Nehru allowed overflights of US spy planes: Report

    By Arun Kumar, IANS,

    Washington: After India’s defeat in the 1962 war with China, then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru allowed American U-2 spy plane overflights of Tibet and border areas, including a refuelling track over India, according to newly-declassified CIA documents.

    Support TwoCircles

    Nehru approved overflights by U-2 missions covering border areas with China Nov 11, 1962, according to a report released Friday by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, which obtained a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) history of the U-2 spy plane programme through a public records request.

    The agreement with India to allow U-2 overflights of Tibet and the Sino-Indian border areas from Takhli airbase in Thailand, including a refuelling track over India, plus two deployments to Charbartia airbase in 1964, is now declassified.

    The use of abandoned World War II base Charbatia near Cuttack in Odisha was agreed during a meeting between then US president John F. Kennedy and then Indian president Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan June 3, 1963, but since India took longer to improve it, the missions resumed from Takhli.

    According to the working paper, the Nov 10, 1963, mission was the longest flown by a U-2 at 11 hours 45 minutes, and the pilot was so exhausted that project managers limited future flights to 10 hours endurance.

    The report suggests that the first deployment to Charbatia in May 1964 ended because of the death of Nehru, whom it mistakenly describes as president.

    The declassified CIA history of the U-2 programme also reveals that the agency was about to sign a contract with Lockheed for $22.5 million to build 20 U-2 aircraft, but the company needed a cash infusion right away to keep the work going.

    Through the use of “unvouchered” funds – virtually free from any external oversight or accounting – the CIA could write chequws to finance secret programmes, such as the U-2.

    As it turned out, Lockheed produced the 20 aircraft at a total of $18,977,597 (including $1.9 million in profit), or less than $1 million per plane. It was all “under budget”, the report noted, calling it “a miracle in today’s defence contracting world”.

    (Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])