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The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane [Hardcover]

B. Raman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Lancer Publishers (1 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 097961743X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979617430
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 15.3 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 827,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Kaoboys of R&AW This book deals largely with those aspects of the working of the "Research and Analysis Wing ("R&AW), of which the author had personal knowledge while serving in the organization for 26 years. The book traverses through India's contemporary history--most importantly the 1971 war; insurgency in the Northeast, Punjab, and Kashmir; the Emergency; the war in Afghanistan; and the intelligence imperatives and dispensation under Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, and Narasimha Rao. Written with the purpose that a knowledge of the role played by R&AW in those events would possibly enable a better understanding of its strengths a...

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book 27 Nov 2009
This book is the only one available about India's R&AW. There are loads of books available about CIA, KGB & MI6, but next to none exist when it comes to the Asian agencies like R&AW & China's CSIS. The only Asian/Middle Eastern agency about which a book exists is the MOSSAD.
The Kaoboys of R&AW is a very interesting read. Raman, the author, is an insider and talks about his experiences within R&AW and also throws light on some politically significant events in the sub-continent during his long tenure with the agency. He also provides an insightful profile on some of the Indian leaders. However, apart from the events in 1971 leading to Bangladesh's freedom, there is not much else that he talks about as far as R&AW's activities are concerned, only a handful of his own successes or failures. At one stage, when he finishes his last abroad tour and returns to India, he mentions that he gets a chance to payback Pakistan the same coin that they use against us and Raman says that he feels younger. However, not much detail is provided on what exactly happened. I guess he cannot reveal too many official secrets. But that is the kind of agency that R&AW has been; always secretive and not talking openly about successes or failures.
The other aspects of this book are terrific to read. I particularly like the parts of the book where he describes Indian govt's policies under various leaders and their impact on R&AW.
Overall, this book is very good read, though certainly not as descriptive as `The spy without a face', `Spyhandler', `Main enemy' or `Gideon's spies'. I hope one day there'll be a book where I can read something about what R&AW has been doing to protect my country.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly the Wild West 22 Sep 2007
By Sanjay Agarwal - Published on Amazon.com
The 'Kaoboys' in the title is a pun on the name of legendary chief of RAW who saw it through its formative years, and to whom this book is a kind of tribute. Apart from this, there are few cowboy antics, if any, in the book. The book is mostly quite sober, and measured, even in its criticism of the other countries and agencies, though of course he has a special grudge against the Americans. If you expect Mr. Raman, a veteran 'Kaoboy' himself, to be sharing any family secrets, you are sadly mistaken.

The book is written in a kind of flashback. There are 19 chapters in all, beginning with the Bangladesh war (1971) and stopping somewhere around the early nineties, when Mr. Raman retired from the service. In between, he covers a lot of ground geographically (actually only South Asia, and little bit of France), but touches on almost each significant aspect: Bangladesh, North-east, Emergency, Khalistan, assassination of two Gandhis (mother and son), Bofors, and terrorism. Each topic is dealt with in a fairly detailed manner, offering a perspective from inside RAW.

There is a lot of useful information, though there are quite a few repeats, where he has reproduced his earlier comments almost verbatim. Mr. Raman's English is fairly good, though it is not idiomatic, and sometimes downright quaint. However, this does not detract from the overall quality of the book, though the lack of a good editor is sorely felt.

He also offers a perspective on what RAW needs to do in future. His tone is politically neutral, as it has to be for someone who served under at least two different political dispensations. His focus remains throughout on protecting Indian territory and interests.

At some places, he frankly admits the mistakes which RAW, and Shri Kao, made. At places he offers interesting tidbits, such as the dilemma the Indian embassy in France faced when Sh. Morarji Desai stayed with them and presumably used one of the glasses to drink his own urine. The ambassador's wife had the entire set of glasses replaced! Another interesting incident is when Mrs. Gandhi had her own staff pay customs duty for smuggling in goods from a foreign trip with her. He also shares his perspective on how the vanity and foibles of our leaders were manipulated or affected the country. Again this comes through in quite a balanced manner - without any special favorites or axe to grind.

The book has been printed on expensive, glossy paper. This makes it difficult to read at times, as the paper reflects light. The type face is good, the book is a fairly slim volume, though relatively large in size.

Overall an objective, and interesting view from inside the administration. Buy and read this book, quite rare in India where most officers are quite reticent about their years with the Government.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the world of spies...... 16 Dec 2007
By T. R. Santhanakrishnan - Published on Amazon.com
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrorism and Karma 4 Feb 2010
By Abhinav Agarwal - Published on Amazon.com
A 'skimmy' overview of India's external intelligence agency, with some useful insights, incisive commentary, and an insider's look at the highs and lows of RAW. But not without its potshots and settling scores.

Bahukutumbi Raman is a former head of the counter-terrorism division of India's external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). This book is a reminisce of his time in R&AW. The book traces the origins of RAW from its inception, and is divided into chapters, each of which covers a broad topic, such as the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and the creation of Bangladesh, the terrorism in Punjab, terrorism in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as political leaders like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandrashekhar, and political events like the Bofors scandal, assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Interspersed are accounts of both the development and decline of India's intelligence gathering capabilities, corruption and nepotism within the intelligence community, counter-espionage, the role of the ISI, and brief bios of some of the luminaries of RAW, like RN Kao, Sunook, Girish Saxena.

It is somewhat sad and disappointing that the RAW, formed in 1968 by the Prime Minister of Indira Gandhi, reached its zenith during the 1971 War, rapidly fell into decline soon thereafter, to the point where its efficacy even in Bangladesh was close to zero. It has been infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies over the years, repeatedly, its cadre often nepotist, corrupt, and incompetent, its failures many, and its successes far and few inbetween, and where they do occur, hidden from the public eye.

........"Failure to diversify contacts in Bangladesh, pockets of hostility in its security forces and intelligence community towards India and the R&AW, suspicion in the non-Awami League political circles over what was perceived as Indian favoritism towards certain sections of the political spectrum and a lack of objectivity in the Bangladesh analysis branch contributed to the decline in the R&AW's performance in Bangladesh during the Emergency. This has continued since then." [page 53]

Jihadi Terrorism, Pakistan, and the War on Terror
Most Indians have known that the epicenter of jihadi terrorism has been Pakistan. Pakistan's support - military, economic, logistical, and diplomatic - of terrorism in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, is well known to Indians, but has been denied and un-acknowledged for long or its impact minimized by the Western World. This has been sore point with Indians, and B Raman minces no words when he takes the West to task for this perceived duplicity.

........"Jihadi terrorism, which has been causing so much havoc across the world, including India, is this the product of two minds inthe world of intelligence - William Casey and Le Comte Alexandre de Marenches. During his secret visits to the terrorist training camps and madrassas in Pakistan in the 1980s, Casey used to address the trainees as "My sons". He died of cancer during the second term of Reagan, and therefore, did not live long enough to see the thousands killed by "his sons" and their associates, including 3,000 of his own countrymen on 9/11. Some of the retired CIA officers of those days, who are now parading themselves around the world and making money as the leading Al Qaeda watchers, were the original creators of Al Qaeda." [pages 81, 82]

This is something some in the West may well disagree with. Lawrence Wright, for example, in his excellent book, The Looming Tower, argues, with a lot of documentation, that the creation of Al Qaeda was very much an organic creation of the likes of Al Zawahiri and later Osama Bin Laden. Lawrence Wright's book however skirts the entire episode of US participation and involvement in the training, arming, and creation of the terrorists that first fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, then the Indians in Kashmir, and now pretty much the entire Western World.

Raman reveals more, later in the same chapter, referring to the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft in 1984:

........"The revolver given by the ISI to the hijackers at Lahore before the aircraft was taken to Dubai was of West German make. ... the West German intelligence intimated that the revolver was part of a consignment sold by the company to the Pakistan Army. The Government of India immediately shared the information with US officials and pointed that it was a fit case for declaring Pakistan a State-sponsor of international terrorism. ... But, the US authorities were not prepared to accept this oral evidence as conclusive proof against Pakistan." [page 92]

And further on:

........"It was this protection extended to Pakistan by the State Department ever since the days of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and it was their practice of closing their eyes to the spawning of jihadi terrorists in Pakistani territory, that led to the emergence of the Pakistan-Afghanistan region as a breeding ground of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and numerous other jihadi terrorist organizations." [page 281]

The law of Karma cannot be escaped from. B Raman essentially states that the spectre of terrorism that haunts the West is more or less a creation of the West. Terrorism, grown and nurtured by Pakistan in the hopes that it would destroy its arch enemy, India, now threatens the very existence of Pakistan itself and threatens to render the fabric of its society. Jihadi terrorism, trained and financed by the CIA, in the hopes that it would bleed and defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, did just that, but then turned on its creators.

Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhtto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan during the war of 1971, when Bangladesh won independence from (West) Pakistan. This terrible loss at the hands of India obviously left a deep and permanent mark on Benazir Bhutto, and was responsible for her policy towards of India, especially when it came to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, that Pakistan has occupied part of and covets. She desperately wanted to be the daughter that win the war that her father had lost.

........"According to the source, Lt. Gen. Gul replied: "Madam, keeping Indian Punjab destabilized is equivalent to the Pakistan Army having two extra Divisions at no cost. If you want me to drop the Sikh card, you have to sanction the creation of two new Divisions." She found this argument compelling and kept quiet." [page 160]

........"While Benazir tried to cut down, if not totally stop, the assistance to the Khalistanis, she wanted to go down in Pakistan's history as the Prime Minister who succeeded in annexing J&K." [page 162]

........"The situation became worse in J&K after she returned to power. Even though she had tried to stop the ISI's assistance to the Khalistani terrorists during her first tenure as the Prime Minister between 1988 and 1990, it was under her that the ISI started helping the Kashmiri terrorist organizations in a big way in 1989. She was the most virulent towards India so far as J&K was concerned and gave the ISI total freedom and the required funds to do whatever it wanted in J&K." [page 260]

Some points that could be made after reading the book:
- Provides a fairly good and broad overview of RAW and some historical perspective on the challenges faced by India.
- This book feels very "skimmy". No one topic is covered in much depth. This may be by design, but it does feel like a deficiency of the book. Some of the chapters, like the one on the 1971 India-Pakistan war, or on the terrorism in Kashmir and Punjab,
- The style of writing is very much declarative - statements are made, but without much by way of reasoning or backing up with references. Part of this may be because of the nature of the disclosures, but a more academic and rigorous approach would have benefited the book and given it more credibility.

The book, for some reason, and surprising even given the fact it is a hardcover edition, is printed on glossy, art-like paper. An overkill surely.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Leaves a lot to be desired 10 Mar 2013
By Rajeev Rajagopalan - Published on Amazon.com
Authored by a member of the RAW, the expectations from the lay reader for a book this significant and there are definitely patches of brilliance that must be commended in the book. But the book is undermined, by a rather stilted and confused narrative style. Themes keep recurring at regular intervals with no apparent logic.
RAW has some significant feathers in its cap, but as is apparent from the book there have been significant failures due to a lack of political will and downright meddlesome politics. The Bangladesh war is well dealt with as is the Khalistani movement. Its interesting to note the active involvement of the CIA during the Khalistani movement. But the Bofors crisis and the defections from the RAW as well as the Lankan crisis have been insufficiently dealt with in the book. The last section of the book degrades into a series of ramblings on HR issues within the RAW.
The author is a well known blogger on intelligence and foreign affairs and you largely get around to believing that this book may have been better served with deeper research or just kept to being a series of blog posts
5.0 out of 5 stars good read. 9 Sep 2013
By gpai - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is first hand details given by anyone working in org. Nice to know the details of some of the important incident of indian history, before reading this book i believed in what was fed to us by paid media and newspapers.
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