You can access Part-1 here………
The Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, had little in common with his predecessor, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Although Shastri had been a cabinet minister for many years before he became Prime Minister, he died a poor man. All that he owned at the end was an old car, which he had purchased in installments from the government and for which he still owed money. He was a founder member of Servants of India society – which included Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai and Gopal Krishna Gokhale – which asked all its members to shun accumulation of private property and remain in public life as servants of people.
The renowned Indian journalist, Kuldip Nayyar, who was at that time the Indian PM’s media adviser, has recorded what happened in the immediate aftermath of Shastri’s death….
…..That night I had a premonition that Shastri was dying. I dreamt about him dying. I got up abruptly to a knock on my door. A Russian woman was standing there.
“Your prime minister is dying,” she said. I hurriedly dressed and drove with an Indian official to Shastri’s dacha which was some distance away.
I saw the Soviet Premier, Alexei Kosygin, standing in the verandah. He raised his hands to indicate that Shastri was no more. Behind the verandah was the dining room where a team of doctors was sitting at an oblong table, cross-examining Dr R.N. Chugh who had accompanied Shastri.
Next to it was Shastri’s room. It was extraordinarily large. On the huge bed, his body looked like a dot on a drawing board. His slippers were neatly placed on the carpeted floor. He had not used them. In a corner of the room, however, on a dressing table, there was an overturned thermos flask. It appeared that maybe Shastri had struggled to open it. There was no buzzer in his room, the point on which the government lied when attacked in Parliament on its failure to save Shastri’s life…..
Ayub Khan was genuinely grieved by Shastri’s death. He came to Shastri’s dacha at 4 am and said, looking towards me: “Here is a man of peace who gave his life for amity between India and Pakistan.”
Later, he told the Pakistani journalists who had assembled for a briefing that Shastri was one person with whom he had hit it off well. “Pakistan and India might have solved their differences had he lived,” Ayub Khan said.
Aziz Ahmad, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, rang up Bhutto to inform him about Shastri’s death. Bhutto was half asleep and had apparently heard only the word “died”, because he asked, “Which of the two bastards?”
Situated at the edge of Lubyanka Square, at the junction of the red Sokolnicheskaya Line and the purple Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya Line, in the heart of Moscow, the Lubyanka Metro Station is an imposing underground structure that teems with commuters, until train services stop at 11:30pm and restart around 4am. All along the walls, at regular intervals, is emblazoned in bright red, the word Лубянка, meaning Lubyanka, for commuters to be able to discern the name of the station clearly from a moving train. (It hasn’t changed much since the 60s).
At 4.15am on the morning of Wednesday the 12th January 1966, the station had already begun to fill up as commuters, bundled up in heavy coats and astrakhans began streaming down the stairs and onto the platforms below. As in any totalitarian system, faces were grim, staring straight ahead, trying not to make eye contact.
After the first screams were heard, it took a while for the Moscow Metro Militia to arrive and during that period, the curious among the crowds strained over each other’s shoulders to catch a glimpse of the blood-spattered body on the tracks.
Homicide would not have been suspected had it not been for the fact that the man had no winter clothing on, not even a sweater that would have been necessary even in the relative warmth of the metro station. The corpse was in a uniform – an Intourist head steward’s white livery, bristling with ornate buttons and epaulets. There was another thing that made an accidental slip and fall onto the tracks an impossibility – the head steward’s head was missing.
In so far as the Soviet system permitted persistence, a persistent Militia investigator might have found the head – in a cell, a few stories above the metro, inside the heart of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, which was also home to a sprawling complex that was instantly recognizable the world over as the deadliest prison on the planet – the Lubyanka.
In 1966, if the CIA listening post at Badaber (outside Peshawar in northern Pakistan), had the technology to listen in to telephone conversations or if Lt. Chuck Shriver, the man who was monitoring Soviet radio traffic that night had been listening in, he would have heard a cryptic conversation that lasted just ten seconds. It was an exchange that traveled between the Kremlin and the heavily guarded Massandra Palace outside Yalta, in Crimea, the winter retreat of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
“My poluchili ne togo cheloveka (we got the wrong guy),” the voice from Kremlin said.
“Ne meshay mne, 1 utra v otpuske (Shit happens. Don’t bother me, I am on vacation),” the gruff voice at the other end replied and hung up as his bushy eyebrows arched up in a grimace.
As for the Pakistani President, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, he relinquished power to an army crony and whiled away his days lolling around on a deck chair by the pool, receiving well wishers at the posh Islamabad Club by the Rawal Lake. The club was (and still remains) an exclusive establishment for only the Pakistani elite – army brass, high-level politicians and bureaucrats, members of the diplomatic community and well-heeled businessmen.
One day, at a luncheon during the UN General Assembly in the spring of 1967, the charge d’affaires of the Soviet Embassy in Washington sought out the Pakistani Ambassador to the UN and handed him an envelope addressed to the Field Marshal himself, for eyes only. It was promptly carried in the diplomatic pouch to Islamabad and handed over unopened, to Ayub Khan by a Major in the ISI, just as the waiter was setting down his third scotch on the rocks.
The note quoted an excerpt of Chapter-4 of the Holy Quran and as he read it, the Field Marshal stiffened. It read…..
“Wheresoever ye shall be, doom shall overtake you,
Even though you be perched in lofty towers”
Ultimately those prophetic words did come true. On a clear day in April 1974, a waiter at the Islamabad Club reported having seen a hulking white man with heavy Slavic features sit down at the Field Marshal’s table and speak with him briefly. The visitor had seemed solicitous, insisting on preparing Khan’s cup of tea by his own hands as a mark of respect. To anyone in the Pakistani establishment, Ayub Khan meeting with a representative of the Soviet Union would be curious indeed. The Field Marshal had been a rabidly anti-Soviet stooge of the United States and with the Soviets, the feeling then was mutual.
A few hours after he met the man, Ayub Khan collapsed and died of a fatal heart attack. The foreigner by then was nowhere to be seen. He wouldn’t be. Within two hours from the meeting, the man had boarded a Pan Am flight from Islamabad to the Indian capital, New Delhi. From there he planned to connect to Moscow on an Aeroflot TU-104B that was being held specially for him, it’s twin Mikulin-500 turbojets turning over idly. No worries about the delay – most of the passengers were Russians and they knew that complaining about anything meant a brief stint in a gulag.
The killing of the Indian Prime Minister was unfortunate and unintended, but the new KGB poison that had been allotted an interim code name ‘C2’, was made to be virtually untraceable by forensic science. It was deemed an unmitigated success.
Col. Yuri Ivanovich Modin, head of the Aktivnyye Meropriyatiya – the ‘Active Measures’ section of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, which had been responsible for the development of C2 – was immediately promoted to Major-General.
In everything, there is always a winner.
The Soviets, in remorse for killing the wrong guy, must have coerced his successor, Indira Gandhi, into letting it go. In exchange for her silence, they initiated a process of massive free deals in heavy engineering projects and military cooperation that finally led to the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation.
India benefited hugely from the treaty, in terms of industrial and military aid. The cash and technological aid came with no repayment schedule. Some say that this helped India prevail in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
There was a silver lining to Shastriji’s death after all.