There have been stories, legends and rumours about various Indian spies and their escapades across the world that have been the source of intrigue for a whole generation and more. Without excluding, of course, the institution and the structure behind them that has been the backbone of Indian intelligence and strategic operations since 1968, the Research & Analysis Wing.
Here are 5 facts and 'secrets' about RAW that we thought you should definitely know.
1. RAW was established on the 21st of September, 1968, in response to the Sino-Indian war.
Following the failures of intelligence services, which were the responsibility of the Investigation Bureau (IB) at the time, during the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962 and the India-Pakistan conflict of 1965, the Indira Gandhi government had to take extreme measures to increase foreign intelligence gathering.
This is when the government called on the services of the first director of RAW, Rameshwar Nath Kao, who quickly gained a reputation for himself in the global intelligence community as a mastermind. It was under his nine-year leadership that RAW was directly involved in and aided the independence of Bangladesh and the accession of the state of Sikkim to India.
2. RAW once turned around a strategic move made by Pakistan, against them.
The Indian Airlines hijacking of aircraft Ganga back 1971, was in fact, a strategic move by RAW that subsequently gave India a reason to retaliate by banning flights by Pakistani aircraft. This would later have a significant impact on troop movement by Pakistani forces into East Pakistan during the 1971 war.
Al-Fatah, a Pakistan-sponsored terrorist organisation, had a few of its members receive training by the Pakistan government in order to hijack an Indian Airlines plane which was meant to be piloted by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's son, Rajiv Gandhi. The organisation sent a certain, Hashim Qureshi to complete the job, which later resulted in him being arrested by the BSF.
RAW then persuaded Qureshi to work for them, gave him a plastic toy pistol and toy grenade, and asked him to carry on with the mission. The flight would be an old decommissioned plane called Ganga , and the mission would result in no lives lost but an upper hand gained by the Indian government by proving the Pakistani government's involvement in the Indian Airline hijacking. Shady business, I say!
3. The 'Black Tiger' was one of RAW's most successful secret agents.
Late Ravindra Kaushik aka Black Tiger was one of the most successful spies and undercover agents that RAW had ever recruited. Born on April 11, 1952, Kaushik was a theatre artist from Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, and was recruited by RAW and sent to Pakistan to infiltrate the Pakistani army in 1975.
After receiving extensive training for the top secret mission, Kaushik - then turned, Nabi Ahmed Shakir - rose to the rank of Major within the Pakistan Army and served in their military. Kaushik, or Ahmed Shakir, then intercepted and passed on valuable military intelligence to the Indian defence forces between 1979 and 1983. For this, he earned the title of 'Black Tiger' and a reputation as the most celebrated Indian spy.
His cover was eventually blown and he was finally caught when the Indian forces sent in a low level operative, Inyat Masih, to get in touch with him. Kaushik was later imprisoned and tortured by the Pakistani army for nearly two years and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1985. In 1999, he succumbed to Pulmonary Tuberculosis and heart disease at the New Central Jail, Multan. The Bollywood flick Ek Tha Tiger was supposed to have been based on his story.
4. RAW is an independent wing.
RAW is actually not an agency, but technically a wing. This means that the intelligence service is not answerable to any government body. except directly to the Prime Minister and the Joint Intelligence Committee. In fact, there is a provision that keeps the information on RAW excluded from the RTI Act (Right To Information) as well. The head of RAW is designated "Secretary (Research)" in the Cabinet Secretariat, and is under the direct command of the Prime Minister and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister.
5. RAW was the agency responsible for keeping operation Smiling Buddha a secret.
When it comes to keeping secrets, RAW proved that they are pretty much the best at it in 1974. What happened in 1974? Well, India's first nuclear weapons test was held at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan, on May 18, 1974. At the time, the Indian government officially accepted that this was a "peaceful nuclear explosion," when it was actually an accelerated nuclear program. That's right, we were arming up.
RAW, in fact, is said to have been single handedly responsible for this operation to be kept under total secrecy. And, they did this so well that the nuclear weapons test went completely under the radar of the US and Chinese intelligence services. India was so successful at keeping this weapons development a secret from the world that the Nuclear Suppliers Group was founded later that year to keep a tab on all international nuclear movement and activity. Damn!
The CIA and rest of these amateurs can step aside for now. We Indians got this.