the specific instructions
of Prime Minister Olaf Palme to his foreign office and to A B Bofors that no
middleman should be employed and no kickbacks should be paid.
So it has been known for 10 years that bribes were part of the
It is true that the deal was struck during the Rajiv Gandhi regime.
But Rajiv made all the efforts to get rid of all middlemen in the deal. In that
effort he failed.
Rajiv did what he could. He tried to persuade and instruct
Bofors with the help of the Swedish government not to have any middlemen.
And the Swedish government confirmed to us that there would be no
middlemen. Bofors also assured the Swedish government that there
would be no middlemen.
It was only in April 1987 that the first
information about the the kickbacks came to light. I think it is unfortunate
that the immediate reaction in the Congress party then was to describe the news
By June 1987, it was confirmed that there were middlemen and
from then onwards, it became a question of getting their names out of Bofors.
Why did Rajiv Gandhi not terminate the Bofors gun deal?
Termination of the gun deal was a top priority with Rajiv Gandhi
as soon as the revelations about the kickbacks became public. He recorded
a minute in his own hand in the prime minister's file in the first week
of June 1987, which was subsequently tabled in Parliament by
V P Singh. In that file, Rajiv asked his minister of state for
defence Arun Singh some vital questions: 'Arun Singh, in the event of
the Bofors contract being cancelled, what are the direct implications of
not having a 155 mm howitzer inducted into our service? How long would it
take to get an alternative 155 mm howitzer? What would be the kind
of premium that we will have to pay to the other suppliers of
155mm howitzers? Will any other
gun be able to meet the specific defence
requirements against the Pakistani heat-searching radars?'
Rajiv also considered
what would be the international implications of entering into a solemn
contract and cancelling it mid-way. He wanted to know whether
Bofors could take us to arbitration into the international chamber
of commerce in Paris.
Rajiv Gandhi asked all these key questions to his defence ministry,
but got back no answers.
Why did the defence ministry not consider the prime minister's
It would now appear from the records that although Rajiv sent
these questions to Arun Singh's office in June 1987, the file reached
the ministry of defence after one month.
Who held up the file?
It appears that within the Prime Minister's Office, Gopi Arora,
then the secretary dealing with the matter, supressed the file.
Why did he do that?
That is a question that you as well as the Central Bureau of
Investigation should ask Mr Gopi Arora.
Didn't the PM ask Gopi Arora why he was sitting on the file?
Rajiv thought Arora had passed it over and was waiting for a reply.
But I have had occasions to encounter Gopi Arora and ask him why he sat over
the file. But he has been unhappy about my holding him responsible for
not forwarding the file to the ministry of defence.
Why did Rajiv not take up the matter again with the defence ministry?
In the light of the scandal, I do not think any minister of
defence, its secretary or the chief of the army staff requires the country's prime
minister to ask these questions. The defence ministry, though slowly,
asked the then chief of army staff, General K Sundarji's view on
the PM's questions. But instead of dealing with any of
these germane questions, General Sundarji chose to put down a purely
political view in a single sheet of paper.
In it the army chief said he
thought it was in the larger interest of India to unilaterally terminate the contract.
It was not his job to decide what was unilaterally in the larger interest of India.
His job was to look into the specific defence angle, both with
respect to the immediate defence requirements of our forces as well as the long-term
implication of cancellation of the contract.
When the prime minister wanted Sundarji's opinion on the
issue again, he presented before Rajiv Gandhi the same piece of paper with
the dates changed. This is how a coup d'etat takes place. This is called army
indiscipline from the part of a general vis a vis the civilian authorities
which leads to military rule. It was the sort of thing we have
seen happening in Pakistan.
I, therefore, charge General Sundarji with sheer disloyalty to
the prime minister of India. Till today, in all the interviews that General
Sundarji has given, has he answered any of these questions that Rajiv wanted to know?
But General Sundarji told Rediff On The
NeT that the order
to continue with the Bofors contract came from Rajiv Gandhi's office.
General Sundarji is now free to put the blame on anyone he
likes. He is a private citizen of India now. But I ask the general readership
of Rediff On the NeT: what do they think about the honour, the integrity and competence
of a chief of army staff who in February 1986 changes his own mind with respect
to the suitability of the Bofors gun and said in the light of the heat-finding
radar obtained by neighbouring Pakistan from America, we need
a shoot and scoot gun.
We have the example of General Thimmayya who disagreed
with (the then) defence minister Krishna Menon and put in his papers. If General Sundarji
had one spark of honour -- that a gentleman cadet in the Indian Military
Academy is required to have -- at that time, he should have said that I will not allow
a Bofors gun in our stable.
If he succumbed before the Bofors guns, that means he
was a coward. Does India need cowards as chiefs of army staff?
I do feel that General Sundarji was playing politics. He was playing politics
in February 1986, he was playing politics in June-July 1987, he was playing
politics when he gave an interview to India Today in 1989, and he was
playing politics when the CBI interrogated him
early this month.
Who were the beneficiaries in the Bofors deal?
At the moment the crucial question is with regard to the contract
signed by A E Services and Bofors. It was signed on the 15th of November 1985
and terminated on August 8, 1986 -- a good eight months before the famous Swedish
broadcast on the Bofors payoffs case. Do you think any sensible prime
minister would enter into an illegal contract when he had a good three
years to complete in office?
Who then was involved in the Bofors contract?
The whole Bofors contract was set up by someone who in November
1985 looked like an extremely important political personality. The mysterious
individual is the 'N' mentioned in the Martin Ardbo diary. Mr 'N', who I see as Arun Nehru, should be investigated along with Bob Wilson who was the front man for A E
Services, Martin Ardbo, who was the Bofors president, and the Italian
businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.
Never has the CBI checked the 'N' angle of the Bofors story.
No newspaper has ever interviewed Arun Nehru. Arun Nehru was more involved than anyone else in leaking
the Bofors documents to be published. He was the one about whom documents
were produced by Chitra Subramaniam, went to The Hindu for publication
but suppressed by the editor, N Ram.
Why do you think Arun Nehru involved himself in the Bofors contract?
Arun Nehru, as minister of power, had nothing to do with the
ministry of defence, but a great deal to do with Quattrocchi and his Snamprogetti.
Many details published about Quattrocchi's involvement relate to the power sector
rather than to the defence sector. Thus why was Nehru talking to the Swedish
ambassador for this defence deal? Why was he indulging in the deal?
But the Ardbo diary links Quattrocchi with Rajiv Gandhi.
It is curious that Ardbo, the man who did not know who the
first prime minister of India was... Ardbo spelt Jawaharlal Nehru's name as the name of the famous
Roman emperor who fiddled when Rome was burning. Ardbo combined need
with greed and stupidity with cupidity. He was cheated by many. It was common practice among Bofors executives to set up their own scams as part and parcel
of their needs. Now everybody is worried over the 'Q' and 'R'
in his diary. But doesn't
anybody wants to know the role of 'N' in his diary?
Did Rajiv drop Arun Nehru because he suspected his role
in the Bofors scandal?
Much more than that. Nehru was a relative of the Gandhi family
and close to the country's throne of power. But Rajiv found that he was playing tricks
with him and therefore dropped him from the ministry.
But Quattrocchi was a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi and visited
Rajiv had a vast circle of friends. I worked with Rajiv all
those years. I have checked with the Special Protection Group. Quattrocchi
was never received in the Prime Minister's Office and he and his wife were not
frequent visitors to the Gandhi residence. Quattrocchi arrived in India years before
Rajiv returned from his studies from England. Rajiv and Sonia were a non-political
couple for many years and kept a low profile always. But Quattrocchi
and Snamprogetti was at that time a prominent worldwide industrial house.
Do you think the Quattrocchi-Rajiv link will be damaging for the
Attempts to stretch Bofors-Quattrocchi to Rajiv Gandhi and
his family will have to rest on firmer foundations. Let the CBI check out the
connection and prove whether Rajiv was involved in the deal.