- Feb 23, 2009
The Research and Analysis Wing [RAW]
The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) is India's primary external intelligence agency. It was formed in September 1968, after it became apparent that the newly independent Republic of India lacked a credible external intelligence gathering agency after after the Indo-China War of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Its primary function is the collection of external intelligence, counter-terrorism, sabotage, counter-sabotage and covert external operations; in addition, it is responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations and individuals, in order to assess and advise Indian foreign policymakers. Until the creation of RAW, the Intelligence Bureau [IB] handled both internal and external intelligence.
Formation & History
Following an intelligence failure during the 1965 Sino-Indian Border War, then Prime Minister Jawahaarlaal Nehru order a dedicated foreign intelligence agency to be established, which became the Research and Analysis Wing. Prior to its inception, intelligence collection was primarily the responsibility of the Intelligence Bureau, an incorporated vestige of the Colonial Raj. In 1933, sensing the political turmoil which eventually led to the Second World War, the Intelligence Bureau's responsibilities were increased to include the collection of border intelligence along Unified India. In 1947, after independence, Sanjeevi Pillaii took over as the first Indian Director of the IB. Having been depleted of trained manpower by the exit of the British, Pillaii attempted to run the bureau on MI5 lines. Following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, in which the Army was alerted to cross-border infiltration by civilian intelligence, the Indian Chief of Army Staff General Jayantha Nath Chaudhury called for a more cohesive intelligence-gathering.
Around the end of 1966, the concept of a separate foreign intelligence agency began to assume concrete shape. In 1968, after Indira Gandhi had taken over, it was decided that a full-fledged second security service was required. R. N. Kao, then deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau, submitted a blueprint for the new agency and was appointed as the Chief of India's first foreign intelligence agency. The R&AW was given the responsibility of strategic external intelligence, human as also technical, as well as concurrent responsibility together 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.
The RAW was started as a wing of the main Intelligence Bureau with roughly 250 employees and an annual budget of Rs 2 crore (approximately $450,000) four decades ago. In the early seventies, its annual budget had risen to Rs. 30 crores while its personnel numbered several thousand.
The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), under the Cabinet Secretariat, is responsible for co-ordinating and analyzing intelligence activities between the RAW, the Intelligence Bureau and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). In practice, however, the effectiveness of the JIC has been varied. With the establishment of the National Security Council in 1999, the role of the JIC has been merged with the NSC. The RAW's legal status is unusual, in that it is not an "Agency", but a "Wing" of the Cabinet Secretariat. Hence, R&AW is not answerable to the Parliament of India on any issue, which keeps it out of reach of the Right to Information Act.
In 1971, R.N. Kao, director-founder of the RAW, had persuaded the Government to set up the Aviation Research Centre (ARC). The ARC's mandate was aerial reconnaissance and replaced the Indian Air Force's former 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.
In 2008-09, the Governmen of India was rumoured to have added another intelligence agency dedicated to collection of technical intelligence. 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 measure. It is believed to be dealing with technological espionage, and research on imagery and communications using various platforms.
The objectives of the R&AW at present are:
- To monitor political and military developments in adjacent countries, including China and Pakistan, which have a direct or indirect bearing upon India's national security and upon the formulation of its foreign policy; Technical and Technological espionage under the auspices of the National Technical Facilities Organisation (NTFO).
- To make the control and limitation of the supply of military hardware to Pakistan, mostly from European countries, the USA and China, a priority.
- To gather intelligence on leadership, capabilities and organization of various insurgency groups operating in adjacent states that pose a national security or integrity threat, and to thwart these using covert operations, assassinations, sabotage, indirect political coercion and exo-agent and interagent collusion where possible.
- To further geopolitical goals, encourage a strategic balance and evince a deterrence of external collusion with domestic insurgency groups by establishing working relationships with secessionist agencies abroad.
- To provide security for India's nuclear program.
The structure of the RAW is a matter of speculation, but brief overviews of the same are present in the public domain. Attached to the HQ of RAW 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 pre-processed (vetted) 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. The Director RAW is a member of the JIC Steering Committee and is authorized to brief the Prime Minister should the need arise.
The chief of the RAW is designated Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Most of the position's occupants have been experts on either Pakistan or China. The head of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), the external intelligence agency, enjoys greater autonomy of functioning than their counterparts in the UK and US and has the same privileged direct access to the Prime Minister as their UK counterparts. The control of the Cabinet Secretary over the RAW is limited to administrative and financial matters, with very little say in operational and policy matters. They also have the benefit of training in either US or the UK, and more recently in Israel. The Secretary (R) 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.
An Additional Director is responsible for the Office of Special Operations and intelligence collected from different countries processed by large number of Joint Secretaries. Reporting to the Secretary (R) are: Two Special Secretaries and one Special Director of the ARC, the Aviation Research Centre; Four Additional Secretaries, responsible for different geographical regions; A large number (above 40) Joint Secretaries, who are the functional heads of various desks.
Another important branch under the operational control of the RAW is the Directorate General of Security (DGS). This agency has oversight over organizations like the Special Frontier Force (SFF), the Special Services Bureau (SSB) &c. Liaison with the military is maintained through the Military Intelligence Advisory Group and the Military Advisor to the Director RAW.
Initially, the 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, the agency 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 from the Armed Forces or Civil Service Officers. The Civil and Defense Service Officers permanently resign their cadre and join the Research and Analysis Service (RAS). However, according to recent reports, officers can return to their parent cadre after serving a specific period in the agency if they wish to.
Some officers of the RAW are members of a specialized service, the Research and Analysis Service (RAS), but several officers also serve on deputation from other services. The RAW has sub-organizations like the Aviation Research Center (ARC), the Radio Research Center (RRC) or the Electronics and Technical Service (ETS), which have considerable capacity for technical intelligence gathering.
Numerous missions were assigned to RAW upon its creation. These included monitoring political and military developments in neighboring countries that affects Indian national security. Consequently, considerable attention is paid by RAW to Pakistan and China, countries that are traditional rivals of India.
RAW has evolved from its origins as a part of the Intelligence Bureau to develop into India's predominant intelligence organization.
Pakistan has 'accused' the Research and Analysis Wing of sponsoring sabotage in Punjab, where RAW is alleged to have supported the Seraiki movement, providing financial support to promote its activities in Pakistan and organizing an International Seraiki Conference in Delhi in November-December 1993. RAW has an extensive network of agents and anti-government elements within Pakistan, including dissident elements from various sectarian and ethnic groups of Sindh and Punjab. Published reports in Pakistan allege that as many as 35,000 RAW agents entered Pakistan between 1983-93, with 12,000 working in Sindh, 10,000 in Punjab, 8,000 in North West Frontier Province and 5000 in Balochistan.
The RAW also provided training and arms to the Bangladeshi freedom fighters known as the 'Mukti Bahini' in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. The RAW's aid was instrumental in the creation and liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
During the course of its investigation the Jain Commission received testimony on the official Indian support to the various Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups in Tamil Nadu. From 1981, RAW and the Intelligence Bureau established a network of as many as 30 training bases for these groups in India. Centers were also established at the high-security military installation of Chakrata, near Dehra Dun, and in the Ramakrishna Puram area of New Delhi. This clandestine support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), some of whom were on the payroll of RAW, was later suspended. Starting in late 1986 the Research and Analysis Wing focused surveillance on the LTTE which was expanding ties with Tamil Nadu separatist groups. Rajiv Gandhi sought to establish good relations with the LTTE, even after the Indian Peace Keeping Force [IPKF] experience in Sri Lanka. But the Indian intelligence community failed to accurately assess the character of the LTTE and its orientation towards India and its political leaders. The LTTE assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was apparently motivated by fears of a possible re-induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka and a crackdown on the LTTE network in Tamil Nadu.
The RAW was heavily criticized in 1999, following the Pakistani incursions at Kargil. Critics accused RAW 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, RAW 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.
Amalgamation of Sikkim: Bordered 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, the RAW was authorized to install a pro-Indian democratic government there, concomitant of which, in less than three years, Sikkim became the 22nd State of the Indian Union, on April 26, 1975.
Operation Kaktus: 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 ***oom, the 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 the 6th parachute battalion of the Parachute Regiment from Agra and flew them over 2,000 km to Maldives. The Indian paratroopers landed at Hulule and restored the Government rule at Malé within hours. The operation, labelled Operation Kakus, also involved the Indian Navy. Swift operation by the military and precise intelligence by RAW quelled the insurgency.
Operation 'Chanakya': This was the R&AW operation in the Kashmir region to infiltrate various ISI-backed Kashmiri separatist 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 separatist groups. The R&AW was successful at: i) unearthing the links between the ISI and the separatist groups; and ii) in infiltrating and neutralizing the militancy in the Kashmir valley. The RAW is also credited for creating a split in the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Operation 'Chanakya' also marked the creation of pro-Indian groups in Kashmir like the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, Muslim Mujahideen etc. These counter-insurgencies consist of ex-militants and relatives of those slain in the conflict. Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen leader Kokka Parrey was later himself assassinated by separatists.
The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan: After the rise of Pakistan and American-backed Taliban in Afghanistan during the Soviet war, India decided to side with the Northern Alliance and the Soviet Union. By 1996, the R&AW had built a military hospital at the Farkhor Air Base and used the airport to repair and operate the Northern Alliance's aerial support. The relationship was further cemented in the 2001 Afgan war. India supplied the Northern Alliance high altitude warfare equipment worth around $8–10 million, and the R&AW was also able to determine the extent of the Kunduz airlift.
Operation Leech: Surrounded by the Arakans and dense forest, Burma/Myanmar had always been a worrisome point for Indian intelligence. As the major player in the area, India sought to promote democracy and install friendly puppet governments in the region. To these ends, it is alleged that the RAW cultivated Burmese rebel groups and pro-democracy coalitions, in particular the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). India allowed the KIA to carry limited trade in jade and precious stones using Indian territory as a conduit and later supplied them weapons. It is further alleged that the KIA chief Maran Brang Seng met RAW officials in Delhi twice. However, after it became apparent that the KIA became the main source of training and weapons for northeastern rebel groups, the RAW initiated a campaing of assassination of KIA leaders that included six top leaders, including the military wing chief of National Unity Party of the Arakans (NUPA), Khaing Raza, and the arrest and termination of several other Arakanese guerillas.
Special Operations in Punjab: In the mid 1980's, the R&AW set up two covert groups, Counterintelligence Team-X(CIT-X) and Counterintelligence Team-J(CIT-J), the first directed at Pakistan and the second at Khalistani groups. Rabinder Singh, an 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."
The 'War on Terror': Although RAW'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 Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. 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 R&AW helped foil a third assassination plot against Pakistan's former President, General Pervez Musharraf.