By N.S. Rajaram
The Mitrokhin Archive II seems to have diverted attention form far more serious corruption that reach into the highest levels of the Indian political establishment. Vasily Mitrokhin was a middle level KGB bureaucrat without much power or influence. The key person in charge of Indian operations was Viktor Chebrikov. He succeeded Yuri Andropov as KGB chief when Andropov became the President of USSR.
To understand the extent of the Soviet and now Russian hold over Indian politics, we need to take a close look at the sinister and shadowy figure of Viktor Chebrikov rather than Mitrokhin who was only trying to peddle himself and his suitcases stuffed with smuggled papers for a good living in the West.
Chebrikov held the post of KGB chairman from 1982 to 88. He was arguably the second most powerful man in the Soviet Union. Even when Michael Gorbachev was charming the world, it was Chebrikov who pulled the strings.
Time Europe reported (January 4, 1988): ?Former KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov claimed that the Soviet secret service paid for up to half of the complimentary reports about Gorbachev in the western press.? According to Chebrikov, Gorbachev was a poor administrator and had no leadership qualities.
The KGB may no longer exist on paper, but its men and its mindset are firmly entrenched in today'sRussia. Both President Putin and the present Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Trubinko are KGB men who served under Chebrikov. Chebrikov was personally in charge of dealings with the Gandhi family going back to Indira Gandhi. It shows the great importance that the Soviet Union and its successor accorded to it.
Dr. Yvgenia Albats? book goes much farther. She documents not one-time payments, but a long-term business relationship between Rajiv and Soviet trading companies. Here is the gist of the key letter in her book
A State Within the State.
Official KGB documents bearing Chebrikov'ssignature are highly revealing. The April 1992 issue of the Russian publication Argumenty i Fakty printed excerpts from a KGB document on funding of operations in India in an area that the KGB called the active measures realm. It stated:
?? the USSR KGB allocates funds annually for extension of financial aid to controlled organs of the press, public organisations and individual public figures of India, whose possibilities are utilised for operations and influence in accordance with state interests of the Soviet Union.?
The same report noted that the ?320,000 foreign currency roubles allocated for the indicated purpose in 1985? had been spent. The KGB requested an additional 320,000 roubles for 1986 ?In order to support special operations and measures on consolidation of the results of official visit by Prime Minister R. Gandhi to the Soviet Union.?
The letter was signed by V. Chebrikov. Argumenty i Fakty also noted that, ?in accordance with this letter funds were appropriated, according to a December 20, 1985 CPSU Central Committee decree and an order of the USSR Council of Ministers on the same day.?
This supports Mitrokhin'sclaim, but Dr. Yvgenia Albats? book goes much farther. She documents not one-time payments, but a long-term business relationship between Rajiv and Soviet trading companies. Here is the gist of the key letter in her book A State Within the State?The KGB and Its Hold on Russia. (See copy: the translation from the Russian and the punctuation leave something to be desired):
?The USSR KGB maintains contact with the son of Premier Minister [Sic: there should be a comma after ?Minister?] Rajiv Gandhi of India.? The ubiquitous Chebrikov who signed the 1982 letter goes on to note:
?R. Gandhi expresses deep gratitude for the benefits accruing to his family from the commercial dealings of an Indian firm he controls in cooperation with Soviet foreign trade organisations.?
We know from other KGB sources how large the ?benefits accruing to his family? were. Six months after Rajiv Gandhi'sdeath, the Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte reported in November 1991 that Sonia Gandhi was controlling a Swiss bank account worth more than two billion dollars. The source again was an official KGB file.
KGB'shold over India extended to the highest levels of political leadership
While the ?Dynasty? is sitting on this windfall, the KGB and its successors are sitting on this knowledge waiting to put it to good use in Russia'snegotiations with India. This has already happened. In 1992, the Congress government gave away huge sums to Russia in repaying its old loans by agreeing to highly inflated exchange value for the rouble.
This was only the beginning. What Russia is really after is India'shuge foreign exchange kitty. One way of getting it is through weapons sales. Russian weapons are not competitive either in price or performance. This is particularly the case with fighter aircraft. India'sMIG 21 fleet is aging and the Russians have a very poor record of maintaining it. There are serious questions about the performance and service of their more advanced MIG 29 jets also. This is what Russia is trying to sell to India.
It was probably for this reason that President Putin met Sonia Gandhi in Moscow when an Indian delegation was shopping for aircraft during the Paris Air Show in June. The French with their Mirages and the Americans with their F16 and F18 jets are also eyeing the Indian market. Both are far superior to anything that the Russians make.
It should come as no surprise if the Russians raise the subject of their long and generous payments to the dynasty to make India purchase their inferior air systems?unless the KGB gave away its billions in a spirit of charity.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])