From Subhas Chandra Bose to Sai Baba, how the CIA tracked India

Updated on Jan 23, 2017 11:21 AM IST

A trove of 930,000 declassified documents, running into more than 12 million pages, recently posted online by the Central Intelligence Agency provides fascinating insights into the way the US spy service covered India at key points in its history.

Sathya Sai Baba’s movement might become a worldwide religion, a CIA report said.(File Photo/Livemint)
Sathya Sai Baba’s movement might become a worldwide religion, a CIA report said.(File Photo/Livemint)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

A trove of 930,000 declassified documents, running into more than 12 million pages, recently posted online by the Central Intelligence Agency provides fascinating insights into the way the US spy service covered India at key points in its history.

The documents, declassified since the 2000s, were made available after journalist Michael Best started a campaign to print the database and put them online.

Hindustan Times did a deep dive into the documents to find out how the CIA tracked important events and personalities in India over a period of more than five decades beginning in the late 1940s.

Here are some interesting finds:

•As far back as September 1948, the CIA believed Netaji Subhas Chandra had died. Several documents in the cache refer to the “death” of Bose.

•The lack of intelligence on India’s moves in the run-up to the 1971 war with Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh limited the diplomatic options available to President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger.

•In the days leading to the 1975 Emergency, the CIA had little or no information of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s intention to rule by decree after her conviction by the Allahabad high court for campaign violations.

•The US was so concerned by the growth of the nuclear programmes of India and Pakistan in the 1980s that it toyed with the proposal of appointing a “nuclear emissary” to help ease tensions in the subcontinent.

•In the 1990s, the CIA prepared a secret report on Sathya Sai Baba, which concluded his well-organised movement might “even become another worldwide religion”.

Read more:

Revealed: How CIA tried to gather intel before 1971 India-Pakistan war

US wanted ‘nuclear emissary’ to reduce India-Pakistan tensions, CIA papers reveal

CIA files: Despite keeping tabs, US was unaware of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency plans

The CIA believed as far back as 1948 that Subhas Chandra Bose was dead

CIA thought Sathya Sai Baba’s movement would become a ‘worldwide religion’

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