Research and Analysis Wing

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Research and Analysis Wing

Research and Analysis Wing

धर्मो रक्षति रक्षित:

Agency overview


21 Sept 1968


New Delhi, India

Agency Executive

Ashok Chaturvedi, Secretary (R)

Parent agency

Prime Minister's Office, GoI

Child Agency

The Aviation Research Centre

The Radio Research Center

Electronics & Tech. Services.

National Tech. Facilities Organisation

Special Frontier Force

Research and Analysis Wing (RAW or R&AW)[1] is India's external intelligence agency. Formed in September 1968 after the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, its primary function is collection of external intelligence, counter-terrorism and covert operations. In addition, it is also responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and persons in order to advise Indian foreign policymakers. Until the creation of R&AW in September 1968, the Intelligence Bureau handled both internal and external intelligence.

The R&AW has its headquarters on Lodhi Road in New Delhi. The current director of the organization is Ashok Chaturvedi, an IPS officer who later joined the Research and Analysis Service (RAS).


  • 1 History

  • 2 R&AW takes shape

  • 3 R&AW's objectives

  • 4 The Organization

    • 4.1 Training of R&AW Agents[18]

    • 4.2 Functions of R&AW

    • 4.3 Modus operandi

  • 5 Secretaries of R&AW

  • 6 Major operations

  • 7 Controversies

    • 7.1 Defections and spy scandals

  • 8 R&AW in fiction and the movies

  • 9 References

  • 10 Further reading

  • 11 External links


R. N. Kao (1918-2002). Founder Director of RAW

R&AW traces its origins to the post Sino-Indian war (October 20 - November 21, 1962) scenario where foreign intelligence failure led to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) instructing the setting up of a dedicated foreign intelligence agency. Prior to its inception, intelligence collection was primarily the responsibility of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which was created by the British. In 1933, sensing the political turmoil in the world which eventually led to the Second World War, the bureau's responsibilities were increased to include the collection of intelligence along India's borders. In 1947, after independence, Sanjeevi Pillai took over as the first Indian Director of IB. Having been depleted of trained manpower by the exit of the British, Pillai tried to run the bureau on MI5 lines. Although in 1949, Pillai organized a small foreign intelligence set-up, the inefficacy of it 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 Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Jayanta Nath Chaudhury, after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

Around the end of 1966 the concept of a separate foreign intelligence agency began to take concrete shape. In 1968, after Indira Gandhi had taken over, it was decided that a full-fledged second security service was needed. R. N. Kao[2], then a deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau, submitted a blueprint for the new agency. Kao was appointed as the chief of India's first foreign intelligence agency named as the Research and Analysis Wing or R&AW. The R&AW was given the responsibility for strategic external intelligence, human as well as technical, plus concurrent responsibility with the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence for tactical trans-border military intelligence up to a certain depth across the LOC and the international border.

As per convention, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) under the Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for co-ordinating and analyzing intelligence activities between R&AW, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). In practice, however, the effectiveness of the JIC has been

The framework of Indian intelligence

varied[3]. With the establishment of the National Security Council in 1999, the role of the JIC has been merged with the NSC. R&AW's legal status is unusual; it is not an "Agency" but a "Wing" of the Cabinet Secretariat. Hence R&AW is not answerable to Parliament on any issue. Because of this, R&AW has been kept out of reach of the Right to Information Act[4][5].

R&AW takes shape

R&AW started as a wing of the main Intelligence Bureau with 250 employees and an annual budget of Rs 2 crore (roughly $450,000). In the early seventies, its annual budget had risen to Rs 30 crores while its personnel numbered several thousand. In 1971, Kao had persuaded the government to set up the Aviation Research Centre (ARC). The ARC's job was aerial reconnaissance.[6] It replaced the Indian Air Force's old reconnaissance aircraft and by the mid-70s, R&AW, through the ARC, had high quality aerial pictures of the installations along the Chinese and Pakistani borders. Presently the budget of R&AW is speculated to be as high as $150 million[7][8] to as low as $31 million[9].

The ARC operating bases at (Clockwise from top right) 1.Military Charbatia Air Base Cuttack, Orissa 20°33'N 85°53'E, 2.Military Dum Duma Air Station, Tinsukia, Assam 27°33'N 95°34'E , 3.Farkhor Air Base Farkhor/Ayni, Tajikistan 37°28'N 69°22'EChakrata Air Station, Chakrata, Uttarakhand 30°42'N 77°51'E 4.Chakrata Air Station, Chakrata, Uttarakhand 30°42'N 77°51'E.

There are four R&AW Aviation Research Centre operating bases:[10] at Charbatia in Cuttack; at Chakrata on the Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh border, also the headquarters of the elite Special Frontier Force; Dum Duma near Tinsukia in Assam; and at the Palam domestic airport in Delhi.[11] It is also alleged that Farkhor Air Base, the only Indian military base situated in a foreign country, at Farkhor/Ayni in Tajikistan,[12] is also another base station of ARC. By 1976, Kao became responsible for security, reporting directly to the Prime Minister. His rise paralleled R&AW's rise to prominence. R&AW agents operated in virtually every major embassy and high commission. ARC has positioned itself to be one of the foremost agencies in aerial surveillance. Its assets of fixed-wing transport and light aircraft like Russian IL-76s and Antonov An-32s and General Dynamics Gulfstream III/SRA-1s and upgraded Gulfstream IV/SRA-4 jets of the US and helicopter fleet comprising Russian MI-8s and a mix of locally built Cheetahs (locally modified French Alouette IIs) and Chetak's (Alouette IIIs), many of which are used to transport Special Frontier Force (SFF) commandos from their base at Chakrata, 250 km north of New Delhi, at the behest of R&AW operatives or from the Intelligence Bureau are tasked with gathering information via airborne signal intelligence (SIGINT) operations and photo reconnaissance flights along its northern and eastern frontiers.

The Government of India has added another intelligence agency which is dedicated to collection of technical intelligence ( TECHINT ). India's new hi-tech spying agency, the National Technical Facilities Organisation (NTFO), also known as National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) is believed to be functioning under R&AW, although it remains autonomous to some degree. While the exact nature of the operations conducted by NTFO are classified, it is believed that it deals with research on imagery and communications using various platforms.

R&AW's objectives

     India      Key strategic, military & economic partners      Key strategic and economic partners      Economic partners      Countries which have territorial disputes

The objectives of R&AW[13] at present are:

  • To monitor the political and military developments in adjoining countries, which have direct bearing on India's national security and in the formulation of its foreign policy.

  • Secondly, to mould international public opinion by using a strong and vibrant Indian diaspora.

In the past, following the Indo-China war and due to what were volatile relations between India and Pakistan, R&AW's objectives had also consisted the following:

  • To watch the development of international communism and the schism between the two communist giants, the Soviet Union and China. As in other countries, both the powers had direct access to the communist parties in India.

  • To make the control and limitation of the supply of military hardware to Pakistan, mostly from European countries, the USA and China, a high priority.

The Organization

Organizational structure of R&AW.

R&AW has been organized on the lines of the CIA[14]. The Director of R&AW is designated Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat. Most of the previous Directors have been experts on either Pakistan or China. They also have the benefit of training in either US or the UK, and more recently in Israel[15].The Secretary (R), although is under direct command of Prime Minister, reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister (PM). However, on a daily basis the Secretary (R) reports to the National Security Advisor. Reporting to the Secretary (R) are:[16][17]

  • An Additional Director responsible for the Office of Special Operations, intelligence collected from different countries processed by large number of Joint Secretaries, who are the functional heads of various specified desks with different regional divisions/areas/countries: area one, Pakistan; area two, China and Southeast Asia; area three, the Middle East and Africa; and area four, other countries. Two Special Joint Secretaries, reporting to Additional Director, head the Electronics and Technical Dept. which is the nodal agency for ETS, NTFO and RRC and the administrative dept.

  • The Director General of Security having two important sections the Aviation Research Centre headed by one Special Director and the Special Services Bureau controlled by two Special Secretaries.

The internal structure of the R&AW is a matter of speculation, but brief overviews of the same are present in the public domain. Attached to the HQ of R&AW at Lodhi Road, New Delhi are different regional headquarters, which have direct links to overseas stations and are headed by a controlling officer who keeps records of different projects assigned to field officers who are posted abroad. Intelligence is usually collected from a variety of sources by field officers and deputy field officers; it is either preprocessed by a senior field officer or by a desk officer. The desk officer then passes the information to the Joint Secretary and then on to the Additional Secretary and from there it is disseminated to the concerned end user. R&AW personnel are called "Research Officers" instead of traditional "agents". There is a sizeable number of female officers in R&AW even at operational level. In recent years R&AW has shifted its primary focus from Pakistan to China and have started operating a separate desk for this purpose.[16]

Training of R&AW Agents[18]

RAW headqurters on Lodhi Road in New Delhi at 28°35'N 77°14'E.

Recruitment[19] Initially, R&AW relied primarily on trained intelligence officers who were recruited directly. These belonged to the external wing of the Intelligence Bureau. In times of great expansion, many candidates were taken from the military, police and other services. Later R&AW began directly recruiting graduates from universities. Today R&AW has its own service cadre, the Research and Analysis Service (RAS) to absorb talent. Recruitment is mostly by deputation of Armed Forces or Civil Service Officers ( All India or Central Civil Service-Group A or B). The Paramiltary Forces also remain a source of recruits. The Civil and Defence Service Officers permanently resign their cadre and join the Research and Analysis Service (RAS). Most of the Directors have been officers from the IPS. R&AW also employs a number of linguists and other experts in various fields.

Basic Training[20] Basic training commences with 'pep talks' to boost the morale of the new recruit. This is a ten-day phase in which the inductee is familiarized with the real world of intelligence and espionage, as opposed to the spies of fiction. Common usages, technical jargon and classification of information are taught. Case studies of other agencies like CIA, KGB, Chinese Secret Agency and ISI are presented for study. The inductee is also taught that intelligence organisations do not identify who is friend and who is foe, the country's foreign policy does. Basic classroom training to R&AW officers are imparted at R&AW's Training Institute in Gurgaon.[21]

Advanced Training[22]The recruit is now attached to a Field Intelligence Bureau (FIB). His training here lasts for six months to a year. He is given firsthand experience of what it was to be out in the figurative cold, conducting clandestine operations. During night exercises under realistic conditions, he is taught infiltration and exfiltration. He is instructed to avoid capture and, if caught, how to face interrogation. He learns the art of reconnoiter, making contacts, and, the numerous skills of operating an intelligence mission. At the end of the field training, the new recruit is brought back to the school for final polishing. Before his deployment in the field, he is given exhaustive training in the art of self-defense, an introduction to martial arts and the use of technical espionage devices. He is also drilled in various administrative disciplines so that he could take his place in the foreign missions without arousing suspicion. He is now ready to operate under the cover of an Embassy to gather information, set up his own network of informers, moles or operatives as the task may require. Field training is provided in Special Frontier Force HQ at Chakrata.

Functions of R&AW

As per submissions by Secretary (R&AW) to Vohra Committee, the various offices abroad of R&AW have limited strength and are largely geared to the collection of military, economic, scientific and political intelligence. R&AW monitors the activities of certain organisations abroad only insofar as they relate to their involvement with narco terrorist elements and smuggling arms, ammunition, explosives, etc. into India.[23] It does not monitor the activities of criminal elements abroad, which are mainly confined to normal smuggling without any links to terrorist elements. The present strength of the Agency’s offices abroad would not permit it to enlarge its field of activities. If, however, there is evidence to suggest that these organisations have links with Intelligence agencies of other countries, and that they are being used or are likely to be used by such countries for destabilising India's economy, it would become R&AW’s responsibility to monitor their activities.

Collection of information: R&AW obtains information critical to Indian strategic interests. Both overt and covert means are adopted.

Classification of information: Data is sifted through, classified as appropriate, and filed with the assistance of the computer network in the 13-story bombproof building situated at Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

Aggressive intelligence: The primary mission of R&AW includes aggressive intelligence collection via espionage, psychological warfare, subversion and sabotage.

Counter intelligence: R&AW has a dedicated section which spies against enemies intelligence collection oganizations. With enemy agencies abounding in Indian neighbourhoods, this is the second most important function of R&AW.

Modus operandi

Diplomatic missions:[24] Diplomatic missions provide an ideal cover and R&AW centers in a target country are generally located on the embassy premises.

Multinationals: R&AW operatives find good covers in multinational organizations. Non-governmental organizations and cultural programmes are also popular screens to shield R&AW activities.

Media: International media centers can easily absorb R&AW operatives and provide freedom of movement.

Collaboration with other agencies: R&AW maintains active collaboration with other secret services in various countries. Its contacts with FSB of Russia, KHAD, the Afghan agency, Israel's Mossad, the CIA and MI6 have been well-known, a common interest being Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Third Country Technique: R&AW has been active in obtaining information and operating through third countries like Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Singapore.

Spotting and Recruitment: R&AW operatives actively search for local recruits and operatives. Separatist tendencies and ethnic or sectarian sensitivities are also allegedly used as grounds for manipulation (such as the alleged involvement of R&AW with the Balochistan Liberation Army). Armed forces and Paramilitary personnel remain a primary target for enrolment.

Secretaries of R&AW



Took office

Left office

Career Highlights


R. N. Kao



Founder of R&AW, ARC • Bangladesh Liberation War • Operation Smiling Buddha • Amalgamation of Sikkim • ELINT operation with the CIA against China


K. Sankaran Nair



Resigned from service in protest of downgrading the designation of Head of R&AW as Director, R&AW instead of Secretary (R).





Founder Director of RRC, ETS • He had the unique distinction of working under Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai and Charan Singh.


Girish Chandra Saxena



Collaborated with the Intelligence Agencies of US, the erstwhile USSR, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc • Kanishka Bombing • Operation Blue Star





Continued collaboration with Intelligence Agencies • During his tenure, the post of Director of R&AW was re-designated as Secretary (R) and this designation has continued since then.


A.K. Verma



Operation Cactus • Indian Peace Keeping Force


G.S. Bajpai



Counter Insurgency operations


N. Narasimhan



Operation Chanakya


J.S. Bedi



Chief during 1993 Mumbai bombings • Specialist in China,Pakistan and counter terrorism.


A.S. Syali



Increased economic surveillance • Emphasis on advanced training and more recruitment


Ranjan Roy



Negotiation on Farkhor Air Base





Kargil War • Operation Shakti





Negotiated with IC 814 hijackers


Vikram Sood



Founder of National Technical Facilities Organisation


C D Sahay



Operation Leech • Revamped ARC • Inauguration of R&AW headquarters at Lodhi Road, New Delhi


P K H Tharakan



Was instrumental in setting up of Nuclear Command Authority (India)


Ashok Chaturvedi



Investigation of Samjhauta bombings

RN Kao and Sankaran Nair belonged to the Indian Police (IP), of the British colonial days which was renamed as the Indian Police Service after Indian Independence in 1947.

N.F.Suntook had served in the Indian Navy, then in the IPS and in the Indian Frontier Administration Service during the days of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Vikram Sood was from the Indian Postal Service.

A.S.Dulat was deputed from the Intelligence Bureau.

All the Directors have been experts on China or Pakistan except for the current Director, Ashok Chaturvedi who is an expert on Nepal [25]

Major operations

  • ELINT operations in Himalayas:[26]After China tested its first nuclear weapons on October 16, 1964, at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, India and USA shared a common fear about the nuclear capabilities of China.[27] Owing to extreme remoteness of Chinese testing grounds and strict secrecy surrounding the Chinese nuclear programme, it was almost impossible to carry out any HUMINT operation. So CIA in late 60s decided to launch an ELINT operation along with R&AW and ARC to track China's nuclear tests and monitor its missile launches. The operation, in the garb of a mountaineering expedition to Nanda Devi involved celebrated Indian climber M S Kohli who along with operatives of Special Frontier Force and CIA most notably Jim Rhyne, a veteran STOL pilot, was to place a permanent ELINT device, a transceiver powered by a plutonium battery, that could detect and report data on future nuclear tests carried out by China[28]. The monitoring device was near successfully implanted on Nanda Devi, however an avalanche forced a hasty withdrawal[29], later a subsequent mountain operation to retrieve or replant the device was aborted when it was found that the device was lost. Recent reports indicate that radiation traces from this device have been discovered in sediment below the mountain[30]. However the actual data is not conclusive.

  • Mujibur Rahman's Assassination: R&AW operatives claim that they had advance information about Mujib-ur-Rahman's assassination but tragically Sheikh Mujib ignored[2] R&AW's inputs and was killed along with 40 members of his family. R&AW thus failed to prevent the assassination which led to the loss of a charismatic leader who had a soft corner for India after all they had done for his countries' independence. However recently R&AW has successfully thwarted plans of assassinating Sheikh Hasina Wazed, daughter of Mujibur Rahman, by Islamist extremists, and ISI[31].

  • Operation Smiling Buddha: Operation Smiling Buddha was the name given India's nuclear programme. The task to keep it under tight wraps for security was given to R&AW.[32] This was the first time that R&AW was involved in a project inside India. On 18 May 1974 India detonated a 15-kiloton plutonium device at Pokhran and became a member of the nuclear club.

  • Amalgamation of Sikkim: Bodered by Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and West Bengal in the Eastern Himalayas Sikkim was ruled by a Maharaja. The Indian Government had recognized the title of Chogyal (Dharma Raja) for the Maharaja of Sikkim. In 1972 R&AW was authorized to install a pro-Indian democratic government there. In less than three years Sikkim became the 22nd State of the Indian Union, on April 26, 1975.
  • Kahuta's Blueprint:[33][34]

Ordinance Blueprint,Khan Research Laboratories, A.Q. Khan Laboratories, Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL), Kahuta, Pakistan 33°39'11"N 73°15'33"E.

Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging center for long-range missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). R&AW agents claim that in early 1978[35], they were on the verge of obtaining the plans and blueprint for Kahuta Research Laboratories that was built to counter the Pokhran atomic blast, but the then Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai not only refused to sanction the US$10,000 demanded by the R&AW agent, but informed Pakistan of the offer[36]. According to conflicting reports, Pakistanis caught and eliminated the R&AW mole.
  • Special Operations: In the mid 1980s R&AW set up two covert groups, Counterintelligence Team-X(CIT-X) and Counterintelligence Team-J(CIT-J), the first directed at Pakistan[37] and the second at Khalistani groups. Rabinder Singh, the R&AW double agent who defected to the United States in 2004, helped run CIT-J in its early years. Both these covert groups used the services of cross-border traffickers to ferry weapons and funds across the border, much as their ISI counterparts were doing. According to former R&AW official and noted security analyst B. Raman, the Indian counter-campaign yielded results. "The role of our cover action capability in putting an end to the ISI's interference in Punjab", he wrote in 2002, "by making such interference prohibitively costly is little known and understood." These covert operations were discontinued during the tenure of IK Gujral.[38]

  • Kanishka Bombing case:[39][40][41] On 23 June 1985 Air India's Flight 182 was blown up near Ireland and 329 innocent lives were lost. On the same day another explosion took place at Tokyo's Narita airport's transit baggage building where baggage was being transferred from Cathay Pacific Flight No CP 003 to Air India Flight 301 which was scheduled for Bangkok. Both aircraft were loaded with explosives from Canadian airports. Flight 301 got saved because of a delay in its departure. This was considered as a major set back to R&AW for failing to gather enough intelligence about the khalistani terrorists[42].[43]
  • Operation Cactus:[44] In November 1988, the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), composed of about 200 Tamil secessionist rebels, invaded Maldives. At the request of the president of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Indian armed forces, with assistance from R&AW, launched a military campaign to throw the mercenaries out of Maldives. On the night of November 3, 1988, the Indian Air Force airlifted 6th parachute battalion of the Parachute Regiment from Agra and flew them over 2,000 km (1,240 mi) to Maldives. The Indian paratroopers landed at Hulule and restored the government rule at Malé within hours. The operation, labelled Operation Cactus, also involved the Indian Navy. Swift operation by the military and precise intelligence information quelled the insurgency.

  • Sri Lanka:[45][46]. R&AW started training the LTTE to keep a check on Sri Lanka, which had helped Pakistan in the Indo-Pak War by allowing Pakistani ships to refuel at Sri Lankan ports, but LTTE created lot of problems and complications and then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi was forced to send Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to restore normalcy in the region. The disastrous mission of Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) was blamed by many on the lack of coordination between the IPKF and R&AW. Its most disastrous manifestation was the Heliborne assault on LTTE HQ in the Jaffna University campus in the opening stages of Operation Pawan. The site was chosen without any consultation with the R&AW. The dropping paratroopers became easy targets for the LTTE. A number of soldiers were killed. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi is also blamed as a fallout of the failed R&AW operation in Sri Lanka.[47].
  • Operation Chanakya:[48] This was the R&AW operation in the disputed Kashmir region to infiltrate various ISI-backed Kashmiri terrorist groups and restore peace in the Kashmir valley. R&AW operatives infiltrated the area, collected military intelligence, and provided evidence about ISI's involvement in training and funding Kashmiri terrorist groups[49][50]. R&AW was successful not only in unearthing the links between the ISI and the terrorist groups, but also in infiltrating and neutralizing the militancy in the Kashmir valley.[51][52][53] R&AW is also credited for creating a split in Hizbul[54]. Operation Chanakya also marked the creation of pro-Indian groups in Kashmir like the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, Musleem Mujahideen etc. These counter-insurgencies consist of ex-militants and relatives of those slain in the conflict. Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen leader Kokka Parrey was himself assassinated by terrorists.

  • Disturbances in Pakistan:[55] The Pakistani government claims that dissent among the Balochis, tribals in the North-West Frontier Province, Waziristan, Northern Areas and rural sindhi population is due to R&AW's interventions[56]. Pakistan also claims that R&AW has established its training camps in Afghanistan in collaboration with the Northern Alliance in a bid to destabilise the region, as a retaliation for Pakistan's involvement in Kashmir.[57] It is also claimed by Pakistani authorities that approximately 600 ferraris (Baloch tribal dissidents) and members of Islamic Emirate of Waziristan were trained to handle explosives and use sophisticated weapons in these camps.[58] While Pakistan has long complained of India-engineered terrorism on its soil, there is so far no reputable open-source account of either its scale or its course and the Indian government has steadfastly denied any involvement in the Baloch-NWFP problem.Despite Indian claims of denying any involvement in creating disturbances there are viable proofs of R&AW activities in Pakistan and are soon to be presented to the UN Security Council and the public.
  • Kargil War: R&AW was heavily criticized in 1999, following the Pakistani incursions at Kargil. Critics accused R&AW of failing to provide intelligence that could have prevented the ensuing ten-week conflict that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of full-scale war. While the army has been critical of the lack of information they received,[59] R&AW has pointed the finger at the politicians, claiming they had provided all the necessary information. Most Indian officials believe that in order to prevent another such occurrence, communication needs to be increased between the intelligence agencies, which would require structural reform. However R&AW was successful in intercepting a telephonic conversation between Pervez Musharraf, the then Pakistan Army Chief in Beijing and his chief of staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz in Islamabad[60]. This tape was later published by India to prove Pakistani involvement in the Kargil incursion[61][62].[63]

  • Help to the Northern alliance: After the rise of Pakistan backed Taliban in Afghanistan, India decided to side with the Northern Alliance. This relationship was further cemented in the 2001 Afgan war.[64] By 1996 R&AW had built a 25 bed military hospital[65] at the Farkhor Air Base[66], this airport was used by Aviation Research Centre, the reconnaissance arm of R&AW, to repair and operate Northern Alliance's aerial support. India also supplied the Northern Alliance high altitude warfare equipment worth around $8-10 million[67][68]. A handful of Indian defence advisers who reportedly included an officer in the rank of Brigadier, were based in Tajikistan to advise the Northern Alliane in operations against the Taliban[69]. R&AW was the first intelligence agency to determine the extent of Kunduz airlift.[70]
  • Operation Leech: Surrounded by Arakans and dense forest Myanmar had always been a worrisome point for Indian intelligence. As the major player in the area, India has sought to promote democracy and install friendly governments in the region. To these ends, R&AW cultivated Burmese rebel groups and pro-democracy coalitions, especially the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)[71]. India allowed KIA to carry a limited trade in jade and precious stones using Indian territory and even supplied them weapons. It is further alleged that KIA chief Maran Brangsein met the R&AW chief in Delhi twice. However when KIA became the main source of training and weapons for all northeastern rebel groups, R&AW initiated an operation, code named Operation Leech, to assassinate the leaders of the Burmese rebels as an example to other groups.[72] Six top rebel leaders, including military wing chief of National Unity Party of Arakans (NUPA), Khaing Raza, were shot dead and 34 Arakanese guerrillas were arrested and charged with gunrunning.[73]

  • War on Terror: Although R&AW's contribution to the war on terror is highly classified, the organization gained some attention in the western media after claims that it was assisting the United States by providing intelligence on Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban's whereabouts. Maps and photographs of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan along with other evidence implicating Osama bin Laden in terrorist attacks, were given to US intelligence officials. R&AW's role in the war on terror may increase as US intelligence has indicated that it sees R&AW as a more reliable ally than Pakistani intelligence. It has further come to light that a timely tip-off by RAW helped foil a third assassination plot against Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf[74].
  • December 2008 Lahore Bombing: On December 24 2008 a car bomb blast in the Government Officials Residential Complex of Lahore killed one woman and injured four persons. By night intelligence agencies of Pakistan arrested a R&AW agent named Satish Anand who came from Calcutta to create disturbances and reveal information of important personalities and government buildings to the Indian Government along with 4 more R&AW agents. The other 4 agents Pradeep, Ram Kumar, Kabal Khan and Vishwanath were arrested on December 25 2008 from various parts of the Punjab Province of Pakistan. Satish used to work in the Indian High Commission in London while another by the name of Kabal Khan worked in the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Two pistols, fake ID cards, explosives, photographs of important government buildings of Pakistan, cell phones, secret maps and a letter for R&AW Headquarters in Delhi were confiscated from the R&AW agents. This was a severe blow for the Indian government as it revealed a massive network of R&AW activities in Pakistan.


From its inception R&AW has been criticised for being an agency not answerable to the people of India (R&AW reports to Prime Minister only). Fears arose that it could turn into the KGB of India. Such fears were kept at bay by the R&AW's able leadership (although detractors of R&AW and especially the Janata Party have accused the agency of letting itself be used for terrorising and intimidating opposition during emergencies). The main controversy which has plagued R&AW in recent year is over bureaucratisation of the system with allegations about favoritism in promotions etc.[75]R&AW also suffers from ethnic imbalances in the officer level. In 2006, Indian magazine Outlook reported that although India has a Muslim minority numbering 140 million, there was not one single high level Muslim officer in R&AW. Reuters quoted anonymous sources as saying there were some Muslims in R&AW, but they were mostly field officers.[76]. Noted security analyst and former Additional Secretary B.Raman has criticised the agency for its asymmetric growth; "while being strong in its capability for covert action it is weak in its capability for intelligence collection, analysis and assessment. Strong in low and medium-grade intelligence, weak in high-grade intelligence. Strong in technical intelligence, weak in human intelligence. Strong in collation, weak in analysis. Strong in investigation, weak in prevention. Strong in crisis management, weak in crisis prevention."[77][78] In September 2007, R&AW was involved in controversy due to the high profile CBI raid at the residence of Maj Gen (retired) V K Singh, a retired Joint Secretary of R&AW who has recently written a book on R&AW where it was alleged that political interference and corruption in the intelligence agency has made it vulnerable to defections. A case under Official Secrets Act has also been filed.[79] R&AW was again in middle of a controversy when a Director level employee, head of R&AW Training Institute in Gurgaon from 2005[80] tried to commit suicide in front of Prime Minister's Office on August 19, 2008, alleging inaction and wrong findings to a sexual harassment complaint filed against a Joint Secretary, who was on deputation to R&AW.[81][82]

Defections and spy scandals

In recent past there has been few high profile defections and scandals which have tarnished the image of R&AW as efficient agency, some of the scandals that were in news in past are:

  • 2004 CIA Spy scandal:[83]Rabinder Singh Joint secretary and heading R&AW's South East Asia department had defected to America on June 5, 2004. R&AW had already become suspicious about his movements and he was under surveillance and his telephones were also tapped. He was also confronted by Counter Intelligence officials on 19 April 2004. Despite all precautions Rabinder Singh managed to defect with 'sensitive files' he had allegedly removed from R&AW's headquarters in south New Delhi. This embarrassing fiasco and national security failure are attributed to weak surveillance, shoddy investigation and lack of coordination between the Counter-Intelligence and Security (CIS), IB and R&AW[84]. According to unconfirmed reports Singh has surfaced in Virginia, USA.[85] Recently in an affidavit submitted to the court R&AW deposed that Singh has been traced to New Jersey[86].
  • 2007 Bangladeshi Spy Scandal:[87] The man in question here was a Bangladeshi DGFI agent who concealed his nationality and was known by the name of Diwan Chand Mallik. He was known to have some important documents which are dangerous for national security. He joined in 1999 and used to live in East Delhi. A case of cheating and forgery was filed at the Lodhi Colony police station on the basis of a complaint by a senior R&AW official.[88]

R&AW in fiction and the movies

Unlike Hollywood, which has portrayed FBI, CIA, MI6 etc in various films, Bollywood has been shy to explore the area of espionage, especially R&AW on the silver screen. Excessive secrecy surrounding activities and rare declassification of information are blamed as the main reason behind this. However there are films from Bollywood which refers to agents, espionage, terrorism etc. but till recently none of them openly mentioned R&AW.

One of the earliest Indian films portraying espionage was Prem Pujari starring Dev Anand in 1970, in 1973 just after the war with Pakistan came Hindustan Ki Kasam (Starring Raaj Kumar, Priya Rajvansh). However films like The Hero: Love Story of a Spy (Starring Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta and Priyanka Chopra)[89], Aankhen (1968, Ramanand Sagar Production, Starring Dharmendra, Mala Sinha)[90], Such a Long Journey (1998, UK Canada Co-production, Directed by Sturla Gunnarsson, starring Naseeruddin Shah)[91], 16th December (Starring Milind Soman, Sushant Singh, Dipanita Sharma),[92] Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999, starring Ajay Devgan in double role, Amitabh Bachchan), Asambhav (2004), starring Arjun Rampal as Army Captain and Jammel Khan essaying role of fictional R&AW agent Atul Bhatnagar[93] etc. have openly mentioned R&AW and its allied units. In the film Fanaa, Tabu essays the role of Malini Tyagi the director of a fictional government organization the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) which seems to be the screen version of R&AW. Rumors have it that the notable Bollywood director Ram Gopal Varma’s next enterprise titled Ek, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty and Akshay Kumar with guest appearance of Keanu Reeves, is about military intelligence with elements of war, terrorism and the workings of R&AW.[94] Popular Hindi movie Veer-Zaara has mentioned the intelligence agency R&AW, when the lead character Veer (portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan) was accused by Pakistani police of being an undercover spy for R&AW. In Mission Istanbul model actress Shweta Bhardwaj played the role of Lisa Lobo, a R&AW agent in Istanbul, who helps journalist Vikas Sagar, played by Zayed Khan, in foiling the anti - India terrorist attempts by a terror group. In Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam Rahul Bose plays a RAW officer (Arjun Rastogi) who tries to thwart the explosives delivery in the city. In Chamku R&AW is shown as undertaking a covert program much in the lines of Bourne series to build up an assassination team.

Apart from Bollywood, the regional film industries of India have also cashed in on the patriotic appeal of espionage, Telugu movie star Krishna's film titled Goodachari No. 1 explores the life of an undercover agent working to thwart ISI activities in India. Cine star Bala Krishna's latest film in the direction of Swarna Subba Rao, titled Vijayendra Varma - The power of an Indian is based on a real life story of a R&AW agent. Bala Krishna is doing the role of the R&AW officer in the film[95]. The Tamil movie Ottran casts Arjun Sarja as a R&AW officer. A 1990's Malayalam film Highway portrays Suresh Gopi as a R&AW agent investigating a bomb blast. Kamal Hasan in a film titled Dasavataram essayed role of a bumbling R&AW operative.[96]

The thriving entertainmnet channels in India have also started to tap into the theme of Intelligence agencies. Time Bomb 9/11, a series aired on Zee Tv, features Rajeev Khandelwal in the role of R&AW field officer who attempts to defuse a Nuclear bomb set in India, as well as saving the life of Indian PM.

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