NEW DELHI, 17 JUNE: Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson was assured “safe passage” before he came to India in 1984 in the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster, the then foreign secretary Mr MK Rasgotra said today, adding a new twist to the renewed row over the tragedy.
The decision, Mr Rasgotra said, was taken by the Union home ministry, then under PV Narasimha Rao, and the Cabinet secretary. Rajiv Gandhi was subsequently told about the decision, to which he did not object. “I got in touch with the home ministry and I got in touch with the Cabinet secretary. I told them what Gordon Streeb (the then deputy chief of the US mission here) had asked for,” Mr Rasgotra said. This was after a request from the US Embassy asking for a safe passage for Anderson, he said.
His comments came on the eve of the meeting of the Group of Ministers to discuss various aspects of the fallout of the court verdict in the gas tragedy case.
Mr Rasgotra said in an interview to CNN-IBN that the decision to give Anderson safe passage was taken “the same day”. “He (Streeb) said Anderson wanted to come here. There was a tragic situation and he wanted to see things himself, wanted to offer his condolences but he would come only if granted safe passage,” Mr Rasgotra said.
He said he could not say if the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Mr Arjun Singh was unaware of the safe passage, which resulted in Anderson's brief arrest in Bhopal.