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.