16 December 2007

“The Kaoboys of RAW” by B Raman & “India’s external intelligence” by VK Singh

How secretive should sleuths be?

Secretive enough to not let our strategies become public domain information for adverse interests; yet not so secretive to escape public scrutiny completely.

At last some of our sleuths have started publishing books about their life and times in RAW.

Raman does not succumb to the temptation of spilling secrets.

He provides the insightful analysis one can expect from him:

(a) There are no friends or enemies amongst sleuths. Strategic interests dominate everything else. CIA was wary of Indian sleuths helping Soviets in Afghanistan and kept them busy by supporting the Khalistan movement. (Friendship between Kao and then CIA director George Bush changed this policy). CIA was happy to train ISI on terrorism in foreign lands (mainly directed against Soviets). Yet CIA was happy to train RAW/IB on counter –terrorism. French intelligence penetrated Prime Minister’s office and gained access to RAW briefings. Yet French intelligence was happy to co-operate with India and provide US/Soviet fleet movements in Indian Ocean. PM Narasimha Rao summed it up nicely when he said (in a reference to US): “We have to get along well with them; but we have to be careful with them!”

(b) Pakistan’s divisive actions in India did not stem from the loss of East Pakistan as Bangladesh. It started as early as 1956 when Naga rebels crossed over to Burma to get trained in rebellion. (The rebels’ dream of a Greater Nagaland, including bits of Burma, led to Burma turning hostile and stopping this). Pakistan helped Mizo rebel Laldenga conduct a campaign from Pakistan for Mizo separatism. (Laldenga began to dislike to his ISI handlers and made a deal with RAW to move to India). Pakistan provided honor and support to Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan and helped him conduct his Khalistan movement even prior to the 1971 war. Pakistan found a greater success in Kashmir because of:

1. Availability of 80,000 trained and armed mujahideens free after the Afghan war to conduct a proxy war against India

2. Benazir Bhutto’s stepped up support to ISI (with unlimited power and required funds) to conduct the proxy war. (Pakistan’s relationship with India was at its worst when Benazir headed Pakistan. No meetings. No discussions on “non-white papers”. No initiatives).

3. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s trust in Benazir Bhutto (for which, according to Raman, Prime Minister V P Singh had to pay the price eventually) and

4. Prime Minister I K Gujral’s decision to discontinue RAW’s covert action capabilities on Pakistan’s western border (a policy started by Indira Gandhi and supported by every Prime Minister after her until 1996) that freed ISI to focus on the eastern border at Kashmir and

5. Failure by New Delhi to stop the alienation of Kashmir Muslims (unlike the successful stopping of the alienation of Sikhs in Punjab thanks to several leaders amongst the valiant Sikhs themselves).

(c) Raman thinks that the Bangladesh war did not provide India strategic advantages. We ended up having a nuclear armed Pakistan and an ill-disposed Bangladesh in the neighborhood. Worth pondering this thought. Nor does he think the win against Soviets provided US any strategic advantage. Raman is convinced that “if ever there is an attack in US soil using a weapon of mass destruction, it would have originated from Pakistan”. Worth pondering this thought as well.

(d) Raman accuses both ISI and IB of ill-treating suspected sleuths from across the border. He avers that ISI’s suspicion that RAW had a hand in the Sindh disturbances is misplaced. According to him, this was Pakistan stewing in its own sectarian juice.

(e) Some interesting behavior “behind the scenes”:

1. Prime Minister Chandrasekar secretly agreed to refuel US aircrafts proceeding to the Gulf war theater in 1990; but backed off when a newspaper broke the story

2. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, after a massive rejection of her “emergency” rule in the 1977 elections, considered sending Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi out of India and gave up the idea at Kao’s advice.

3. Several bureaucrats had fallen prey to money, alcohol and sexual companionship to compromise security or not return to India.

Raman’s book clearly brings out the stellar role Kao’s men played in serving India’s territorial integrity and geopolitical interests.

Organizing the nation’s sleuths (blending the plays abroad, the plays within the country, using people, using technology, warding off others’ spies, working with military intelligence, working with India’s diplomats abroad, working with others’ diplomats in India), steering through the political power play in New Delhi and staying above suspicion are big challenges.

However, India is always able to get good leaders at political level, good leaders at institutional level (like Kao) and good workers at the field level (like Raman). Let wisdom prevail over interests and transparency prevail over power in organizing our intelligence forces.

V K Singh on the other hand is disappointing. He is rightly offended by the corruption (that arises from lack of public scrutiny), nepotism and factionalism. However, his book is a laundry list of “dirty linen”. Apart from putting to shame the offenders (which is not a bad objective really), the book does not provide any “secret” of the RAW or an insight into “India’s external intelligence” as the cover claims. Waste of time. Funny the Government should waste time and tax payers’ money in attempting to remove this book from the shelves!