KGB activities in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan

“Information was to be conveyed to India and Iran to the effect that by building up its military potential Pakistan was in fact preparing for aggression not only against Afghanistan, but also against India and Iran.”

“India was to be told that Zia-ul Haq was giving Afghan refugees an anti-Indian outlook and using Afghan emissaries to conduct activities favorable to Pakistan in India. The plan also provided for intensified anti-Pakistan propaganda directed at India and other countries abroad, and the setting up of a Committee for the return to India of the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir.”

“Disinformation was to be conveyed to Gandhi on joint operations by the US, Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China to destabilize the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The above details are a part of a wide-ranging operational plan code-named ‘TORKHAM’ conceived by a working group of erstwhile KGB in February 1981 in order to prevent the activities of the US, Pakistan, and China against USSR-occupied Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (it was renamed so in 1978).

This and more details about KGB’s activities in South and Southwest Asia in 1980-82 have been revealed by the Russian intelligence agency’s archivist Vasiliy Mitrokhin. The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) of the US-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have published a document which complies “active measures” of KGB in the region. The compilation is based on the notes Mitrokhin had smuggled-out.

“The intervention of Soviet forces in Afghanistan in December 1979 provoked sharp protests from the world community. The KGB took various measures, including some involving disinformation, to neutralize the negative response and distract attention from the activities of the USSR and its forces in Afghanistan,” the compilation states.

Mitrokhin reveals that Yuri Andropov, then Chairman of KGB, approved a plan of action in February 1980, which includes the following activities (reproduced verbatim):

  • Information is to be planted in the local press in Pakistan to the effect that the ruling regime is artificially whipping up the atmosphere relating to events in Afghanistan with the object of building up the Pakistani Army, further increasing its influence in the country, and maintaining the ban on the activities of political parties and organisation for an indefinite period.
  • In Bangkok, information is to be conveyed to the Pakistan Mission to the effect that within the Carter Administration there are doubts about the utility of further increases in military assistance to Pakistan, given the Zia-ul Haq regime’s unpopularity in the country. [US] Secretary of State [Cyrus] Vance and his assistants consider that, in order to avert another major failure of US foreign policy, it is imperative to seek to replace the dictatorship with another regime which would guarantee stability in Pakistan.
  • In India, information is to be conveyed to Prime Minister Gandhi to the effect that Pakistan is not satisfied with the insignificant scope of American military assistance and the condition imposed on it to abstain from exploding a nuclear device while the American assistance program is in force.
  • Through the UN leadership, information is to be conveyed to representatives of Iran to the effect that, in return for growing military assistance to Pakistan, the US is seeking to be granted military bases on Pakistani territory, including in Baluchistan, in close proximity to the Iranian frontier. The leaders of Pakistan are inclined to make concessions to the Americans on this issue.

The plan, approved by Andropov, was extended in September 1980 and a working group was setup. The group devised a “wide-ranging operational plan code-named ‘TORKHAM’. According to Mitrokhin, the plan was to be  was to be carried out in various countries, in accordance with individual plans which included elements like:

“Compromise the Zia-ul Haq regime; weaken the positions of the US and China in Pakistan; exacerbate relations with Iran; intensify and deepen disagreements between India and Pakistan on existing disputed issues; inspire new irritants in Indo-Pakistan relations; reinforce the antipathy and suspicion felt by Indira Gandhi and other Indian leaders towards Zia-ul Haq personally; compromise him in the eyes of the Muslims of India and other countries in the world; induce the Government of India to seek to secure the end of Pakistan’s support for the Afghan rebels; step up the activities of Pakistani émigrés and of the nationalist movement, particularly in Baluchistan; disrupt Afghan émigré organizations; intensify the local population’s hostility towards Afghan refugees.”

Mitrokhin revealed that as a part of the plan information “was to be conveyed to India and Iran to the effect that by building up its military potential Pakistan was in fact preparing for aggression not only against Afghanistan, but also against India and Iran.”

Other activities directed at India include (reproduced verbatim):

  • In Delhi, convey information to the effect that the US and NATO have plans to set up an anti-Indian alliance in South Asia in which Pakistan would plan a key role. Western countries are not only strengthening Pakistan’s military might but also encouraging its subversive activity against India and inciting it to inflame disputes between Hindus and Muslims, as well as the Sikh aspiration to set up an independent Khalsalistan.
  • In Dhaka, convey slanted information to Indian diplomats about the Pakistani leadership’s aggressive intentions against India, the junta’s strategic plans, aroused by the practical actions of the US and the People’s Republic of China which aim to weaken India’s positions in the subcontinent in every way and rapidly build up Pakistan’s military potential.
  • The Chukhrov Working Group also considered the question of creating a new irritant—the problem of setting up an Azad-Kashmir independent of Pakistan and India, and the notional formation of a Free Baluchistan government-in-exile in Afghanistan. But in view of the extreme complexity and uncertainty of many aspects of the situation, this question was postponed indefinitely.

Mitrokhin states that some of the KGB activities were aimed at impeding the improvement of Indo-Pak relations, which contributed “to the failure of the Pakistani leadership’s attempts to improve relations with India and to reduce tension on the borders with India.”

The KGB archivist further reveals that a document named ‘The Haig Memorandum’ was produced. Some of the elements of this document include (reproduced verbatim):

  • The US considers that Pakistan must be a bastion of the free world on the borders of Iran, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the Indian Ocean, in order to block India’s ambitious claims to the leading role in the Indian Ocean.
  • The US is ready to help Pakistan to build its Navy (lending it 1 or 2 aircraft carriers), naval bases at Gwadar, and extend anchorages in Karachi harbor.
  • The Reagan administration welcomes Zia-ul Haq’s attempts to create the appearance of good will towards India, but there can be no illusion about the fact that while Indira Gandhi remains in power, Delhi is bound to follow the Soviet political line.
  • Consequently, there must be no let-up in joint efforts in the Washington-Peking-Islamabad triangle to destabilize the Indian government.
  • The US is prepared to consider Pakistan’s request for the supply of AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] aircraft for use along the border with India, subject to the subsequent equitable sharing of the data acquired between the US, China and Pakistan.

Mitrokhin also stated how a KGB Resident (Gennadiy Afanasyevich Vaumin) in Delhi proposed (in his telegram No 1669 of 5 May 1981) that in order to keep the Babrak Karmal regime in power in Afghanistan, a war between India and Pakistan would be advantageous for the Soviet Union, and they must be steered in that direction.

The KGB archivist has documented a host of other activities carried out by KGB in the region to protect its occupation of Afghanistan.

Click here to read the entire document: “KGB Active Measures in Southwest Asia in 1980-82”

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