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Spy Versus Spy

Rival IPS-RAS lobbies lead the agency in an even deeper hole

Spy Versus Spy
Spy Versus Spy
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Raw's Ripe Discord
  • The infighting between IPS and RAS cadre lobbies has ensured lack of professional growth
  • Jayadev Ranade, a joint secretary from the RAS cadre, is facing the axe due to differences with his IPS superiors
  • IPS lobby has tried to promote its cadre by sidelining the RAS cadre. The RAS, on its part, has tried to repeatedly embarrass its IPS counterparts through selective leaks to the media
  • Lack of effective political control and oversight has led to an opaque process giving intelligence officials a free run. V.K. Singh's efforts to expose the corruption came to nought possibly because he trained his sights on IPS cadre Raw forces
  • There is no financial or administrative accountability, therefore discouraging merit and encouraging lobbies.

***

Late last year, senior RAW officials inducted into the agency from the Indian Police Service (IPS) huddled together at an informal meeting in Delhi. But it wasn't really an intelligence mission they had gathered to discuss. Instead, they concentrated their collective energies on an issue closer home: how to deal a humiliating blow to one of their counterparts in the Research and Analysis Service (RAS).

The RAS, a legacy of the early '70s, was set up to create a cadre of specially trained and dedicated intelligence officers who would serve RAW exclusively. Forgetting their past identities, they would be integrated to serve the fledgling intelligence agency. They would have been an elite corps within the agency except that those drafted into RAW from the IPS maintained their distinct identity and created a powerful lobby that continues to call the shots in the agency. It set the stage for a bitter turf war in the agency which rages to this day. Since it dominates the present hierarchy in the agency, the IPS lobby currently has upper hand in the battle with the RAS.


V.K. Singh: a fight in vain

At the centre of the latest episode of this turf war is joint secretary Jayadev Ranade, a 1973 batch officer of the RAS cadre, who returned to Delhi in November 2005 to head the agency's China desk after a long stint as minister (consular) in the Indian embassy in Washington. Ranade was awarded a censure last fortnight after an inquiry found him guilty of not taking due clearance from RAW for his wife Vinita's re-employment with the World Bank in New Delhi. She had been working with the bank in Washington with RAW's permission till November 2005. After she returned to India with her husband, fresh clearance was sought from RAW for Vinita to sign a contract with the World Bank's office in Delhi for a job as communication officer.

However, senior officials of RAW asked for details of Vinita's new contract which Ranade refused to furnish since he felt his wife's Delhi assignment was only an extension of her Washington stint. This was not seen as a satisfactory enough explanation and the findings of an inquiry concluded that Vinita took up her assignment without clearance from RAW. Hence Ranade's censure. Now, say sources, the officer has put in his papers for voluntary retirement.

But Ranade is not an innocent victim in this turf war. RAW insiders say he was once close to the centre of power in RAW, having served as a staff officer to its former chief, A.S. Dulat. This not only got him the coveted Washington posting, but also helped him in his efforts to downgrade his counterparts from the IPS. He tried to reduce the seniority of IPS officers by quoting cadre rules, which was turned down by the cabinet secretariat. He also attempted to target IPS officer Sanjiv Tripathi by pointing out certain aberrations during the latter's Mauritius posting.

Then the tables turned. Tripathi, the son-in-law of former RAW chief Gauri Shankar Bajpai, rose in influence in the agency. Presently heading RAW's air wing, the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), Tripathi is considered close to present RAW secretary Ashok Chaturvedi, and is in the running as the next chief of the external intelligence organisation, in contention with RAS cadre officer P.V. Kumar. It was this influence that helped him emerge unscathed from the unsavoury saga of Rabinder Singh, the joint secretary in RAW who defected to the US in 2004 with the help of the cia. Tripathi was Singh's immediate boss.

With Chaturvedi taking charge in February 2007, Tripathi became a powerful power centre within RAW. It was soon after that an inquiry was instituted against Ranade for tapping the phones of at least two special secretaries—Tripathi himself and Gurinder Singh, another IPS officer absorbed into RAW. Alongside, an inquiry was instituted against Ranade for not taking clearance for his wife's appointment with the World Bank in Delhi.

Once both inquiries were set up, Ranade's time was up. He was tipped to pick up his next promotion as an additional secretary, but the position was kept vacant as RAW bosses refused to empanel him till the inquiries were completed. The IPS lobby, now back in power in RAW, could not pin him down for the phone tapping. An inspection of the files revealed that he was working under instructions to tap the phones of his superiors. But Ranade couldn't satisfy the inquiry on why he failed to take clearance for his wife's employment with the World Bank, leading to his censure.

This latest antic within RAW only confirms how the organisation continues to function with little or no political control or any financial or administrative accountability. While it comes under the cabinet secretariat, which is directly under the prime minister, its effective control has passed on to the office of the national security advisor who has enough on his hands. So RAW functions under its own internal bureaucracy. This has resulted in a series of public embarrassments in the last six months. To name a few:

  • Ravi Nair, an RAS cadre RAW officer posted in Sri Lanka, was recalled for alleged links with a Chinese woman. His friends smell an IPS hand in the entire controversy. He has been denied promotion to the rank of an additional secretary.
  • A director-level lady officer of the RAS cadre presently serving in RAW's training institute has levelled sexual harassment charges against several of her seniors. RAW chief Chaturvedi recommended on file that the complainant be "compulsorily retired". But the NSA stepped in, suggesting that an inquiry be conducted. A committee set up by Leela Ponappa, the deputy NSA, has found the complainant to be emotionally disturbed and has recommended psychiatric counselling for her. Had Chaturvedi's initial recommendation been implemented, it would have blown up into a full-blown controversy of an RAS cadre officer being victimised without an inquiry.
  • Nearly 19 RAW officials were found to have been culpable in the defection of Rabinder Singh. The roles of senior IPS cadre RAW officials like Amar Bhushan, S.B.S. Tomar and Sanjiv Tripathi have been questioned. But none of the 19 was either identified as a co-accused, let alone served with a censure or even given an administrative warning. The chargesheet filed by RAW names Rabinder Singh as the lone accused.
  • The one-man G.B.S. Sidhu inquiry committee set up by the NSA after a former RAW official, Major General V.K. Singh, levelled serious charges of corruption found several deliberate procedural flaws in procurements. Little follow-up action has been taken, possibly because Singh trained his sights at IPS cadre officers in RAW.
The above shenanigans couldn't underline more the need for RAW to have a transparent and balanced leadership. That alone will ensure that lobbies do not flourish in the agency and the cloak-and-dagger games are reserved only for genuine espionage conducted in national interest. Right now the left arm of the agency is fighting its right arm and scoring one self-goal after another.

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