The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW or RAW) is the foreign intelligence agency of India. It was established in 1968 following the intelligence failures of the Sino-Indian war, which persuaded the Government of India to create a specialised, independent agency dedicated to foreign intelligence gathering; previously, both domestic and foreign intelligence had been the purview of the Intelligence Bureau.
During the nine-year tenure of its first Director, Rameshwar Nath Kao, R&AW quickly came to prominence in the global intelligence community, playing a role in major events such as the independence of Bangladesh and the accession of the state of Sikkim to India. The agency’s primary function is gathering foreign intelligence, engaging in counter-terrorism, promoting counter-proliferation, advising Indian policymakers, and advancing India’s foreign strategic interests. It is also involved in the security of India’s nuclear programme. Many foreign analysts consider the R&AW to be an effective organisation and identify it as one of the primary instruments of India’s national power.
Headquartered in New Delhi, R&AW’s current chief is Anil Dhasmana. The head of RAW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat, and is under the direct command of the Prime Minister and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary of India, who reports to the Prime Minister.
Prior to the inception of the Research and Analysis Wing, overseas 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 Intelligence 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 the IB. Having been depleted of trained manpower by the exit of the British, Pillai tried to run the bureau on MI5 lines. In 1949, Pillai organised a small foreign intelligence operation, but the Indian debacle in the Sino-Indian war of 1962 showed it to be ineffective. Foreign intelligence failure during the 1962 Sino-Indian War led then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to order a dedicated foreign intelligence agency to be established. After the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, Indian Chief of Army Staff General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri also called for more intelligence-gathering. Around the end of 1966 the concept of a separate foreign intelligence agency began to take concrete shape.
RAW: 1968 – Present
The Indira Gandhi administration decided that a full-fledged second security service was needed. R. N. Kao, 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, the Research and Analysis Wing. 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 Line of control (LOC) and the international border.
The framework of Indian intelligence
RAW started as a wing of the main Intelligence Bureau with 250 employees and an annual budget of ₹20 million (US$278,528.00). In the early seventies, its annual budget had risen to ₹300 million (US$4.2 million) 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. It replaced the Indian Air Force’s old reconnaissance aircraft and by the mid-1970s, 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 US$450 million to as low as US$100 million.
Slowly other child agencies such as The Radio Research Center and Electronics & Tech. Services were added to RAW in the 1970s and 1990s. In the 1970s the Special Frontier Force moved to RAW’s control, working to train Bengali rebels. In 1977, RAW’s operations and staff were dramatically cut under the Premiership of Morarji Desai, which hurt the organization’s capabilities with the shutting of entire sections of RAW, like its Information Division. These cuts were reduced following Gandhi’s return.
In 2004 Government of India added yet another signal intelligence agency called the National Technical Facilities Organisation (NTFO), which was later renamed as National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). While the exact nature of the operations conducted by NTRO is classified, it is believed that it deals with research on imagery and communications using various platforms.
The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), under the Cabinet Secretariat, is responsible for coordinating and analysing intelligence activities between RAW, the Intelligence Bureau and the Defence 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. R&AW’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. This exemption was granted through Section 24 read with Schedule II of the act. However, information regarding the allegations of corruption and human rights violations has to be disclosed.
The present RAW objectives include:
Monitoring the political, military, economic and scientific developments in countries which have a direct bearing on India’s national security and the formulation of its foreign policy.
Moulding international public opinion and influence foreign governments with the help of the strong and vibrant Indian diaspora.
Covert Operations to safe guard India’s National interests.
Anti – Terror Operations and neutralising terror elements posing a threat to India.
In the past, following the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and due to India’s volatile relations with Pakistan, R&AW’s objectives had also consisted the following:
To watch the development of international communism and the schism between the two big communist nations, the Soviet Union and China. As with other countries, both these powers had direct access to the communist parties in India.
To control and limit the supply of military hardware to Pakistan, from mostly European countries, America and more importantly from China.
Organisational structure of RAW
R&AW has been organised on the lines of the CIA. The head of R&AW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat. Most of the previous chiefs have been experts on either Pakistan or China. They also have the benefit of training in either the USA or the UK, and more recently in Israel. The Secretary (R), is under the direct command of Prime Minister, and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister. On a daily basis the Secretary (R) also reports to the National Security Adviser. Reporting to the Secretary (R) are:
* An Additional Secretary responsible for the Office of Special Operations and 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 the Additional Secretary, head the Electronics and Technical Department which is the nodal agency for ETS, NTRO and the RRC.
* The Directorate General of Security has two important sections – the Aviation Research Centre is headed by one Special Secretary and the Special Services Bureau controlled by two Special Secretaries.
The internal structure of the RAW is a matter of speculation, but brief overviews of the same are present in the public domain. Attached to the Headquarters 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 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. RAW personnel are called “Research Officers” instead of the traditional “Agents”. There is a sizeable number of female officers in RAW even at the operational level. In recent years, RAW has shifted its primary focus from Pakistan to China and have started operating a separate desk for this purpose.
Designations at RAW
Group A / Class I Officers
Group B / Class II Officers
Senior Research Officer
Group C / Class III Officers
Deputy Research Officer
Assistant Research Officer
Initially, RAW 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 Indian Armed Forces, Police (IPS) and the Officers of Indian Revenue Service (Customs & Central GST). Later, R&AW began directly recruiting graduates from universities. However owing to allegations of nepotism in appointments, in 1983 R&AW created its own service cadre, the Research and Analysis Service (RAS) to absorb talent from other Group A Civil Services, under the Central Staffing Scheme. Direct recruitment at Class I executive level is from Civil services officers undergoing Foundation course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. At the end of the course, R&AW conducts a campus interview. Based on a selection of psychological tests and the interview, candidates are inducted into R&AW for a lien period of one year. During this period, they have an option of rejoining their parent service (if they wish to) after which they can be permanently absorbed into the Research and Analysis Service.
Delhi-based security think tank Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses noted in one of its reports that R&AW suffered from the ‘tail-end syndrome’ where the ‘bottom of the entrance lists’ of those qualifying the UPSC examinations were offered jobs. Additionally, recruitment is also by lateral deputation from the Officer corps of Armed Forces or Group A Civil Service Officers. The Civil and Defence Service Officers permanently resign their cadre and join the 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. Most of the secretaries have been officers from the IPS and other posts are held by IRS and IFS officers. R&AW also employs a number of linguists and other experts in various fields. The service conditions of R&AW officers are governed by the Research and Analysis Wing (Recruitment, Cadre and Service) Rules, 1975.
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 familiarised with the real world of intelligence and espionage, as opposed to the spies of fiction. Common usages, tradecraft techniques and classification of information are taught. Financial and economic analysis, Space Technology, Information Security, Energy Security and Scientific knowledge is imbibed to the trainees.
The recruit is made to specialise in a foreign language and introduced to Geo strategic analysis. Case studies of other agencies like CIA, KGB, ISI, Mossad and MI6 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 in tactics and language are imparted to R&AW officers at the residential Training and Language Institute in Gurgaon. A multi-disciplinary school of economic intelligence is also being set up in Mumbai to train intelligence officers in investigating economic crimes like money laundering for terror purposes etc.
After completing ‘Basic Training’ the recruit is now attached to a Field Intelligence Bureau (FIB). His/her training here lasts for 1–2 years. He/she 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/she is taught infiltration and exfiltration. He/she is instructed to avoid capture and if caught, how to face interrogation. He/she learns the art of reconnoitre, 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/she is given exhaustive training in the art of self-defence mainly Krav Maga, and the use of technical espionage devices. He/she is also drilled in various administrative disciplines so that he could take his place in the foreign missions without arousing suspicion. He/she 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 the Indian Military Academy Headquarters at Dehradun. The training model has been criticised as being ‘archaic and too police-centric’ and not incorporating ‘modern technological advances in methods of communication’ etc.
Functions and methods
Activities and functions of R&AW are highly confidential and declassification of past operations are uncommon unlike agencies like CIA, MI6 and Mossad who have many of their activities declassified. The Secretary (R) reported to the Vohra Committee that R&AW offices abroad 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. It does not monitor the activities of criminal elements abroad, which are mainly confined to normal smuggling without any links to terrorist elements. However, if there is evidence to suggest that certain 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.
The primary mission of R&AW includes aggressive intelligence collection via espionage, psychological warfare, subversion, sabotage and assassinations. RAW maintains active collaboration with other secret services in various countries. Its contacts with FSB of Russia, NDS, the Afghan agency, Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and MI6 have been well-known, a common interest being Pakistan’s nuclear programme. RAW has been active in obtaining information and operating through third countries like Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Singapore.
RAW obtains information critical to Indian strategic interests both by overt and covert means. The data is then classified and filed with the assistance of the computer networks. International business houses, information technology sector and media centres can easily absorb R&AW operatives and provide freedom of movement. A task force report prepared by a New Delhi-based security think tank highlighted that R&AW operatives have inadequate non-official cover for overseas operations which ‘limits access to spot real targets’ and causes issues on handling ‘high-value assets’.
Rameshwarnath Kao – Founding Director of RAW
Rameshwarnath Kao (10 May 1918 – 20 January 2002) was a spymaster and the first chief of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) from its founding in 1969 to 1977. Kao was one of India’s foremost intelligence officers, and helped build R&AW. He held the position of Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of India, which has been held by all R&AW directors since. He had also, during the course of his long career, served as the personal security chief to Prime Minister Nehru and as security adviser to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He also founded the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and the Joint Intelligence Committee. An intensely private man, Kao was rarely seen in public post-retirement, and was photographed only twice throughout his life.
Kao also created the National Security Guard (NSG), during the Punjab terrorism of the 1980s, to address the needs of the Government of India to counteract terrorism within the country.
Notable officers :
Ravindra Kaushik (11 April 1952 – 26 July 1999) was an Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agent who lived undercover in Pakistan before he was jailed and would die while incarcerated.
Ravindra Kaushik was born in a rajasthani family based in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. By his early 20s he had become a famous theatre artist.
Kaushik displayed his talent at the national level dramatic meet in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, which was witnessed by officials from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence agency. He was contacted and offered a job of being an undercover Indian agent in Pakistan. Kaushik was given extensive training in Delhi for two years. He underwent circumcision so he could pass as a Muslim. He was taught Urdu, given religious education and acquainted with the topography and other details about Pakistan. Being from Sri Ganganagar, a city near Rajasthan’s border with Punjab, he was well versed in Punjabi, which is spoken in parts of Pakistan. In 1975, at the age of 23, Kaushik was sent to Pakistan on a mission.
Activities in Pakistan
Kaushik was given the name “Nabi Ahmed Shakir” and entered Pakistan in 1975. He gained access to the Pakistan Army as a civilian clerk and, later on, as a worker in the Military Accounts Department. He converted to Islam, married a local girl named Amanat, the daughter of a tailor in one of the army units, and fathered a boy who died in 2012–2013. From 1972 to 1983, while in jobs associated with the military, he passed on valuable information to RAW which was of great help to the Indian government.
Death and aftermath
In September 1983, Indian intelligence agencies sent a low level operative, Inyat Masih, to get in touch with Kaushik. However, Masih was caught by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and revealed Kaushik’s true identity. Kaushik was captured and kept in jails in various cities, including Sialkot and Kot Lakhpat. He was given the death sentence in 1985. His sentence was later commuted to a life term by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. On 26 July 1999, he succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis and heart disease in New Central Jail Multan in Multan. Indian government refused to own him. He was buried behind the jail.
Bahukutumbi Raman (14 August 1936 – 16 June 2013), also referred to as B. Raman, was an Additional Secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of India and one-time head of the counter-terrorism division of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency. Until his death in 2013, he was the director of the Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. B. Raman was also a contributor to the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG). As a former intelligence official, B. Raman regularly wrote about security, counter-terrorism and military issues regarding India and South Asia. He was considered one of India’s foremost security experts.
Raman was an IPS officer of the 1961 batch who served for a time in the Madhya Pradesh cadre before deputation to the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi. There, he was soon noticed by India’s spymaster, R.N. Kao, who took him to the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) when it was formed in 1968. From very early on in his career, Raman displayed an unwavering commitment to his work. This, along with his vast knowledge and the ability to recall details of events even after the passage of decades made him a near ideal intelligence officer. These rare qualities prompted Kao and many of his successors to entrust Raman with some of the very sensitive tasks that the R&AW undertook.
Having been one of the few surviving officers who were a witness to the creation of R&AW during 1968 by R.N. Kao, his analysis on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and China have been an asset to the intelligence community. Raman was the author of a memoir he wrote of his days in the R&AW titled Kaoboys of R&AW – Down Memory Lane.
K. Sankaran Nair
K. Sankaran Nair (1919–2015), known as Colonel Menon among his colleagues, was an Indian civil servant, diplomat and the director of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the apex intelligence agency in India. He served as the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore from 1986 to 1988 and was the last member of the Indian Imperial Police. He was reported to have played a crucial role in the formation of Bangladesh, through RAW operations during the Bangladesh Liberation War. His memoirs, Inside IB and RAW: A Rolling Stone that Gathered Moss, published in 2008 made news for the insider details it contained about two of the highest intelligence agencies in India. The Government of India awarded him the third highest civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan, in 1983, for his contributions to society.
Sankaran Nair was born on 20 December 1919 at Ottapalam, in Palakkad district of the south Indian state of Kerala and did his graduate studies at Loyola College, Chennai. Subsequently, he pursued studies in Law but abandoned it midway when he was inducted into the Indian Imperial Police. After the Indian independence, he continued at the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and, in 1959, went to Ghana to successfully complete the IB assignment of establishing Ghana Intelligence Agency, returning to India after two years. In the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, he was involved in the investigations against Intelligence Bureau on allegations of ineptitude, and was reported to have submitted 65 reports to the investigation committee.
When Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was formed in 1968 as a splinter agency of IB, Nair became the deputy of Rameshwar Nath Kao, the founder director of the agency. During the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, he was in-charge of the operations there and his contributions in training the Mukti Bahini guerrillas are reported to have played a vital role in the successful liberation of Bangladesh. After Kao’s resignation from RAW service in 1977 (reports suggest that he was forced to demit office), Nair succeeded him as the director but his tenure lasted only three months as he resigned from the post, reportedly in protest, when Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister of India, downgraded the position of the director of RAW from rank of a Cabinet Secretary. He was moved to Minority Commission as its secretary from where he superannuated in December 1978. However, he was involved with RAW operations again with the accession of Indira Gandhi to power again in 1980, and was known to have contributed to the restructuring of the agency. In 1981, he was given the responsibility of the Secretary General of the 1982 Asian Games and four years later, in 1986, he was appointed as the High Commissioner of India to Singapore, holding the post till his retirement from active service in 1988.
The Government of India awarded him the civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan in 1983. In 2008, he published his memoirs, Inside IB and RAW: The Rolling Stone that Gathered Moss, which narrated his official life at Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing and the book featured many notable personalities such as Sanjay Gandhi, Morarji Desai, V. C. Shukla, Indira Gandhi, R. N. Kao, Y. B. Chavan and Rajiv Gandhi. The book discussed about the lapses during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 as well as several inside information in Indian politics and reportedly made news. He died on 17 November 2015 at his daughter’s residence in Bengaluru where he spent his last years, at the age of 95, survived by the daughter; his wife had preceded him in death three years earlier.