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'Mr Raman exaggerates R&AW's prowess'

July 30, 2007 16:11 IST

Last week we had carried a column by noted strategic expert B Raman on how a nation which has no memory for the past, is bound to repeat its mistakes in the future. In it he had commented on how the press functions; Senior Journalist Manoj Joshi responds to the comments:

Mr B Raman should, as a writer, take criticism and commentary on his book in his stride. Since he has decided not to, and mentioned me by name, I would like to make certain points.

The Bangladesh war began on November 21-22, 1971, when Indian movements into Bangladesh touched off a regular tank and air battle in the Byra-Garibpur area. Three Pakistani Sabre jets were shot down and 13 tanks destroyed, so this was not a raid, but the beginning of the Indian plan to liberate Bangladesh. Actually, from the beginning of November, Indian forces had begun to squeeze and probe the Pakistani forces on the border. Whether the Pakistani air raid in the west on December 3 was a 'counter-attack' or a 'pre-emptive' attack depends on your point of view.

Mr Raman's contention that there was information on December 1 that strikes could occur in the coming days is correct. But to attribute it to a mole in the Pakistani headquarters is perhaps to exaggerate the R&AW's prowess.

Since all Pakistani strategic military intelligence was the R&AW's responsibility, it should, if this mole existed, have given us forewarning of Pakistani military plans such as the surprise attack on Poonch that came close to success, the attack on Chamb which succeeded (leading to the loss of considerable territory) and the plan to capture Jaisalmer airfield which blundered into Longewala and was stopped by chance. They should have told us about the defensive minefields in Shakargarh that brought our offensive to a premature halt.

R&AW failed to provide information on the location of the Pakistani GHQ reserve -- one armoured and seven infantry divisions. The result is that powerful counterpart forces of our own -- one armoured and 14 infantry divisions -- sat out the war, trying to figure out what the other side was up to. Having an accurate order of battle (orbat) of the adversary is the essence of military intelligence and plays a key role in success or failure.

(Please note, that in 1999, R&AW failed to provide an accurate orbat for the Northern Light Infantry, a fact that was adversely commented on by the Kargil Review Report.)
 
This is not to belittle the organisation's role in aiding and training the Bangla guerillas in 1971, but to put things in  perspective.

I'm not sure what point Raman is making by detailing what was called the Coomar Narain case involving the French military attache. The case was extensively covered by the media and tried by the courts. Mr P C Alexander was compelled to leave office because of it. But most people believe that it actually aimed at obtaining commercial intelligence on arms deals. If you notice, all of the guilty were  class II or III officers, rather than some top PMO officials and ministers.

Mr B Raman replies:

I do not agree with  Shri Manoj Joshi's account of the origin of the 1971 war. The R&AW or the intelligence community as a whole do not need a certificate regarding their prowess except from the policy-makers and the political leaders of the day under whom they work. I had referred to the details of the French case because my reference in passing to it in my book had been projected  by sections of the media as a sensational revelation and some scepticism expressed over its correctness. I referred to the details in my article to underline that it was not a revelation, but a recall.

When one talks of penetration, what is important in making a damage assessment is not just the level of penetration, but what they got from it. Similarly, what is important is not what people believed, but what the court said in its order of conviction. The order, inter alia, referred to reports of the IB and the R&AW and 'secret official codes'.