India declined to sell nuclear technology to Iran, Iraq and Libya in the 1980s in spite of being offered “huge” sums of money, said a leading defence journal.
According to a report, all the three countries offered “huge” sums in the early 1980s, but the then prime minister Indira Gandhi said a firm “No”. Surprisingly, then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was most upset and when his persistent efforts yielded no response, he went to the extent of sending only a junior minister for her funeral.
Iran asked for nuclear technology as well as a military training school for its officers somewhere in India, again offering substantial monetary compensation for both, but Indira Gandhi said India would not play its friends against one another.
India had in fact been training Iraqi Air Force pilots, thanks to the commonality of the Soviet aircraft with the two countries. The defence cooperation had begun before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, but Indian instructors, their number reaching 60 at one time, had no mandate except to continue the training programme in accordance with the relevant agreements.
India and Iraq had strong military ties in the form of training and at one time, there were about 60 Indian Air Force (IAF) officers imparting training to their Iraqi friends on Soviet-supplied aircraft, common to both the countries. One of the Indian instructors was also given the highest possible award by president Saddam Hussein.
Iran and Iraq were then in the thick of their long, eight-year war, which cost each side heavy casualties and meant no victory for any side. Gandhi’s special envoy for the Gulf, Romesh Bhandari, in fact was then shuttling between the Iranian and Iraqi capitals of Teheran and Baghdad to forge peace.
Iraq in fact was supposed to host the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in 1983, but as Iran was not willing to participate in it in Baghdad, where a new conference hotel – Rasheed – had been set up by Swedish companies, the venue was moved to New Delhi at Bhandari’s suggestion.
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi also wanted nuclear technology and when India refused, he hassled the Indian companies and workers to pressure Gandhi but she did not budge.
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