NEW DELHI, India, April 19, (Reuter): The ruling Congress (I) Party has charged that recent arms payoff scandals sullying the “Mr. Clean” image of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were caused by foreign and domestic forces out to weaken India’s defenses.

The Party’s working committee met throughout yesterday, with Gandhi presiding, to assess political damage caused by the scandals and by the resignation a week ago of India’s best-known corruption fighter, Defense Minister, V.P. Singh.

Gandhi told the committee that a “disinformation” campaign had begun to weaken India’s defenses and prevent the country from obtaining modern foreign weapons, the Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted political sources as saying.

Later, in a nine page resolution, the Party elders echoed the charge. In an allusion to the United States, chief arms supplier to India’s traditional foe, they said the nation was. threatened by a supply of sophisticated weapons to Pakistan.

“The Congress (I) and its government yield to none in their determination to uphold the values of clean public life”, the elders. said.

“We are, however, outraged by the persistent and conscious efforts being made by countries inimical to our national interests to prevent rapid up gradation of technology in defense forces”. Gandhi faces an uncomfortable week in Parliament tomorrow when Opposition leaders have said they will bring up accusations of a payoff to his party members over a 1.3 billion dollar contract for artillery from Sweden’s Bofors firm.

Last week the Opposition attacked the government over the resignation of Singh, who quit after ordering a probe into what leading newspapers describe as a 23milliondollar payoff involving the 1981 purchase of West German submarines.

Indian defense officials have denied any wrongdoings in the Swedish deal and said last week that a “commission” paid to an Indian agent overseas in the early 1980s was being investigated.

Singh, who apparently piqued Gandhi and Cabinet colleagues by his independence, resigned after announcing an investigation into the so-called commission.

The Congress (1) elders said in their resolution: “A vicious campaign of falsehood, insinuation and innuendo, backed by baseless and malicious charges, has been mounted to tarnish the image of the Party and its leadership”.

They said recent events “established beyond doubt that a pattern of destabilization in which external forces hostile to India have been revealed to be inextricably linked with the internal forces of political and economic subversion.

“If these designs were to succeed, India would be fragmented and her sons and daughters will again be reduced to the status of hewers of wood and drawers of water for foreign masters”.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 24, 1987