Everyone's Man in Kabul

Mihir Bose tells the little-known story of the Indian secret agent codenamed ‘Silver’ who served both the Axis and the Allied forces during the Second World War.

On the morning of March 12th, 1943 in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, the wartime centre of British intelligence, officials of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), MI5 and IPI (the Indian Political Intelligence) met to discuss an issue which had important consequences for a remarkable spy. 

No documents regarding this meeting have ever been released by the British, but Soviet archives have a top secret summary of the meeting. Entitled ‘Report of the Soviet Agent to the Governing Body of British Intelligence’, it reads:

The most serious fact in our situation is that Bose is on the way to Japan in the German submarine. They suppose if he gets to Japan he’ll be able to contact his own Indian party, Forward BLOC, and first of all he’ll find out that the colossal organisation of Bhagat Ram doesn’t exist, the whole thing is a pure blackmail. The Admiralty wants to withdraw him when the Japanese boat takes him from the submarine. It’s a very good plan, especially if it comes into being because Bhagat Ram’s organisation will be safe and the Germans will be able to boss the latter without Bose.

The Bose referred to was Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian nationalist who had fled to Germany in 1941 and was now on his way back east. Much has been written about him. But very little has been written about the other character mentioned, Bhagat Ram Talwar (his full name), not helped by the fact, that when Bhagat Ram wrote his autobiography in the 1970s, he continued his wartime habit of disguising the truth. But, now that secret documents on him are available, it is becoming apparent that he was one of the most extraordinary spies of the Second World War.

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