Arathil Candeth Narayan Nambiar

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A C N Nambiar

Netaji deputy and Nehru's old friend was a Soviet spy, British documents reveal

PTI | Oct 25, 2014

LONDON: A deputy of freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, an "old friend" of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and a former Indian ambassador, A C N Nambiar, has been described as a Soviet spy.

According to documents declassified under the 30-year-rule at the National Archives in LONDON, Nambiar went to Berlin in 1924 as a journalist and worked with the Indian communist group, visiting Moscow as a Soviet "guest" in 1929.

"On the outbreak of the Second World War, Nambiar was expelled from Germany but later allowed to return as Subhash Chandra Bose's deputy in Berlin. Nambiar became the German-financed leader of the Free India Movement in Europe when Bose moved to the Far East to join the Japanese.

"He was also concerned with the Indian Legion, composed of Indian prisoners of war, which in 1944 was absorbed by the SS," an archive release said in a statement.

Arathil Candeth Narayan Nambiar was arrested in Austria in June 1945 and interrogated as a Nazi collaborator.

After the war, he worked as counsellor at the Indian Legation in Berne, as Indian ambassador to Scandinavia and then to West Germany and finally as European correspondent of the 'Hindustan Times'.

He claimed this last post was a cover for industrial intelligence collection, the documents claimed.

In 1959 he was reported by a defector source to have been an agent for the Soviet GRU from the 1920s.

The British documents include names and details of Netaji-led Azad Hind activities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

The declassified files also include copies of letters from Nambiar to Bose recovered from the German submarine U-boat 234 after it surrendered during the Second World War.

A note in the files by V W Smith implies Nambiar's close association with Nehru, saying: "one may hazard the conjecture that the 'very prominent person' referred to be Nambiar is Pandit Nehru, who undoubtedly knows the full facts".

It goes on to say that his appointment as an Indian diplomat made him "indebted to his old friend Pandit Nehru".

The documents released in 2014 include the latest batch of files on Britain's MI5 activities as well as seven files on British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm and his activities as a member of the Communist Party and the wartime stories of British fascist sympathisers and 'Fifth Columnists' exposed by an MI5 agent posing as a representative of the Gestapo.

Bose’s Lieutenant

K.Natwar Singh , Bose’s lieutenant “India Today” 1/5/2017

Who was A.C.N. Nambiar, and what did he do? Is he deserving of so engrossing, stimulating and well-written a tribute as Vappala Balachandran's A Life in Shadow: The Secret Story of A.C.N. Nambiar, A Forgotten Anti-Colonial Warrior?

Balachandran retired as special secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat. He got to know Nambiar during the final years of his life, in Geneva, looking after and keeping him in good cheer. This was not easy, as Nambiar led a 'messy' and disorganised life. This book is a labour of love.

A man whose close friends included Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Indira Gandhi and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit must have been endowed with rare qualities. Nambiar spent many years in Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Horthy's Hungary,

Petain's Vichy France and Benes's Czechoslovakia. He was under surveillance by British intelligence for most of his life. He was always broke, always helpful and had several mistresses.

Bose met Nambiar in Europe in the mid-1930s. As an indication of the high esteem he held Nambiar in, when Bose left Europe-in a German submarine bound for Singapore, after two frustrating years in Berlin-he put Nambiar in charge of the Indian Legion.

Another anecdote that underlines the trust between the two men: before Bose left for Singapore, he had secretly married Emilie Schenkl, an Austrian, in December 1937. Nambiar was perhaps one of the very few Indians in Europe who was privy to this major event in Bose's life. No one in India was aware of the marriage.

The Nehrus had met Nambiar in Europe and remained intimate friends until the deaths of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. After Independence, Nehru had appointed Nambiar ambassador to West Germany and Sweden.

However, questions remain. Was Nambiar a spy? "During his Prague years, Nambiar seems to have without his conscious knowledge provided intelligence to the British," says the author.

But was he a spy? If so, for whom? The Russians, the Nazis? The British? Balachandran concludes that, "There is no evidence found anywhere that Nambiar was an active asset for any agency?. Nambiar spent his life in the shadow of time." The book ends with more than a dozen letters from Nehru and Indira Gandhi to Nambiar, which have never before been published.

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