After the Second World War that saw the Allied powers winning a trouncing victory against the Axis, ideological differences began to emerge between the USSR and USA. While the Soviets pushed Communism and Socialism in countries, the US spread democracy and capitalism through proxy civil wars in various countries.
The end of World War II led to the sun finally setting on the British Empire, with countries such as India gaining independence from the British Raj and many other colonies also being freed. The end of the Second World War also witnessed the grand era of espionage led by CIA and KGB; espionage agencies of the two powers.
Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB spy who later defected to the United Kingdom, revealed many secret documents and information to the world through his archives called ‘Mitrokhin Archive’. In the archives, there are several chapters dedicated to India and the Gandhi family.
After India gained independence in 1947, attention of the two espionage agencies diverted to India. Both the countries wanted to gain indirect control of the country, since it would give them control over a potential regional power. In the chapter ‘The Special Relationship With India’ (Part 1: The Supremacy of the Indian National Congress), Mitrokhin reveals that Joseph Stalin had a rather poor opinion of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
According to the archives, Stalin regarded Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi as “imperialist puppets” who bowed before the British and betrayed their people, helping the British tighten their hold over India. Despite his harsh words for the PM, Nehru often praised the Communist revolution of Soviet Russia and took inspiration from it.
After becoming Prime Minister, Nehru paid a diplomatic visit to the USSR, where each incident was ‘carefully staged’. According to Mitrokhin, the Soviets were eyeing India as a ‘playground’ for CIA and KGB agents. After Indira Gandhi (given the codename ‘Vano’ by Mitrokhin) became Prime Minister, the KGB managed to infiltrate deeper into the Indian government.
Mitrokhin reveals that Indira Gandhi was given 20 million rupees in exchange for crucial information, and to the surprise of Soviet chiefs, didn’t even return the bag in which she received the money. Like Nehru, Indira Gandhi too was made to believe that the Communist revolution of Russia was a ‘beaming light’ for the world, and often praised the ‘revolutionary’ principles followed in Soviet factories which were carefully staged during her visits.
The concerns arise when Mitrokhin claims that 7 cabinet ministers from the Congress party were elected due to Soviet funding during the regime of Indira Gandhi, while the defense minister during Nehru’s tenure (V. Krishna Menon) was also given Soviet backing. Mitrokhin Archives claim that due to Soviet backing and influence, former defense minister V. Krishna Menon purchased Soviet MiGs instead of British lightnings after his election campaign got funded by KGB in 1962 and 1967.
The archives also reveal the Soviet connections of the Communist Party of India. According to Mitrokhin, the CPI was funded in multiple ways by the Soviets; and had received funds in several bizarre ways including through car windows during Delhi traffic! At several instances, the Intelligence Bureau of India had intercepted transfer of funds to the Party treasury of CPI from USSR, to which Nehru chuckled saying that the Soviets had “underestimated” India’s intelligence.
However, he didn’t realise that the Soviets had penetrated deep into Indian embassies and were extracting information via their agents. As per Mitrokhin, many Indian diplomats abroad were seduced (and later blackmailed into revealing classified information) by female KGB agents called ‘sparrows’.
By 1972, the KGB had over 10 Indian newspapers under their payroll and had apparently planted over 3,500 articles in Indian newspapers.
The Archives of Mitrokhin also claim that in the 1977 elections, campaigns of 21 non-communist leaders were financed by the KGB. Under the Nehru-Gandhi regime, espionage wasn’t uncommon in India and the country had become a playground for foreign espionage agencies.
While countries like the UK and USA formed special committees to investigate the claims made by Mitrokhin, the UPA-1 government led by Congress party dismissed the claims and didn’t form any committee to investigate his claims. While the world looks at the archives as the most sensational counter-intelligence document, India did not perform a single enquiry into the archives.
The Congress party dismissed the claims without any investigation or enquiry. There is much to be revealed about the dark history of the Grand Old Party of India, and Mitrokhin’s archives show us the tip of the iceberg of the dirty history of India’s opposition party.