Another scandal over Bofors, envoy sought to ‘censor’ Pranab’s comment

Newspaper claims that Indian ambassador tried to pressurize it into removing portions of Mukherjee’s comment on Bofors scandal

GN Bureau | May 27, 2015


#bofors   #sweden   #swedish   #president pranab mukherjee   #india   #ambassador   #newspaper  

First it was unnecessary political comment made by a constitutional authority. Now, another gaffe has been committed by a serving diplomat.

Ahead of his visit to Sweden, president Pranab Mukherjee said the Bofors scandal was a media trial and it had not been proven to be a scandal in a court of law.

Mukherjee, who has been Congresss party leader before being elected as a president of the republic of India gave an interview to Swedish national daily 'Dagens Nyhetter', a tradition before a dignitary’s visit to any country. He was asked if he thought Bofors had been a media trial. He said, "I do not know. I'm not describing it, you're putting that word. Don't put that word. What I am saying is that in media it was publicised. But up to now, no Indian court has given any decisive verdict about the alleged scandal."

The Bofors scandal was a $285 million contract between the Indian government and Swedish arms company Bofors, signed for supply of 155mm howitzer field guns in 1986. Subsequently, Swedish Radio alleged that Bofors paid illegal commissions to top Indian politicians and key defence officials to seal the deal.  The scandal contributed to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s defeat in the 1989 parliamentary polls. Mukherjee, a senior leader of the Congress, was a close confidante of Gandhi.

Mukherjee is scheduled to start his visit to Sweden, the first by an Indian president, on Sunday.

The president had a choice but he answered the question put by the Swedish paper. Now the Indian government seems to have acted in haste and asked its ambassador for a  kind of cover up that will surely boomerang.

The daily Dagens Nyheter has reported that it was warned by the Indian envoy that Mukherjee’s planned state visit to Sweden was “at risk of being cancelled” if it did not retract remarks he made about the Bofors scandal during an interview.

On Tuesday, Dagens Nyheter received an official letter from the Indian envoy in which she expressed “disappointment” at the interview. She said the daily neglected to show the President the “courtesy and respect” he deserved as a head of state.

“In a telephone conversation with DN (Dagens Nyheter) prior to the publication of the article, the ambassador made a direct request that DN was to retract sections of the interview mentioning Bofors. She also warned that the planned state visit was at risk of being cancelled,” said a report posted on the daily’s website.

The daily refused to retract Mukherjee’s remarks on the Bofors scam and carried the interview in full. Dagens Nyheter’s editor-in-chief Peter Wolodarski, who conducted the interview in Delhi, described Indian ambassador Banashri Bose Harrison’s reaction as “regretful”.

Video and audio of the interview posted on the newspaper’s website featured Mukherjee as saying that the Bofors arms scandal of the 1980s was more of a “media trial” because none of the charges had been proved in any Indian court.

 “I find the Ambassador’s reaction regretful. It is surprising that someone representing the world's largest democracies (sic) is trying to micromanage which questions we should ask a head of state, and which answers should be published,” said Wolodarski.

“I told the Ambassador that we couldn’t accept her demands. The president became engaged and was upset when Bofors was mentioned during a question regarding how we can avoid corruption today. Of course we had to tell our readers about his reaction,” he said.

The Indian envoy said it was “unprofessional and unethical” that the newspaper light heartedly mentioned that Mukherjee mixed up Sweden and Switzerland several times during the interview. She also claimed that the daily misled the audience by shortening a video interview from six minutes to three.

Comments

 

Other News

Railways’ freight earnings up by 16%

On mission mode, Indian Railways` Freight loading for first ten months of this financial year 2022-23 has crossed last year’s loading and earnings for the same month. On cumulative basis from April 2022 to January 2023, freight loading of 1243.46 MT was achieved against last year&rsquo

BMC announces Rs 52,619.07 crore budget

Mumbai’s municipal commissioner and administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal on Saturday announced a Budget of Rs 52,619.07 crore for 2023-2024, an increase of 20.67% over a revised budget estimate of Rs 43607.10 crore for 2022-23. The overall budget size has doubled in five years. In 2017-18

Making sense of the ‘crisis of political representation’

Imprints of the Populist Time By Ranabir Samaddar Orient BlackSwan, 352 pages, Rs. 1105 The crisis of liberal democracy in the neoliberal world—marked by massive l

Budget: Highlights

Union minister of finance and corporate affairs Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2023-24 in Parliament on Wednesday. The highlights of the Budget are as follows: PART A     Per capita income has more than doubled to Rs 1.97 lakh in around

Budget presents vision for Amrit Kaal: A blueprint for empowered, inclusive economy

Union Budget 2023-24, presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Parliament on Wednesday, outlined the vision of Amrit Kaal which shall reflect an empowered and inclusive economy.  “We envision a prosperous and inclusive India, in which the fruits of development reach all regions an

Soumya Swaminathan to head M S Swaminathan Research Foundation

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan takes charge as chairperson of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) from February 1.   Founded by her father, the legendary agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan, MSSRF was set up to accelerate the use of m

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now



Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter