| BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
(December 12, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Research & Intelligence Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) is tasked with getting information about external threats and challenges to India. However, for years most of the “research” done is into promoting the career prospects of a few favoured officers. These have political patrons who shield them from accountability for a swelling tide of shenanigans, a process made easier by the absence of outside audit of RAW expenditures. Indira Gandhi started RAW in 1968 after the comprehensive failure of the Intelligence Bureau in both the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict and the 1965 attack by Pakistan, and her son and successor Rajiv Gandhi ensured that intelligence professionals were placed on the same level as the IAS and the IPS.
Such parity annoyed these two “heaven-born” services, who quickly teamed up to ensure that the organisation remained within the vice-like grip of both the IAS and the IPS, despite neither being equipped by training or field experience to man what ought to be a pure intelligence outfit. While the IAS has developed considerable expertise in file-pushing, in the process creating works of fiction that would earn a Literature Nobel were they to be made public, the clandestine securing of information about the plans and activities of external threats to the country are well beyond their fields of experience, which is domestic administration. Success in which task can be judged by the abysmal state of governance in India.
As for the IPS, this is a service that (for reasons of survival and individual prosperity) has perfected the science of pleasing political patrons, in the process absent-mindedly rounding up a few pickpockets and rapists. Sadly for the country, few spies are either, which perhaps explains the sorry record of RAW in discovering the many citizens and foreigners within India who indulge in harmful espionage against the country, including more than a few in RAW itself. Such lack of knowledge of the arcane business of spy and counter-spy has not prevented the IAS and IPS establishments (assisted by their cousins in the IFS) of converting RAW into a dump yard for favourites looking for a perch in between lucrative postings in their mother service.
” P.K. Hormese Tharakan’s career in RAW was unspectacular, initiating “Trust in the Enemy” policies in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that within years has resulted in steep drops in Indian influence in all three. Tharakan was a protégé of then National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, and never strayed from the line dictated to him by the strong-willed NSA.”
Not that RAW or its affiliates, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and the Aviation Research Service (ARC) lack opportunities for financial advancement. Since the UPA came into office in 2004, it has followed Morarji Desai in throwing away the Indira Gandhi legacy of nurturing RAW as the Indian version of the CIA or MI5-6.
The UPA has converted it into one more incompetent administrative and police service. This has been done by systematically downgrading the intelligence professionals from the Research Administrative Service (RAS) who work there. Since 2004, RAW alone has seen four changes at the top, all of whom have a police background. Although the first UPA pick, P.K. Hormese Tharakan, was known for integrity, his career in RAW was unspectacular, initiating “Trust in the Enemy” policies in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that within years has resulted in steep drops in Indian influence in all three. Tharakan was a protégé of then National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, and never strayed from the line dictated to him by the strong-willed NSA.
However, Hormese Tharakan’s three-year period (2005-07) was benign compared to the term of his successor Ashok Chaturvedi. That his uncle was Cabinet Secretary (and in the selection panel) when he was appointed Secretary (R) on 1 February 2007, presumably helped ensure that his spotty service record got overlooked during the brief and farcical selection process. Despite M.K. Narayanan voicing his misgivings about the choice, the then Cabinet Secretary (who is among the many UP cadre officers in Delhi who are close to both the BJP as well as the Congress party) ensured the placement of his nephew in the coveted post of RAW chief. The expertise of the junior Chaturvedi was Nepal, more particularly the tourist hotspots in that delightful destination, knowledge that endeared him to many in the Indian establishment who visit Nepal often, and search for ways of making the trip memorable in many senses.
Once he became RAW chief, one of Chaturvedi’s tasks was to act as a courier for cash sent abroad to the relatives of a prominent Indian politician. He used to accompany bags of cash taken from RAW’s secret funds, sometimes even in diplomatic bags, handing over the stash in European cities to delighted relatives of the neta. While making such transfers, he forbade any of his colleagues from accompanying him in the vehicle used by him to deliver the bags. Chaturvedi was the first RAW chief to personally take abroad bags of cash. While these were supposedly handed over to miscellaneous “sources”, in fact the money went to the relatives of a senior politician residing in Delhi. Such devotion to duty won him immunity from disciplinary action, despite his many transgressions.
The obliging, paan-chewing Chaturvedi was a boon to several high-level politicians. A former Union minister in a key portfolio was being harassed by the ED over a deal involving Iraq under Saddam Hussein. And when the former minister made private threats (four years ago) in the presence of a young major that he would expose the involvement in the “oily” scam of the son-in-law of a prominent lady politician, this conversation was quickly conveyed to the governor of a small northern state, whose ADC the military officer was. This elderly worthy promptly did his patriotic duty by informing the lady politician’s political factotums about the danger of exposure of the son-in-law’s dealings. Swift action followed, the upshot being that the former minister was freed from the attention of government agencies that were looking into his business dealings, followed by his grateful silence on the role of the son-in-law. Previously, the minister had privately alleged that the athletic lad had been the most richly compensated individual in the international scam for which the former minister had lost his job. A fair exchange, which was soon followed by Ashok Chaturvedi employing the ADC-cum-snitch in RAW, where he is enjoying a comfortable career, with perks such as immunity for owning assets in Bihar far greater than his recorded income. Truly, Chaturvedi was one of the many officers who understood democracy to mean not the welfare of all the people, but of the people close to those in power. Small wonder that he had a charmed career.
( Source: The Sunday Guardian)