Despite having penetrated the ‘heart of India’, the KGB didn’t achieve all that much
Using material from the Mitrokhin archives, The Times reports (via The Agonist) that the KGB had made India one of their ‘priority targets’ in the 1970s and spent a fortune trying to influence the establishment. They even sent suitcases full of money to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s official residence.
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 Gandhiâ€™s regime.
Despite her own frugal lifestyle, suitcases full of banknotes were said to be routinely taken to the Prime Ministerâ€™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 Congressâ€™s coffers, came from Moscow via the KGB.
Her principal fundraiser, Lalit Narayan Mishra, however, knew that he was accepting Soviet money.
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 â€” 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.[TimesOnline emphasis added]
Unfortunately for the Soviets, the people of India got in the way and chucked Indira Gandhi out. Those 5,510 articles didn’t quite turn India into a Soviet satellite.
Update: The Indian Express is onto this story.