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Wikileaks reveals more, says Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti sought to bat for British plane

Wikileaks reveals more, says Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti sought to bat for British plane

New Delhi: The latest tranche of US diplomatic cables accessed by transparency watchdog Wikileaks, and released publicly Monday reveal that Maruti company, in which Sanjay Gandhi had major stakes, actively sought, and was rumoured to have got, the role of agent for the British Aircraft Corporation in its sales efforts in India during the 1970s.

In a cable dated July 7, 1976, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi said a “British Aircraft Corporation team that visited India to compete against Dutch and American aircraft suppliers was approached and offered the assistance of the Maruti company, a firm controlled by Sanjay Gandhi.” According to the Americans, “BAC replied that something could certainly be worked out.”

The cable was sent by the embassy in response to a State Department request for a comprehensive assessment of India’s anti-corruption laws to work on an “international agreement on illicit payments.”

The cables also say Yashwantrao Chavan, finance minister under Indira Gandhi was a key politician courted by the Americans as a possible counter to the Prime Minister, who US President Richard Nixon famously abused.

The cables mention Chavan more often than any other minister in the Gandhi cabinet. At a time when references to Gandhi and close aides like TN Kaul were mostly acerbic, the US embassy lobbied to get Chavan a chance to meet Henry Kissinger, Nixon's secretary of state, a cable written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US ambassador to India to the State Department secret service on March 17 suggests.

"You should know that Chavan is one of the few ministers here with a political base of his own, and is considered a potential rival to the Prime Minister," Moynihan wrote.

A cable dated September 16, 1975 has revealed that the US intended to use then Indian foreign minister YB Chavan to limit Soviet influence in India. The US also wanted to use him repair India's external relations that was "upset" in 1971.

At the same time, the US also wanted limit the level of their involvement in India and "above all avoid creating over-expectations regarding the benefits which might accrue from improved relations."

"We recommend that the secretary brief Chavan on our relations with the USSR and China to demonstrate that they support our objective of stability in South Asia. He should brief Chavan on our view of recent events in Bangladesh, pointing out that our only interest is in stability and that our activities are humanitarian.

The Secretary should frankly discuss our relations with Pakistan, explaining that we are engaged in technical discussions of us arms sales of transfers, that these will be carried out in accordance with the policy we announced last winter."

The United States had sources even inside then PM Indira Gandhi's house who provided it with the goings on inside the household, a diplomatic cable dated June 27, 1975 has revealed. The US officials had spoken to many of these sources after declaration of Emergency.

The cable referring to a spate of transfers of senior officials who opposed the declaration of Emergency said: "According to a source in the PM's household entourage, this was the key reason for the sudden transfer of home secretary Mukerjee to civil aviation and tourism at the beginning of this week."

The cable adds: "The names most commonly heard as the key figures behind Mrs Gandhi at this point are her son, Sanjay Gandhi and her secretary, Dhawan. This is confirmed by a source close to the PM's household. Both are non-ideological, extremely authoritarian in their general approach, and focused only on keeping Mrs Gandhi in power."

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