KGB records show how spies penetrated the heart of India

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by Sridhar, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. Sridhar

    Sridhar House keeper Moderator

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    KGB records show how spies penetrated the heart of India
    The Kremlin spent a fortune trying to influence the press, police, ministers and Indira Gandhi
    By Michael Binyon
    A HUGE cache of KGB records smuggled out of Moscow after the fall of communism reveal that in the 1970s India was one of the countries most successfully penetrated by Soviet intelligence.

    A number of senior KGB officers have testified that, under Indira Gandhi, India was one of their priority targets.

    “We had scores of sources through the Indian Government — in intelligence, counter-intelligence, the defence and foreign ministries and the police,” said Oleg Kalugin, once the youngest general in Soviet foreign intelligence and responsible for monitoring KGB penetration abroad. India became “a model of KGB infiltration of a Third World government”, he added.

    Such claims have previously been ignored or brushed aside by Delhi. But the revelations from the KGB documents that form one of the biggest Western intelligence coups in recent years provide firm evidence for these claims. The records have been analysed in a new book about the KBG’s global operations, and the first extracts appear today in Times Books.

    According to these top-secret records, brought to the West by Vasili Mitrokhin, a former senior archivist of the KGB, Soviet intelligence set out to exploit the corruption that became endemic under Indira Gandhi’s regime.
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    Despite her own frugal lifestyle, suitcases full of banknotes were said to be routinely taken to the Prime Minister’s house to finance her wing of the Congress Party. One of her opponents claimed that Mrs Gandhi did not even return the suitcases.

    The Prime Minister was unaware that some of the suitcases, which replenished Congress’s coffers, came from Moscow via the KGB.

    Her principal fundraiser, Lalit Narayan Mishra, however, knew that he was accepting Soviet money. Short and obese with several chins, Mishra looked the part of the corrupt politician that he increasingly became. Particularly after Mrs Gandhi signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation with the Soviet Union, the KGB was anxious to do what it could to keep her in power.

    The KGB “residency” in Delhi was one of the largest in the world outside the Soviet bloc, and was awarded the rare honour by the Centre (KGB HQ in Moscow) of being promoted to “main residency”.

    The Indians lifted restrictions on the number of Soviet diplomats and trade officials in the country, thus allowing the KGB numerous cover positions. One of the KGB heads of political intelligence in Delhi, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, went on to head Russian foreign intelligence, became a confidant of President Putin and was appointed Russian Ambassador to Delhi last year.

    The Russians were also extremely active in trying to influence Indian opinion. According to KGB files, by 1973 it had on its payroll ten Indian newspapers as well as a press agency. The previous year the KGB claimed to have planted 3,789 articles in Indian newspapers — probably more than in any other country in the non-communist world. By 1975 the number of articles it claimed to have inspired had risen to 5,510. India was also one of the most favourable environments for Soviet front organisations.

    Christopher Andrew, the Cambridge historian who co-operated with Mitrokhin after his defection to Britain, says in his account of this huge operation that the KGB fatally overestimated its own influence. It also failed to anticipate the backlash against Mrs Gandhi after her imposition in 1975 of the state of emergency.

    “Reports from the Delhi main residency claimed exaggerated credit for using its agents of influence to persuade Mrs Gandhi to declare the emergency,” Professor Andrew writes. “But both the Centre and the Soviet leadership found it difficult to grasp that the emergency had not turned her into a dictator and that she still responded to public opinion and had to deal with the Opposition.”

    The head of the Delhi KGB admitted: “The embassy and our intelligence service saw all this, but for Moscow Indira became India, and India Indira.” Reports from the Delhi main residency that were critical of any aspect of her policies received a cool reception in the Centre and seem not to have been passed on to the Kremlin. Moscow put repeated pressure on the Communist Party of India to throw its full support behind Mrs Gandhi.

    Despite spending some 10.6 million roubles (more than £10 million in old exchange rates) on influence operations to support Mrs Gandhi and undermine her opponents, Moscow did not foresee the sudden end of emergency rule. Her landslide defeat in the elections of 1977 brought Moraji Desai, one of the KGB's bêtes noires, to power, and even when Mrs Gandhi returned to office, relations with Moscow were never as close again.

    In 1992 the 70-year-old Vasili Mitrokhin, his family and six large containers of KGB documents that he had secretly copied over 12 years and hidden beneath his dacha were smuggled by British intelligence out of Russia. The FBI has called the Mitrokhin archive “the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source”. Mitrokhin died in Britain last year.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article567444.ece
     
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  3. Soham

    Soham DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    A very interesting read. Goes on to show how entire strategies have been created to make full use of corrupt Indian politicians. The infiltration was admirable though..
     
  4. EnlightenedMonk

    EnlightenedMonk Member of The Month JULY 2009 Senior Member

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    It was admirable, but I doubt whether it caused too much damage to our interests, Russia was and is a friendly country, they might have had access to certain sensitive information and may have been in a position to slightly influence public opinion...

    All's well that ends well... but, we must learn our lessons from this and make sure that such nonsense doesn't recur again...
     
  5. Antimony

    Antimony Regular Member

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    I am not sure I completely understand what they achieved

    1. We took their money (or rather, the congress and its minions took their money)
    2. They sold us arms (so they get some of our money, maybe a lot of it)
    3. They keep China focussed on themselves
    4. We still go out and make friends with America

    Now we do have to make sure that such suitcases do not find their way to our politicos again:(:)(:)((
     
  6. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Don't be surprised. Suitcases continue coming to India, from China and the US. Don't for one moment believe that our politicians are not for sale. If the price is right, then everything has a re-sale value too. The US has been stealing information from our Nuclear industry through bureaucrats since decades. All this from a high profile Ex-RAW Officer in a book. I forgot which one though. Once caught, the bureaucrats get a safe haven in the US.
     
  7. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Maybe, these things are still happening. Maybe, not just KGB, but CIA, and other such org.s might have infiltrated to the heart of India. May be public opinion is guided by such parties through media.
    Scary thoughts...
     
  8. Soham

    Soham DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    We didn't exactly go make friends with America at that time, and what they achieved was a heavy influence on India's foreign affairs and a strategic tilt towards Moscow.
     
  9. Antimony

    Antimony Regular Member

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    In that case the only thing they achieved was India's silence over Afghanistan. Was that harmful for us? Yes.

    What it gave us was some kind of occupancy of the Chinese on their northern border. Was that gain equivalent to the loss of afghani friendship. I have no idea how to begin answering that question
     
  10. Soham

    Soham DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    While I wouldn't call Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation "not-so-useful", the loss of Afghani friendship was heavy indeed.

    The Soviet support in 1971 was significant in the '71 victory. American and Chinese involvement could very well have screwed up our delicate war on two fronts.
     
  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The US does the same (remember the case of the RAW officer who went off to the US even though it should not have been possible since he was supposed to be under surveillance!) and so do many other countries.

    Moraji Desai was accused of being an US spy!

    It happens all the time!

    It is not globalisation and liberalisation alone which is changing opinions.
     
  12. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    On spying in India.

    Here is an article by AG Noorani

     
  13. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    About the nuclear part in the early 60s. US was hoping India would test a nuclear device before China for PR reasons. Democracy is superior to Communism. Sadly our policy makers were not as visionary as the US had hoped for. Pokhran I came way after all the apartheid treaties were created(NPT, CTBT).
     
  14. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    The level of Soviet penetration in India was minuscule compared to their exploits in espionage in the UK - primarily because India was at the time a friendly country, even if not overtly so. Ever heard of the Phibly-Burgess-Maclean affair - the greatest spy scandal to ever rock the world of British intelligence? and perhaps in all of the West. Infact, if the candid (and now notorious) autobiography of Peter Wright, former Chief Scientific Officer and Assistant Director for MI5 is testament, the level of Soviet penetration in British intelligence extended right up to the top- to the Director Roger Hollis himself, who served between 1956 and 1965. A must read for all those keen on the surreptitious world of espionage, Spycatcher will give you insights into the murky world of espionage you could only ever imagine. I know it has given me a whole new perspective on these issues.
     
  15. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Soviet union have been stealing nuclear secrets from England for long.

    Identity of Soviet spy who triggered Cold War revealed - Yahoo! India News

    British spy helped speed up USSR’s atomic bomb program Aftermath News

    The spy who started the Cold War - Times Online

    Let's not forget the defector Gouzenko too. The person who initiated the Cold War singlehandedly.
     
  16. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    Igor Gouzenko did not "single-handedly start the Cold War". That is an urban myth :). The British (and subsequently the Yanks via the UKUSA agreement) were already aware of Soviet military aggrandizement and technical advancement through radio analysis of the Venona traffic and through the RAFTER program. Although the Venona project was compromised in 1945 by US Army SIGINT cryptologist Bill Weisband who was being run by the NKVD as an agent, the program gave the West some inkling as to the Soviet Union's massive military agglomeration. Besides, our man Peter Wright reveals that a number of top-level officials, including himself, within the MI5 were always suspicious about Gouzenko's intent (although James Jesus Angleton, CIA director at the time, seemed to repose full faith in his depositions).
     
  17. hit&run

    hit&run Elite Member Elite Member

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    Enemy at the gates!
    Chinese spies are everywhere, and we don’t seem to be scared.

    Following the prime minister, Manmohan Singh’s address to the combined military commanders’ conference, the Chinese spoke to the Russians, the South East Asians, Indian officials and Left contacts about their concerns. Typically, they did not reveal themselves, but gauged the reaction and responses of others. They understood, in the broadest terms, that the PM had spoken of a new emerging multipolar world, in which the United States had a special place, and that India had to recognise this reality.

    The Chinese have been concerned about the growing Indian-US strategic partnership, commencing from the somewhat indiscreet and unnecessary disclosure by a senior visiting American official earlier this year, that the Bush administration was keen to see India as a great power. No state can make another a great power, this being dependent on various inherent strengths, including economic and military strength and political resilience, and a country’s own greatness, and second, beyond a point, no power would want competition, much less build up another to provide that competition. It is true, one great power can shore up another state as a buffer, an ally, or to provide competition to a strategic rival, but all this is very relative. Even if the Americans meant well, they alerted and angered the Chinese, who thence began the first of the serious snooping about emerging India-US relations.

    Their concerns were further and greatly heightened by the 18-July Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement, which they have subsequently tried their best to undermine. One is at the level of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group countries, where it is preventing a consensus for India’s admittance, banned since the 1974 nuclear test from receiving atomic fuels and related technologies, and at the second level, it has been prodding Pakistan to demand a similar parity from the US, knowing America will refuse, and despite Pakistan’s notorious proliferation record. Either by coincidence or design, the Left parties, especially those who have fraternal relations with China, part of the international Communist brotherhood, have opposed the 18 July agreement as well, but knowing their leverage to be limited, the Chinese have not relaxed their vigil, but raised it, and now, all aspects of Indian’s expanding relations, with the United States and others, is being watched hawkeyed.

    Known to the Indian agencies, but apparently powerless to stop it, the Chinese have begun extensive espionage on India’s external interests. The Taiwanese, who usually do not get the time of day with Indian foreign office officials, who are frightened of offending the Chinese, are yet being tailed twenty-four hours a day round the year by the Chinese here. In lesser degree, the same is the case with the Japanese, the South Koreans, and others in South East Asia, including Vietnam. The fear of the Chinese is so acute that South Korea is being prevented from establishing closer military ties, although they are glad to be junior partners, and the Vietnamese are waiting without much hope for a strategic relationship.

    All of ASEAN, but particularly Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, are troubled or terrified of Chinese expansionism. In South East Asia, over twenty-year-old Chinese plans to establish political and economic hegemony have borne fruit, and now, China is trying to press its military might there. The Chinese defence minister, Cao Gangchuan, when he was previously the army chief, had proposed Chinese force projection beyond the South China Sea, an unprecedented thinking in the PLA. This went ahead of the garland-of-pearls strategy, which is setting up forward military bases, like in the ports touching or easily accessible to the Indian Ocean, and the more immediate pressure of Cao Gangchuan’s thinking is being felt by the pro-West ASEAN states.

    This is not the result of strategic competition within the region, Japan, which alone could have provided some competition to China, has gone into a shell, especially after its failure to enter the UN Security Council, and others are not in the same league. What China has attempted, and succeeded at partly, is to get hegemony over South East Asia, its own backyard, so to say, and then make the great leap forward, as a power to challenge the United States. This is nearly the route the United States took in the earlier phases of its rise to dominance, controlling the Americas, and the more serious and insightful American commentators are increasingly speaking of China as the default power in case the US does not overcome its blunders after 9/ 11.

    Where India figures, is that China ranks it third among the troublesome powers, after the United States and European Union/ Russia, and ASEAN takes fourth place. To show opposition to China, both Thailand and Indonesia have sought Prithvi and BrahMos missiles (Intelligence, “Thailand, Indonesia seek BrahMos, Prithvi,” 23 November 2005), but India is undecided, fearful of the Chinese reaction. Several South East Asian states desire these missiles, but the Indian government is unable to take a stand, and there is also Left pressure on the Centre. The Indian military is pressing hardest for a full-scope defence engagement with South East Asia, the success of the Look East policy is predicated on this, but the Chinese scare comes in the way. It hardly speaks for our courage that Chinese espionage in this country is being allowed untrammeled. “After the US, I thought I could work best here in India, because of its democracy, but the Chinese are on my tail all the time,” said an ASEAN diplomat.
     
  18. NikSha

    NikSha Regular Member

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    How much the Congress is "scared" of China is hard to tell.

    For example, the Tibet protests during Olympics, the way they were suppressed could be mostly thanks to Left pressure internally (after receiving orders from their Chinese masters of course).

    But now, with Left out of the picture notice how fast the military development in AP is taking place, or how Congress seems to be on warpath against China in every possible way out there.

    Hard to tell what will happen next, but my guess is that it isn't THAT easy to infiltrate and control the Indian government and media now days compared to the good old times. But yeah, buying corrupt MP's won't be hard (as shown by cash for query scam recently). I mean, most of these f**ers are criminal scum anyway, won't be surprised if they sold their virginity to their Chinese or American masters.
     

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