Published in 2005, the book ‘The Mitrokhin Archive II’, written by Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB defector, it stated that “India was the model of KGB infiltration of a Third World government with scores of sources throughout the Indian government, in intelligence, counter-intelligence, defence and foreign ministries, the police…”
The KGB operations in India expanded rapidly in the ’50s and ’60s, and not just within Indian borders. The book reveals that an Indian diplomat, codenamed PROKHOR, in the embassy in Moscow was recruited via the classic honey trap, compromised by a female KGB agent with the delicious code name of NEVEROVA. The PROKHOR provided the agency with the embassy codebook and other material and was paid Rs 4,000 a month. Two other diplomats were also compromised.
According to Mitrokhin: “The agency had so many agents and sources that then KGB chief Yuri Andropov turned down an offer by an Indian cabinet minister for a payment of $50,000 in exchange for information. Suitcases of cash were sent to then prime minister Indira Gandhi for her party’s war chest, not to mention vast sums of money funnelled to the CPI.”
The book claims that the maximum operational effort by the KGB in a Third World country during the Cold War was in India and that the number of KGB agents in India during the 1970s was the largest outside the Soviet Union.
Indira Gandhi was sent suitcases of money meant for the Congress coffers. On one occasion, a secret gift of Rs 2 million from the Politburo to the Congress(R) was personally delivered by the KGB head in India Leonid Shebarshin. Another million rupees were given on the same occasion to a newspaper supporting Mrs Gandhi.
In 1978, the KGB was running over 30 agents in India, 10 of whom were Indian intelligence officers. In 1977, KGB files identified 21 non communist politicians (four union ministers) whose election campaigns were subsidised by the KGB.
The CPI was funded in many ways, including transfer of money through car windows on Delhi roads.In 1959, CPI general-secretary Ajoy Ghosh agreed on a plan to found an import-export business for trade with the Soviet bloc. In little more than a decade its annual profits grew to over Rs 3 million.
During 1975, a total of 10.6 million roubles was spent on active measures in India designed to strengthen the support for Mrs Gandhi and undermine her political opponents.V. Krishna Menon, as defence minister, was persuaded to buy Soviet MiGs and not British Lightnings. His election campaigns in 1962 and 1967 were funded by the KGB.
By 1973, the KGB had 10 Indian newspapers on its payroll plus a press agency. During 1975 the KGB planted 5,510 articles in Indian newspapers.
M.K. Dhar, former IB director, in his famous book Open Secrets, wrote that the IB had succeeded in “identifying four Union ministers (in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet) and over two dozen MPs who were on the KGB payroll”. It was the way that the Soviet Union manage to ‘influence’ Indian politics.
He went on to state that “the most surprising area of KGB penetration was the Defence Ministry and those layers of the armed forces which were responsible for military procurement”.
In fact, claims about Mrs Gandhi accepting money were also made by former US ambassador to India Daniel Moynihan.
He wrote in his memoir A Dangerous Place: “We had twice interfered in Indian politics to the extent of providing money to a political party. Both times the money was given to the Congress party,which had asked for it. Once it was given to Mrs Gandhi herself.”
What does come across clearly is the book’s premise that “the openness of India’s democracy combined with the streak of corruption through its media and political system provided numerous opportunities for Soviet intelligence”.
Another noting by Oleg Kalugin, former KGB major-general, says, “It seemed like the entire country was for sale: the KGB and the CIA had deeply penetrated the Indian government.”
THE LEGACY OF POLITICAL ESPIONAGE CONTINUES
This was before Facebook and starting of Chinese espionage operations.
Brittany Kaiser, who worked with the company at Cambridge provided evidence of Analytica’s wrongdoings during a hearing in the British Parliament in 2018, she said that “Cambridge Analytica or its partners extract data from the social media. She believed that the number of people whose Facebook data may have been compromised is likely higher than the widely reported 87 million.”
As latest as 2020, amid the tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh sector, a major revelation has found that China has hatched an espionage conspiracy against India.
A Shenzen-based company named Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited has been tasked with monitoring over 10,000 prominent citizens including President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others, a report by The Indian Express has said.
Information compiled through open sources.
Edited by Shantanu K. Bansal