India lodges protest against Swedish daily

India lodges protest against Swedish daily

India lodges protest against Swedish daily

India has strongly objected to a Swedish daily publishing the comments made by President Pranab Mukherjee on the Bofors controversy.

New Delhi said that it amounted to showing disrespect to the President with his visit scheduled for Sunday.

Indian Ambassador to Sweden, Banashri Bose Harrison, said in a letter to editor-in-chief of “Dagens Nyheter”, Peter Wolodarski, that “it was both unprofessional and unethical on your part to include in the report an off-the-record correction by the President after the interview had ended, about a slip-of-the-tongue during the interview.”

She conveyed New Delhi’s disappointment at the “condescending manner” in which Mukherjee’s comment was included and that the video shows the Bofors question as the opening one, whereas it was third in the list.

“I am told at that point you sympathised with him and said it can happen to anyone. After that, to include the same in your report in a most condescending manner as you have done does not befit the high standards normally expected from a leading newspaper or a professional journalist,” she said in the letter.

Mukherjee, who was interviewed in Delhi, was quoted in the interview as saying that the Bofors deal should not be referred to as a scandal.

“No Indian court has given a verdict on it, the trial is going on, and unless some authoritative institutions describe it as a scandal and punish it, how could you say that it is a scandal?” he had said in the interview.

The newspaper claimed that in a telephone conversation with it prior to the publication of the article, the Indian ambassador made a direct request that it retract sections of the interview mentioning Bofors.

The paper said, “She also warned that the planned state visit was at risk of being cancelled.” The President is visiting Sweden on an invitation by the King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf. The Bofors controversy hit the headlines in 1986 when Swedish arms manufacturer “Bofors AB” won a Rs 1,500 crore contract to supply Howitzer guns to India when the Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi was in power.

The Swedish media had then reported that the company had paid massive kickbacks to Indian politicians and defence officials.  The case led to the Opposition launching a big agitation under former prime minister V P Singh against then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi lost the general elections in 1989.

A day ago, the Congress had welcomed Mukherjee’s remarks but the BJP chose to remain silent. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said he would not comment on the President’s statement but said that the guns were good.

There was no official reactions from Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Ministry of External Affairs.  The Swedish daily quoted Wolodarski as having told the Indian ambassador: “...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.”