India had assured the US that the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson would not be subjected to "any actions" during his visit to Bhopal after the deadly 1984 gas leakage incident, a former top American diplomat said on Wednesday. Gordon Streeb, who was the deputy chief of the American mission in New Delhi in 1984, also said he never met the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi or the Foreign Minister on the issue.
He said the US' request to the Indian Government to allow Anderson into the country and his safe return was a "one time affair" and there was no similar request or assistance sought for any future legal action against him. "It (the request) was strictly for this visit. I think, what I am beginning to get a sense of from some of the questions that I am being asked and few of the reports that I have seen is that people are trying to mix together this particular visit and the assurances that he would be allowed to leave to go back home and any future legal action," Streeb told PTI in an interview. "We did not; I did not get into any discussion with any Indian officials about anything down the road. It would have been totally improper for us to get into discussion about the future," he said.
Streeb said as far as he could recollect the Union Carbide contacted the US Embassy in New Delhi and said that Anderson would like to come to India to access the situation and to show Union Carbide's concerns at the highest levels for the victims. He said he got in touch with the External Affairs Ministry and the then Foreign Secretary M K Rasgotra and told them about Union Carbide's interest and the US' concerns that Anderson be assured that he would be able to come and move about freely and be able to leave again without any difficulty.
"The Foreign Ministry got back to me and said that the Government of India agreed that it would be a good idea for Anderson to come there and that they assured that he would not be subjected to any actions then. So, on that basis, we told him to come ahead," Streeb said. "...But, we are all very cautious for people coming in the situations like that because the legal environment is very unpredictable, especially how different levels of authority between the federal authorities and the local authorities are going to react. "Neither we know that the Union Carbide wanted to get into a situation where Anderson would be exposed to the risk of being detained or arrested while he was in India. That is the precaution, we thought, we all needed to be taken," Streeb, now visiting Professor at Emory University and also a member of the India, China, America Institute's advisory board, said.
Streeb said once Anderson got to Madhya Pradesh, local authorities took their own actions recollecting the events of December 7 when Anderson was detained for a few hours by the local police in Bhopal. "Once, we found out that (of his arrest)--- we were told that Anderson was under house arrest, this is the way it was put, I believe that there was a union carbide guest house in Bhopal where he was staying in and he was then told that he would not be allowed to leave the premises," the former Deputy Chief of Mission said. Streeb said then he got in touch with the Foreign Ministry and said that he we needed the government of India to intervene in consistence with the "agreement that we had reached about then." "And subsequently then, whatever actions they took, they got him released and brought him back to New Delhi," Streeb said giving the sequence of the events.
He said this was a voluntary effort by Anderson to go to Bhopal and have firsthand look at what happened in Bhopal. "And then he wanted a safe passage back home." "All we were focusing on was Anderson's desire to come to India and to be free to leave again on this particular trip," he said, asserting that there was no talk on future legal action. "No there was nothing, I mean it would have been totally inappropriate," Streeb said in response to a question. "I was not down in Bhopal, so I do not know, what transpired there..What I knew was that I was informed that the Government would indeed intercede Anderson would be released and brought back to Delhi so that he could leave the country," he said. "That was the end of our involvement with this thing other than any effort of humanitarian relief and the like and we within the US government never really, at least during my time in India, during the next four years, never really got involved with any of these issues.. the legal matter or anything else," Streeb said. PTI