The Indian establishment had prior information that US journalist Seymour Hersh, who alleged that former Prime Minister Morarji Desai was a CIA mole, had actually contacted some Indian officials before making such serious charges in his book.
However, the then Foreign Minister PV Narasimha Rao told Parliament in 1983 that Hersh had never contacted any Indian official before making the serious allegations against Desai in his book The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, according to recently declassified MEA files.
The documents also show that Indian diplomats had even pointed out to Hersh that he had made an error by describing Desai as a member of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Cabinet in 1971.
In his book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist had alleged that Desai was the "most important" informer of CIA and was paid USD 20,000 yearly by the agency to pass information during the Indo-Pak war in 1971.
"Mr Hersh has, however, been in touch with the embassy since it is a common practice for embassies in the United States to keep in contact with prominent journalists. In such informal contacts, the substance of the said allegations was mentioned to some of our officers who pointed out that during the period (1971), Shri Morarji Desai was not even in the Cabinet," says a note on the controversy in the MEA files.
It was part of a "note for supplementaries" as a homework for a parliamentary discussion on the issue, which was to be held on August 18, 1983. This paragraph is marked "for the FM's information only" which Narasimha Rao reportedly did not reveal to the House.