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'Let no one speak anything against the RAW'

Last updated on: May 14, 2012 12:16 IST

Former Research and Analysis Wing chief C D Sahay comes to the defence of the agency in the backdrop of the 'fake' terror alert and says that one vital piece of information at a critical movement is worth everything.

Go wrong 9 times but don't fail on the 10th, he tells rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa

Even as the inquiry into the recent intelligence goof-up continues, there are two opinions emerging on the scenario.

One view is that the Research and Analysis Wing was set up by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence in order to cause an embarrassment. The other viewpoint states that there was credible information and hence the alert was put out and just because the Pakistan media claims that the alert was a hoax and that the persons mentioned in the terror alert were traders that does not necessarily mean that the information was wrong.

IB sources say that they do not put out pictures for the heck of it and sometimes pictures do crop up as part of random profiling based on which alerts are issued. If there is something suspicious, it is the agency's job to issue an alert. And sometimes it could go wrong; this is part of the game, the sources add.

This time, however, it is the RAW which is at the centre of focus.

Former RAW chief C D Sahay told rediff.com that this is a shadowy world in which a lot of tricks are played.

"Intelligence is over all a mind game and anything could happen and anything is possible.

Misinformation through a double agent is an art which is as old as intelligence and any intelligence organisation would like to catch a spy and play him back. All this is part of the game and is known as conditioning of minds, which also happens in the political level. However, this is a big game and such incidents are not RAW-specific but could happen to any intelligence organisation."

"Just because such an incident has taken place, let no one speak anything against the RAW. It is a very professional organisation. I came to the RAW for 3 years and stayed on for 30. It is a very professional organisation and have no doubts on that."

"Each day the agency filters 1000 pieces of information, which have to be analysed as well. People spend hours assessing such information before coming to any conclusion. Sometimes there are mistakes, but do we have the luxury of erring on the wrong side?"

"I will quote an incident when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir. I picked up an intercept in which a person kept saying that someone was trying to meet Vajpayee. It had foxed us but there was no way in which we could take a chance. The intelligence mind is a very negative one and one must question everything to the last bit. In this case the net assessment that came to me was that Vajpayee was going to Kaskmir and there appears to be something happening. The call that we intercepted was on an external network and there was no way in which we could take this lying down. However, at the last minute, I double checked on this and we got to know that the talk was about another Vajpayee. Everything in this case was going in the favour of an alert and we could have faced an embarrassment had the alert been issued. However there was no question of us taking a chance."

"Intelligence is a mind game and involves very high risk. Intelligence alerts can go right or wrong. In 1986, we had an alert that someone would take a shot at Rajiv Gandhi when he lays the wreath at Raj Ghat. The information came from a person who had over heard this conversation at a hotel. He was not even part of the inner ring of the group that planned this attack. Now could we take this lightly? This information could have been right or wrong, but we could not afford to take a chance."

"Take the case of Osama Bin Laden. His passport states that he is a businessman. Now does that make him one? Who would write on his head that he is a terrorist? Why can't the same rule of law be applied here too? I do not think it is right to blame the RAW for this incident. Any intelligence organisation needs to live with such incidents."

"More the scrutiny the intelligence comes under the greater the task ahead would be. We always get near actionable and never near perfect intelligence. It is for the agency to analyse and work on it. At least in this case the message that has gone through is that we are very alert and even the slightest of things that comes to our notice we get into pro active mode. We have been pro active and that is good. It is not as though we have gone to war with Pakistan due to this."

"We ought not to be debating the credentials of our boys in the RAW. I am least embarrassed by this incident, but I take pride that our boys are pro active. One vital piece of information at a critical movement is worth everything. Go wrong nine times but don't fail on the 10th."

Vicky Nanjappa