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…Swiss and French firms are equally know[n] for their willingness to make contributions.”

Boeing ultimately won the Indian Airlines deal, based on the 737’s technical superiority and well-arranged financing — if separate cables on the negotiations are to be believed.

Maruti and Cessna

The Americans’ understanding that the involvement of Sanjay Gandhi, or anyone related to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, could load the dice in any deal is further evident from a cable dated August 27, 1976 (1976NEWDE12666_b, Confidential) on K.L. Jalan, Managing Director, Maruti Heavy Vehicles (P) LTD., requesting “embassy assistance in arranging a meeting with the president or high level official of Cessna aircraft to discuss the sale of Cessna aircraft in India”.

Jalan claims that “his firm has an immediate [sic] sale for two aircraft with a very promising outlook for 20 more units by fiscal year-end”. Jalan also makes it a point to state that the company is “owned by Sanjay Gandhi (son of Prime Minister), Sonia Gandhi (Sanjay’s sister-in-law) and J.K. Jalan,” prompting the Embassy to suggest to the State Department that “Cessna be informed immediately on sales opportunity… but that company be [briefed] on background of Maruti and implications of any association with company”.

It should be noted that while Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti was described as angling for the BAC agency, his older brother Rajiv was said in another U.S. embassy despatch to have emerged as an “entrepreneur” on behalf of Saab-Scania, as already reported by The Hindu on Monday. Saab-Scania had to drop out of the race due to U.S. pressure since the Viggen utilised American technology. The Janata Party government that took office in 1977 eventually decided to go the Jaguar way and on July 27 1979 the first two Jaguar aircraft landed in India.