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Indias External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing RAW by V.K. Singh

The first time I heard about RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) was during my engineering college days, mostly during a quiz competition if my memory serves me right. Like most, I too had a romanticized view of intelligence agencies and espionage, mostly because of our exposure to Ian Fleming novels, James Bond and espionage movies. This view continued for long until a few years ago when I read Spycatcher by James Wright, a former MI5 officer. The moles within, inter-agency rivalry, bureaucratic shackles, political interference, were all laid bare by Wirght in that book. I naturally searched more about our own RAW, MI, IB and all I got were newspaper reports which mostly talked about the intelligence failures leading to 1962 debacle, Kargil war, Samba Spy ring, Rabinder Singh case and likewise. It was then I wondered how does our intelligence apparatus really work and who are the people to run it on a daily basis.

These doubts remained as almost nothing is freely available about RAW and hardly anyone writes about RAW even in newspapers except circumstantially. I felt that I knew more about how CIA or MI6 works, given the extent to which they have been written about in books, articles and monologues. That is not the case with RAW. RAW is out of purview of the media (for right reasons), is not accountable to the parliament/cabinet and not even under the scrutiny of the CAG. While this absolute autonomy has its positives, there are lot of negatives too.

With no one looking into the workings or RAW or monitoring its officers and activities from outside, lot many lacunae have crept into its system which has made it less effective. For example, its so top heavy that it pulls down the entire institution with its weight. This is detrimental during times when quick decisions have to be taken. The people within do not want to correct the fault-lines as the present system works for their individual benefits. The success stories of RAW is more due to the individual brilliance of few officers and men (agents) and less due to the system itself. The above is the gist of the book Indias External Intelligence - Secrets of RAW by Maj. Gen. VK Singh.

Maj. Gen. VK Singh, a former army officer who served in the army for 35 years was deputed to the RAW as Joint Secretary, Technical Division with responsibility of Signal Intelligence (SIGINT). His tenure in RAW gave him the first hand experience of its working, its strengths and weaknesses. Given his rich experience in the Army Signal Core, he was the best judge to point out the lacunae in RAWs apparatus and suggest ways to rectify. However, as he found out during his tenure, the top-heavy organization had become a victim of its own red-tape. Since the system was working to suit their individual benefits, the officers in prominent position showed least interest to rectify the system.

Some of the examples of corruption he quotes generates great amount of loathing in us. The case of an officer siphoning off funds to his source in Europe which later turned out to be his own daughter who was pursuing her post-graduate studies in a top European university, shows how few used RAWs autonomy to their own benefits. The author also quotes numerous examples of corruption in buying much needed equipment, wherein top officials favor a particular company for promised kick-backs. Such cases ought to be known by the parliament and public and the cases cited by the author actually jeopardize the nations security.

Hence Maj. Gen VK Singh, in his work has strongly advocated bringing RAW under the ambit of the parliament and making it accountable, both in terms of accounts and activities. Accounts of RAW are not even audited by CAG despite several cases of corruption and illegal usage of funds by its officers and staff members have been recorded. In the garb of maintaining secrecy and autonomy, several of its officers are involved in illegal activities and are susceptible to honey traps and other enticement by foreign agencies. Yet, RAW activities are not monitored by anyone. Here the author advocates setting up of a supervisor committee on the lines of USAs Senate Select Committee on Intelligence or UKs Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which not only keep a tab on the activities of RAW but also enables it to work in coherence with other intelligence agencies.

A primary fault-line with our intelligence agencies is the inter-agency rivalry and ill-will. The disastrous effect of this is clearly explained by Maj Gen VK Singh through several instances where the deciphering of received data was delayed as one agency refused to share information with another agency. The bizarre instance where different agencies had their own separate antenna at the same place monitoring the same lines, expecting same intelligence only to avoid passing of info to each other is unforgettable.

The author takes the trouble of explaining his role, working of each divisions within RAW, roles of responsibilities of officers in the organization in detail. At many places in the book, he also highlights the positives and negatives of several officers and staff members. While at times it gets cumbersome to read, it is important to know such details if one needs to know the faults within RAW.

The book has more to it. The chapters on history of RAW, Rabinder Singh episode and intelligence mechanism in India are must reads for anyone interested in espionage and intelligence gathering. Each chapter has an aim and narrates a specific episode or instance in which he was involved. These chapters provide in-depth view of the working of the organization.

Let me state that the book is not designed to give a negative or despondent view of our premier intelligence agency nor that seems to be the aim of the author Maj Gen VK Singh. This work is a much needed mirror to the organization which is mandated to protect the citizens of the country. With the genuine faults highlighted, if & when corrected will only enhance the organizations reputation and accomplish its stated goal of citizen security.

The book is NOT a romanticized novel of the Ian Fleming or James Bond mold with stories of agents involved in filmy or heroic acts. Hence the book is certainly not a easy read but surely an important read for anyone interested to know how exactly RAW works and how to correct its negatives.

There are many officers and agents in RAW who risk their lives so that we live in peace. Such hundreds of unnamed, faceless officers and agents are our nations real heroes. Their sacrifice will surely be worthwhile if the fault-lines within the organization brought out by Maj Gen VK Singh are heeded and duly amended.
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Published 06.01.2019

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V.K. Singh

How To Join RAW – Research and Analysis Wing

Intelligence Bureau used to take care of the foreign intelligence too, along with the intelligence inside the country, until , when the foundation of RAW was laid. Here we are going to tell the candidates how to join this prestigious institution. These belonged to the external wing of the Intelligence Bureau. Then came a time when they needed to expand their family, at that time many candidates were taken from the military, police and the Indian Revenue Service. Based on a selection of psychological tests and the interview, candidates are inducted into RAW for a lien period of one year. During this period, they have an option of rejoining their parent service if they wish to after which they can be permanently absorbed into the Research and Analysis Service. However, according to recent reports, officers can return to their parent cadre after serving a specific period in the agency if they wish to.

The government today appointed chiefs of the two inteligence units -- Arvind Kumar will head the Intelligence Bureau and Samant Goel will take charge of the Research and Analysis Wing or RAW, which looks after the external intelligence of the country. Former Research and Analysis Wing chief AS Dulat has asserted that political parties should not try to gain mileage from the Indian Air Force strike on a terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot because it concerns a matter of national security. Vikram Sood, the former chief of India's spy agency RAW, said the suicide car bombing in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama could not have happened without a "security lapse somewhere". The country's top intelligence officers along with Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a closed-door meeting in Delhi today to prepare a dossier on Pakistan's involvement in the car bomb attack that killed over 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on Thursday, people with direct knowledge of the matter told NDTV. India has rejected Pakistan police's charge that the country's external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing or RAW, was involved in the November terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi.

Accordingly, it is hard to find detailed information about the organization. Since its inception, RAW is credited with providing intelligence support to many significant operations on foreign soil. RAW is known for not working in cooperation with the Intelligence Bureau or other Indian intelligence agencies. Kao as the first director of RAW. Additionally, as intelligence gaps were identified, Kao petitioned the Indian government to establish the Aviation Research Center ARC , which would be responsible for providing aerial reconnaissance of neighboring countries.


How India's External Intelligence Agency RAW decoded Pakistan's Secret Plans? (BBC Hindi)




4 thoughts on “Indias External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing RAW by V.K. Singh

  1. When we think about the Lifestyle of RAW agents or a Secret Intelligence Field Agents , James Bond movie strikes our mind and we imagine or dreams about the action, investigations, conspiracy plots etc.

  2. It was established in following the intelligence failures of the Sino-Indian War , which persuaded the Government of India to create a specialised, independent agency dedicated to foreign intelligence gathering; [2] previously, both domestic and foreign intelligence had been the purview of the Intelligence Bureau.

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