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July 18, 2019

ICJ decision likely to further demoralise RAW agents on foreign postings


July 18, 2019

LAHORE: The International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s verdict against India and its spy, Kulbhushan Yadav, will certainly demoralize a lot of RAW operatives, many of whom have already vanished without a trace on foreign postings.

While despair and despondency have thus been hunting RAW agents for quite some time now, noted Indian spymasters have already been on record confessing that they have miserably failed in luring any ISI official to work as their mole.

Over a year ago, during May 2018, a former RAW Chief Dulat had admitted that India’s biggest failure against Pakistan was that it had not been able to turn around an ISI officer or have an ISI officer working for it.

Dulat was further quoted as saying: “Or not to my knowledge, at a level where it counts. If you go back to the Cold War, what was the main task of a CIA officer? It was to somehow find a defector. If a CIA guy found a defector then for the rest of his career he didn’t need to do anything, because he had done what was supremely required. On our side I don’t think we’ve even imagined it properly and I don’t think we’ve succeeded.”

Dulat’s views were published in a book titled “The Spy Chronicles, RAW, ISI and Illusion of Peace,” which was based on marathon sittings of former ISI and RAW Chiefs namely retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani and A.S Dulat.

These sittings were moderated by Aditya Sinha, an Indian author and journalist. Research shows that over the years, a good number of disgruntled operatives working for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the premier Indian snooping organisation, have disappeared without a trace to settle in countries like United States or the United Kingdom etc.

In its August 2, 2004 edition, a prestigious Indian magazine “Outlook” had shed light on some RAW turncoats.

The prestigious magazine had reported: “The wheel has come full circle at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Already reeling under the impact of the Rabinder Singh episode — the senior RAW officer is suspected to have defected to the US — there may be more skeletons in the cupboard, tumbling out now at India’s premier spy agency. For the first time, the firm has admitted that eight of its key operatives have gone missing — almost all while on critical assignments outside the country — since the agency’s creation in the late '60s. Rabinder is the ninth such known man on the defectors’ list (accessed by Outlook).”

The magazine had gone on to write: “The file with the names is now on the desk of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Most of the cases go back a few decades but some names are likely to cause deep embarrassment in the spy community. Most of these operatives disappeared while on posting, relocating themselves to countries in North America and West Europe under assumed names and false passports. A number of them, it now turns out, were well-guarded ‘assets’ in the hands of foreign agencies, a euphemism for double agents, and are now green card holders in the United States or UK citizens.”

According to the “Outlook” magazine, the most famous RAW defectors include: Rabinder Singh, Sikandar Lal Malik (personal assistant of RAW founder and superspy Ramnath Kao), M.S. Sehgal (a senior field officer close to former RAW chief Girish Saxena. He had disappeared while posted as attaché in London in 1980), N.Y. Bhaskar (a former attaché in Tokyo. He had managed a green card and was supposed to maintain a rapport with the CIA. Later, he had disappeared in the United States), B.R. Bachhar (this senior field officer had disappeared in London. As attaché in Kathmandu, he was supposed to keep a liaison with foreign intelligence agencies in the early '80s), Major R.S. Soni (he was an under-secretary in RAW on the Pakistan desk. He is believed to have escaped to Canada in the early '80s. Three months after escape, salary was still being deposited in his account), Shamsher Singh Maharajkumar (he was posted at Islamabad, Bangkok and Canada. He had reportedly settled in Canada after retirement), Ashok Sathe (a former attaché in Mongolia and the lone Indian counsellor in Iran once, he too had vanished. He was also suspected of arson after the RAW office in Iran had caught fire. The"Outlook" magazine sources believed he was living in California) and R. Wadhwa (he had disappeared in London in the early '90s).

Meanwhile, in its April 27, 2010 report, the Indian NDTV had maintained that RAW had a history of agents who had switched their loyalties towards countries where they were working.

The NDTV had maintained: “The most infamous case which shook RAW out of reverie was of Rabinder Singh who became a mole of American intelligence agency CIA and flew to the US despite being under RAW surveillance. Singh, who initially worked with the Indian Army, held a very senior position with RAW handling Southeast Asia. By the time the agency sensed his affiliations; Singh too smelled a rat and escaped to the US through Nepal. In 2007, RAW had to call back its 1975 batch officer Ravi Nair from Colombo because of his alleged “involvement” with a woman agent of Chinese intelligence acting as honey trap for him.”

Espionage, as historic accounts reveal, is one of the oldest global professions that was mentioned in the “Vedas”, a large body of Hindu mythology texts originating in ancient India about 1,500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Although references to espionage are also discernible in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece and China etc, it surely has a long history in India, where Emperors and Sultans like Balban, Alauddin Khilji, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and Sher Shah Suri etc had kept very active spy forces to gather information against possible conspiracies.

Sher Shah Suri had worked under first Moghul King Babur to know the information pertaining to his secret- gun powder, which he (Sher Shah Suri) had later used against Mughals. References to espionage are also there is ancient Hindu book “The Arthashastra” (roughly translated as the ‘science of politics’).

Written in Sanskrit by a renowned Hindu philosopher, economist and jurist Chanakya (also called Kautilya), a few centuries before the birth of Jesus, the “Arthashastra” was a complete guide on statecraft, economic, political and military strategies.

First published in 1909, the “Arthashastra” thus probably marks one of the oldest-recorded instances of a manual on Espionage in India. The British Empire, in November 1920, had set up a Directorate of Intelligence Bureau in India to keep an eye on the public reactions following the post-World War I Khilafat and Swaraj movements.

In 1933, sensing the political turmoil in the world that had eventually led to the Second World War, this bureau’s responsibilities were increased to include the collection of intelligence along India's borders.

In 1947, after Independence, the Bureau had its first Indian boss, who had tried to run the organisation along the British MI 5 lines. However, in 1949, the Bureau’s inefficacy was proved by the Indian debacle in the Indo-China War of 1962, and the cry of ‘not enough intelligence available’, was taken up by the then Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Jayanto Nath Chaudhry, after the 1965 Indo-Pak war. These repeated intelligence disasters had then paved way for the formation of RAW under Premier Indira Gandhi in 1968.