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Shashank Mattoo ���� @MattooShashank

Author: Shashank Mattoo
Publication: Threadreaderapp.com
Date: May 3, 2024
URL: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1786364126471557613?refresh=1714975530

America and Russia fought a secret battle to control India

Their spies funded Indian parties, manipulated the media and stole secrets

"The whole country is for sale," said one Russian spy

on the fight to influence India

For decades, India was a prime target for foreign spies

It was the world's largest democracy and an influential power among developing countries

Both America's Central Intelligence Agency and the Soviet Union's KGB fought to influence India's politics in their favour

It was the Americans who got to India first

After 1947, independent India needed help in setting up its intelligence agencies

It turned to America for support

In 1949, the Intelligence Bureau's Director TG Sanjevi met with the CIA, FBI and State Department in America

The meetings with the CIA went well and the two agencies established intelligence cooperation

Through the 1950s, the CIA's presence in India grew stronger

It used ���� airspace to support the Tibetan resistance against China

It also expanded and set up stations across India

The CIA also began interfering in India's domestic politics

The CIA gave money to the Congress Party and helped it bring down the Communist state government in Kerala in 1959

It also funded organisations like the Asia Foundation to push a pro-American narrative to Indians

As the Cold War with Soviet Russia heated up, America was keen to have a closer relationship with India

After the 1962 India-China war, the CIA worked with ���� to secure the border with China

Despite Nehru's non-alignment, the CIA was deeply involved in ����'s govt by the 1960s

Even Nehru's private secretary, Mac Mathai, was suspected to be working for American intelligence

“The CIA had access to every paper passing through Nehru’s Secretariat," wrote historian Sarvepalli Gopal

This created suspicion against the CIA in India

BUT, Soviet Russia wasn't far behind

In the 1960s, the Soviets wanted to challenge America among developing countries

So India became a battleground for them

By the late 1960s, the Soviets and its KGB intelligence agency had also established deep networks inside India's govt

Soviet Russia provided political funding to the Congress Party and the two Communist Parties

PM Indira Gandhi’s political fundraiser Lalit Narayan Mishra worked closely with the KGB

Senior Congress leaders (including a minister) received money from the KGB in the 1967 election

"The entire country was seemingly for sale, and the KGB and the CIA had deeply penetrated the Indian government. After a while, neither side entrusted sensitive information to the Indians, realizing their enemy would know all about it the next day," said Oleg Kalugin, a KGB spy

The CIA and the KGB fought hard to influence Indian politics

BUT, as India-US relations became worse after the 1965 Indo-PAK war, the CIA was attacked in ���� for interfering in India's politics

While the CIA and America's reputation suffered, Soviet Russia gained more power

In 1967, news broke that the CIA was secretly funding a number of organisations in India to push a pro-American narrative

Suspicion against the CIA increased so much that in 1967, India's govt was forced to order an inquiry into CIA interference in Indian politics

Meanwhile, the KGB increased its power by funding some Congress and Left politicians in the 1967 elections

It also cultivated journalists and funded newspapers and magazines to push stories criticizing the CIA during the election

Indira Gandhi's leftist politics at home and closeness to the Soviets abroad meant that the KGB had the upper hand throughout the 1970s

The KGB's presence in India was soon larger than almost anywhere else in the world

It backed the Congress in the 1971 and 1977 elections

Russian intelligence pushed Communist parties in India to support the Indira Gandhi govt

It also used the Indian media to run negative stories about America

It planted fake news stories accusing the CIA of trying to rig the 1967 election and assassinate Indira Gandhi

This campaign was extremely successful and PM Gandhi took to blaming the CIA or "foreign elements" for national crises

In 1972, Indians were protesting against inflation and unemployment

Gandhi blamed the CIA for trying to destabilize the country rather than take responsibility

Gandhi's public attacks on the CIA became a big problem for India-US relations

Washington cut economic aid to India, reduced the number of diplomats in the country and gave less priority to New Delhi

The distrust caused by CIA ops poisoned India-US ties for decades after

Meanwhile, Soviet Russia continued to dominate the intelligence game through the 1970s and 1980s

In 1985, it was revealed that officials in the PMO and the Defence Ministry were selling secrets to Soviet Russia

But, India also decided not to crack down harshly on the Soviets

By the late 1980s, the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union had ended

So did the grand battle to influence India's politics and its position in the Cold War

But the US-Soviet battle for influence shaped India's politics for decades

 
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