RAW insider’s book has government in a flap

By Murali Krishnan, IANS 

New Delhi : An explosive insider account of the functioning of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), India's external intelligence agency, detailing its lack of accountability and poor leadership has the government in a bind.

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Senior intelligence officials said discussions are underway on whether the Official Secrets Act (OSA) should be used against the former RAW official, Major General V.K. Singh, the first person to throw light on the agency's inner working in his book "India's External Intelligence: Secrets of Research & Analysis Wing".

"We are looking at the matter seriously and will take a decision shortly," RAW chief Ashok Chaturvedi told IANS.

"There is a code and propriety that former officers do not write on revealing what are official secrets."

Singh's recently released book basically addresses three issues in the organisation – lack of leadership, no accountability and political mishandling.

It vividly describes his stint in the agency between 2000-2004 when he looked after the technical intelligence wing, particularly events that unfolded during and after the Kargil war.

In his reckoning, India's decision to hand over a tape to former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in June 1999 containing a telephone conversation between then army chief, General Pervez Musharraf and his chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz was an intelligence disaster.

After the tapes were publicised, the Pakistani establishment got wind of the technology being used by Indian intelligence to tap their internal communication and within no time the leak was plugged, eventually leading to information drying up.

In his book, Singh also writes of the communication systems procured by the Special Protection Group for the prime minister from an American firm in 2001 and how the RAW leadership failed to carry out due diligence.

While writing on the defection of Rabinder Singh, a former RAW joint secretary to the US in 2004, Singh blames the "lack of leadership at the top responsible for the major fiasco".

The author insists he has done nothing wrong.

"I know they (government) are thinking of using the OSA but I have done nothing wrong," Singh told IANS, adding that he had not revealed anything sensational and was well within his rights to pen what he believed was standard information.

"I have not written anything that is inimical to the interests of the country or passed on information to the enemy. I have not disclosed anything about our defence and nuclear secrets," Singh said.

"Foreign firms who we contract to buy equipment know what are requirements are. It is all there in the tender documents."

This is not the first time that the government is thinking of using the OSA against an intelligence official.

Two years back, former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Maloy Krishna Dhar, broke traditions by writing a book, "Open Secrets, India's Intelligence Unveiled" which he called "the first open confession of intelligence operative".

The publication then shook the political and intelligence establishment though a defiant Dhar said he had no regrets even though many people accused him of violating the OSA. The government eventually backed out.

Dhar, 67, served 34 years in the IB and was bold to disclose so much about the functioning of the Indian intelligence establishment that it imparted a kind of historic significance to the book.