Mitrokhin Myth and KGB Money

Exactly 21 years ago, Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

And as the war mongers have triumphed ever since, her character sketches are being redrawn.

Latest one is related to the Mitrokhin papers. Vasili Mitrokhin is no more, but the defected ghost continues to hunt the lesser politicians of India and even prompting some right wing nick pickers to demand that they want to see the Supreme Court inquire into the allegations. Apparently the press world over have taken uncanny interest in his work, claiming that he is the most credible source to speak on KGB.

Of course, the serious observers know that Mitrokhin is a disgraced KGB man. Even at the peak of Soviet era, he was being assigned to accompany the Soviet team to Olympic Games. In 1956, he was removed from any field work related to KGB after his mishandling of operational assignments. That was the reason why he was shifted from operational work to archives work and told that he would never be able to work on field again (this indicates his failure as a operative of any worth, and not again, being relegated to the job, not an archivist anyway to begin with or skilled with). Even as an archivist, he was known to be one who stole documents. Traveling (not escaping or anything) to Latvia, well after the era of communism was over in USSR, his first door was CIA. Even in 1992, CIA did not consider him credible and no one believed his fake documents. Clearly American intelligence agency which had outwitted KGB scores of times before leading to the demise of the communist state, was dismissive of this man.

Finally he found a buyer in M16, an agency which is less active than Indian RAW in the post-world war period. And he found a publisher too. So much ado about nothing.

The issues he espouses about India (that Indian politicians have taken money from KGB) are pretty stale and unimportant. Even if they were accurate, there is no reason why anyone in the Congress Party need to be ashamed. In the era of the Cold War, it is an open knowledge that India was on principle supportive of many Soviet stances than the American. The way his book has now snowballed into a major political controversy in India with the opposition BJP demanding that the government should come out with a white paper on the sources of funding of political parties from abroad and set up an inquiry by Supreme Court judge into the allegation contained in the records of the disgraced KGB official, it seems the right wing leaders of India are yet to mature.

Unless of course BJP and the family support what President Nixon and Henry Kissinger were speaking about Indians during the period. Of course during the 70’s, the right wingers were all so glued to the Americanization. Decades later, what seems obnoxious must be sounding so just and sane to the right wingers in India.

Is the issue at hand something about money that the Soviet Union’s Ambassador in New Delhi from 1977 to 1983 Yuri Vorontsov has publicly declined? “It’s rubbish! Indira Gandhi or her Congress Party never took KGB money,” he said recently ridiculing the Mitrokhin Papers. He has even further logic:
“Gandhi and the Congress as the ruling party could have raised any amount of money through Indian business houses and were not in need of foreign funds. Yes, I know that the Communist Party received funds from the CPSU (Soviet Communist party) like any Communist Party of the world. It was never a secret for anyone. They (funds) were transferred through non-diplomatic channels, so I am not aware of any transactions,” Vorontsov said.

Or is the real issue about Indira Gandhi’s decision at that point: to support Soviet Union or to submit to the United States?

Here are excerpts from Gandhi’s letter to Nixon:

New Delhi, August 7, 1971.

It is not for us to object to the United States maintaining, as you, Mr. President, have put it, “a constructive relationship with Pakistan” so that the U.S. may “retain some influence in working with them towards important decisions to be made in that country.” We have waited patiently and with restraint, hoping for a turn in the tide of events which the Government, Parliament and people of India could recognize as a step towards a political settlement.

I believe that the Government of the United States supports the view that the posting of U.N. observers on either side of the frontiers of India and East Bengal could solve the problem of the refugees. We regret that we do not see the situation in this light. India is an open democracy. We have a large diplomatic corps and many representatives of the world press. We have had visits of parliamentary delegations from various countries. All are free to travel and to visit the refugee camps. They see for themselves that although we are doing all we can for the refugees, life in the camps is one of deprivation and acute discomfort. Hence it is unrealistic to think that the presence of a group of U.N. observers could give any feeling of assurance to the evacuees when every day they see new evacuees pouring in with stories of atrocities. Would the League of Nations Observers have succeeded in persuading the refugees who fled from Hitler’s tyranny to return even whilst the pogroms against the Jews and political opponents of Nazism continued unabated? In our view, the intentions of the U.N. Observers might be more credible if their efforts were directed at stopping the continuing outflow of these unfortunate people and at creating conditions which, to any reasonable person, would assure the safety of life and liberty of the refugee who wishes to return to East Bengal.

I should like to mention one other matter. Our Government was greatly embarrassed that soon after our Foreign Minister’s return from his Washington visit and despite the statements made by Ambassador Keating in Bombay on April 16 and by the State Department’s spokesman on April 15, 1971, came the news of fresh supplies of U.S. arms to Pakistan.

It was a sad chapter in the history of our subcontinent when the United States began to supply arms to Pakistan in 1954 and continued doing so up to 1965. These arms have been used against us, as indeed we feared they would be. And now these arms are being used against their own people whose only fault appears to be that they took seriously President Yahya Khan’s promises to restore democracy.

In the midst of all the human tragedy, it is some relief to contemplate the voyage of the astronauts in the Apollo-15. These valiant men and the team of scientists supporting them represent man’s eternal longing to break from the constraints of time and space. As I write this, the astronauts are heading homewards, back to our earth. We pray for their safety and success. Please accept, Mr. President, our warm felicitations.

I was glad to have your message regarding your initiative to normalise relations with the People’s Republic of China. We have welcomed this move and we wish you well.

And here is what Nixon and Kissinger were upto:

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger met in the Oval Office of the White House on the morning of November 5, 1971, to discuss Nixon’s conversation with Prime Minister Gandhi on the previous day. Kissinger’s overall assessment was that “the Indians are bastards anyway. They are starting a war there. To them East Pakistan is no longer the issue. Now, I found it very interesting how she carried on to you yesterday about West Pakistan.” He felt, however, that Nixon had achieved his objective in the conversation: “While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too. She will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn’t give her a warm reception and therefore in despair she’s got to go to war.” Kissinger judged that Gandhi had been thwarted in her objective: “She would rather have had you give her a cool reception so that she could say that she was really put upon.” Nixon agreed: “We really slobbered over the old witch.” Kissinger felt that on matters of substance, nothing of importance had been conceded: “You slobbered over her in things that did not matter, but in things that did matter, you didn’t give her an inch.” Nixon and Kissinger agreed that in the upcoming conversation with Gandhi the approach to take was to be “a shade cooler” and allow her to do more to carry the conversation than had been the case in the initial conversation. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, November 5, 1971, 8:51-9:00 a.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 615-4)

Now if there would have any reason for outrage, Indians very well have one. When will the BJP, keeping aside its hawkish mindset, get it straight.

Maybe this time. Here is the telephonic conversation between President Nixon (P) and Kissinger (K):

/1/ Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking. The President vacationed in Key Biscayne, Florida, December 3-5; Kissinger was in Washington.

December 3, 1971, 10:45 a.m.

K: Two matters I want to raise. It appears that West Pakistan has attacked because situation in East collapsing. State wants to use it as a pretext not to put out statement/2/ at noon. I think it’s more reason to cancel programs. State believes and I agree that we should take it to the Security Council once actions are confirmed. If a major war [develops] without going to the Security Council it would be a confession of poverty.

/2/ Reference is to a statement announcing the cut-off of military assistance to India.

P: Who will object?

K: India and the Soviet Union.

P: So we have to.

K: Apparently no one else will. Even the liberal papers are supporting that.

P: I am for that. We have to cut off arms aid to India. We should have done it earlier. Allow India bias.

K: Yes.

P: Sisco’s part? He isn’t pro-Indian. It’s what they want below.

K: Sisco has no convictions. Liberal, [omission in the source text], socialist syndrome. The Indians will just add-

P: I have decided it and there is no appeal.

K: I also think-

P: I wrote it independently of anyone and I am surprised it hasn’t been done.

K: It won’t reach the UN tomorrow or late today. We shouldn’t make a catastrophe of everything we have done and why Indian actions unjustified.

P: So West Pakistan giving trouble there.

K: If they lose half of their country without fighting they will be destroyed. They may also be destroyed this way but they will go down fighting.

P: They will have enough for a few days. It puts the Soviets on the spot.

K: I think I should give a brief note to the Russians so that they don’t jump around about conversation yesterday and say we are going on your conversation with Gromyko./3/ A strong blast at their Vietnam friends and behavior on India. We are moving on our side but they are not doing enough on theirs.

P: On India certainly but on VN I wonder if it sounds hollow.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to South Asia.]

P: Pakistan thing makes your heart sick. For them to be done so by the Indians and after we have warned the bitch. Their [omission in the source text] and that but they have brought it on. We have to cut off arms. Why not? Because attacked by W. Pakistan. Tell them that when India talked about W. Pakistan attacking them it’s like Russian claiming to be attacked by Finland.

K: They will do it or we will do it from Key Biscayne. It’s a hell of a way but we can do it and I will get that message to the Soviets.


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