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Home > News > Columnists > S Raghotham

Jaswant's mole story: connect the dots

August 22, 2006

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Former foreign minister Jaswant Singh has been 'discredited' by much of the media and the 'mole' issue seems to have already been forgotten.

All that needs to be done to ascertain the truth of the existence of the alleged 'mole' and his/her identity is to find out

  • if indeed a 'supersecret' meeting in Bangalore as described in the purported American letter did take place.
  • If it did who all attended
  • Who was it that flew to Bangalore via London, Frankfurt and Mumbai
  • And, who was it that was making the 'other side' of the argument regarding the nuclear test to the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.

There are enough pieces of information available to suggest that there was indeed a 'mole' and that the whole issue warrants investigation.

First, let's understand what Jaswant Singh actually said � as against what was reported.

Point number one: This is not the first time, as has been repeatedly said, that Jaswant Singh has raised the 'mole' issue. He himself seems to have forgotten and the nation seems not to have noticed it, but he had hinted at leakage of information on nuclear plans even in his 1999 book Defending India.

In the postscript to that book, Jaswant Singh wrote of the cancelled 1995 nuclear test that 'Satellite imagery, and some even suggest human intelligence from India, revealed the plans to the US government�'

Point number two: In his latest book, A Call to Honour, Jaswant Singh did not allege that there was a 'mole' in the usual sense in which that word is understood � an insider spy, a double agent.

What he did say was that there was leakage of information, not on all or even several aspects of the nuclear programme, but on one particular event that was being planned -- a nuclear test -- from someone with access to the highest levels of the Indian government.

Also, neither did Jaswant Singh suggest that such leakage was occurring on a regular basis nor that the source of the leak did it with a deliberate intent to harm India.

What he did bring to the fore is simply that information did leak out on something that should have been a very tightly guarded secret. It may have been inadvertent, just loose talk from a loud-mouthed diplomat.

Or, it may have been deliberate but nevertheless with no intent to harm India but rather because the informant hoped to acquire the trust of the Americans and become a bridge between the US administration and the Indian government, a task that he took upon himself with only good intentions.

Or, as it happens so often, it may have been a case of someone jockeying for a particular posting or to secure a favour from the Americans.

It would be correct to conclude, as many have, that there was no serious leakage of information over an extended period on the nuclear programme and that if there had been, then the Indian nuclear weapons programme would probably not have come to the stage that it has. This, however, does not rule out the possibility that information did leak out on one particular occasion.

Point number three: The alleged informant was not necessarily in the Narasimha Rao PMO, but he/she was a person 'with direct access to the prime minister'.

Now, here are some more dots that those who are interested in following this case can connect:

One, Narasimha Rao was in Bangalore on at least one day in the month of November in 1995, possibly more. Rao was in Bangalore on November 17, 1995 to attend the rolling out of the first technology demonstrator of the Light Combat Aircraft by the DRDO. Obviously, some key DRDO people were available in Bangalore on that day for the prime minister to hold his 'supersecret' meeting.

Even on November 18, 1995, Rao was close to Bangalore, at Anantapur to attend Sai Baba's 70th birthday. He could easily have flown back to Bangalore to conduct his 'supersecret' meeting.

The purported US official's letter says that his source told him the meeting in Bangalore would be held over a weekend. November 17, 1995, was Friday, 18th Saturday, 19th Sunday.

Again, the official says in the letter that he had given his Indian source his contact numbers where he could be reached over the Thanksgiving weekend. In 1995, the Thanksgiving weekend was from November 24 (Friday) to November 26 (Sunday).

It is also possible that the 'supersecret' meeting was held during or close to the Thanksgiving weekend, because some top cabinet ministers were available close to Bangalore, again at celebrations relating to Sai Baba's institutions, in that period.

Two, although the Thomas Graham mentioned by Jaswant Singh has been reported to be a senator, it seems no senator by that name existed, at least not in 1995. The media concluded that Jaswant Singh, therefore, had no real case to make.

Add to this the fact that the media has unquestioningly accepted as truthful the denials issued by American officials with regard to the letter that Jaswant Singh produced. This is a curious instance of judgment having been passed in a case based simply on a denial of guilt by the accused.

But there was indeed a Thomas Graham in an important and relevant position in the Clinton administration in 1995. Ambassador Thomas Graham was Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Non-proliferation and Disarmament from 1994 to 1997.

Columnist S Gurumurthy, who has claimed that he has secret Rockefeller Foundation documents that suggest that the 1995 nuclear plans leak and certain other American activities in 1997 during I K Gujral's prime ministership were connected, has said that those receiving Indian information were officials at the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carter Center.

It so happens that around the time, the Rockefeller Foundation's International Security Program focusing on non-proliferation was headed by a person named Thomas Graham. Whether the Thomas Graham at Rockefeller Foundation was the same Thomas Graham who was the Special Representative of the President is not clear.

Harry Barnes, who is supposedly involved in the exchange of the purported letter, was at the Carter Center at the time. Barnes, who was US ambassador to India in the 1980s, continues to be very much interested in the India-Pakistan conflict. He is currently involved with the 'Karakoram Science Park' in the Karakoram mountains. This project is funded by the US National Science Foundation, the Lounsberry Foundation and, curiously, the US Office of Naval Research.

Former Indian ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra, whom Gurumurthy alleged was one of the 'moles', in fact referred to Thomas Graham in an interview to Mumbai's Daily News Analysis newspaper in March 2006.

Speaking on the Manmohan Singh-George Bush nuclear deal, Naresh Chandra was quoted as having said, '�The foundations for the nuclear deal were laid in the 'nineties. There were ongoing non-formal contacts among scientists, government officials and Track II actors. Raja Ramanna, Arunachalam and MEA officials from our side were involved and from the US side people like Tom Graham, Harry Barnes, Douglas MacNamara and Rockefeller Foundation officials. So moves did begin at that time.'

Jaswant Singh might well have chosen to bring out the issue of the nuclear leaks out now to suggest in his own complicated way that the Bush-Manmohan Singh nuclear deal, which has at its core America's refusal to recognize, and deal with, India as a nuclear weapons state, is indeed born of those initiatives of the previous Congress government which were undertaken prior to the emergence of India as a declared nuclear weapons state and therefore sidesteps the reality of India's nuclear weapons status and its substantive implications for the US, the NSG countries and the non-proliferation regime.

Third, certain remarks reported to have been made by former prime minister Gujral following his meeting with former US president Bill Clinton in September 1997 seem to corroborate Gurmurthy's claims that the Rockefeller Foundation, with the help of the Indian 'moles', had indeed attempted to bring about a meeting between Clinton, Gujral and the former prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif on the Kashmir issue without the knowledge of the Indian ministry of external affairs and US governmental agencies such as the State Department and the National Security Agency.

Before we get to Gujral's remarks, here is Strobe Talbott's account of how the Clinton-Gujral meeting came about.

In his book on the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks, Engaging India, Talbott first describes how the US State Department, the National Security Agency and the president's schedulers battle it out every year to schedule bilaterals between the American president and other heads of state who go to New York for the annual UN General Assembly in September.

Talbott then says, 'That particular year, it was Clinton himself who insisted on spending time with both Inder Gujral� and Nawaz Sharif�He (Gujral) had come to the meeting expecting tough questions and harsh demands on Kashmir and nuclear weapons�'

N. Ram, who accompanied Gujral on the tour, reported in Frontline that Gujral had heaved a huge sigh of relief after his meeting with Clinton because nothing substantive came up for discussion. On board the prime minister's aircraft, Gujral gave vent to his feelings with a Ghalib couplet:

Thi khabar garam ke Ghalib ke udenge purze
Dekhne hum bhi gaye the pa(r) tamasha na hua.

The hot news was that Ghalib would be torn to bits.
We too went to watch, but nothing at all happened.

PS: Almost everyone who could possibly have attended any 'supersecret' meeting in November 1995 is alive, except Narasimha Rao. It should not be difficult to ascertain the 'mole' truth.

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: Mole Controversy id a fake !!!

Mole Controversy is nothing but a political stunt by Jaswant Singh to get into the limelight. If the so called "mole" existed, why isn't his ...

Posted by Yashi Vikram

Sub: The Mole

Even another person who might have attended the meeting Mr. Raja Ramanna is no more.

Posted by Balaji L

Sub: How credible is this speculation?

Mr Raghotham has chosen to cite S Gurumurthy's column in the Indian Express in support of his own theory. Any sane Indian would know that ...

Posted by Balasubramaniam

Sub: connect the dots<> Jaswant Singh

I liked your detailed analysis and the views expressed. I definitely believe that the information regarding "N.Test" was leaked. Who did this? Jaswant singh may ...

Posted by keshavachari

Sub: connect the dots

Believe, every citizen has the right to know the complete details on how this serious security issue had been leaked to other countries and how ...

Posted by venkatesh



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