President Pranab Mukherjee has said the Bofors arms scandal that rocked the country in 1980s was a just a ‘media trial’ and no charges have been proved in the court so far.
Mukherjee expressed his view during an interview with Dagens Nyheter daily ahead of his visit to Sweden next week. A former defence minister himself, he said, “no Indian court has given a verdict on it and trial process is still going on. Unless some authoritative institutions term it as scandal and award punishment, how could you say that it is a scandal?”
Just mere doubts or suspicions are not enough to make the Bofors issue a scandal. There was a trial by media and one should not be carried away by too much publicity on the Bofors issue.
It may be recalled that ties with Sweden were damaged when allegations were made that Swedish firm Bofors had paid $640 million as kickbacks to secure a $1.3 billion contract to sell 410 howitzers to the Indian Army.
The then PM Rajiv Gandhi got a drubbing in the 1989 Lok Sabha polls, a fall out of the Bofors kickbacks scam and that time Pranab Mukherjee, a senior Congress leader, was a close confidante of Gandhi who was assassinate during his poll campaign in 1991.
In the interview to the Swedish daily, Mukherjee pointed out that there was no scandal related to Bofors howitzers which were put to good use by the Indian Army.
“I was the defence minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my generals certified that this is one of the best guns we are having. Till today, the Indian Army is using it,” he said.
During the Kargil war in 1999, Bofors howitzers played a critical role in pushing back the Pakistani infiltrators who had crossed the Line of Control to occupying strategic hills in Kashmir.