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The Rediff Special/Our Correspondent

January 21, 2003

Choosing Chief R

New Delhi's new dilemma: who should succeed Research and Analysis Wing chief Vikram Sood?

The chief of India's external intelligence agency, designated Secretary (R), and also the directorate general of security, is due to retire on March 31.

By seniority, B S Bedi, an army officer who joined RAW in the early 1970s, should step in. Like Sood, he is of the 1966 batch. Which also means he is due for retirement soon -- in seven months, to be precise.

There are three other options, all Bedi's juniors, all Indian Police Service officers, all with 18 months or more of service in them: C D Sahai from the Karnataka cadre, Jyoti Sinha from Bihar and Amar Bhushan from Madhya Pradesh.

The government's dilemma is, if it appoints Bedi, he will hardly be able to settle in before he has to pack his bags. And if he is superseded, it will create much heartburn among the armed forces officers.

An option is to appoint Bedi and extend his tenure, as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did in 1996 during his earlier stint, in Ranjan Roy's case. But that may rob Sahai, Sinha and Bhushan off their chance to be chief.

This is the first time an army officer has become the Number 2 in RAW. Military officers, as it is, are reluctant to be deputed to the agency because they feel they will be sidelined, that IPS and other civilian officers are preferred for promotions there.

For proof, they point to the fact that RAW has not been headed by an armed services officer till now. Its chiefs have been IPS officers mostly; Sood, who belonged to the Indian Postal Service, was an exception.

RAW was created in 1968, to provide hardcore external intelligence, for which it deputed a variety of experts from the Indian Administrative Service, the IPS, the India Information Service etc. Armed forces officers, too, were brought in.

In 1983, then prime minister Indira Gandhi created the Research and Analysis Service, to which personnel are recruited directly. In addition, officers from other services continue to be deputed to RAW.

When Arvind Dave of the Madhya Pradesh IPS cadre retired in 1999, by seniority R Nagarajan, who was originally from the IIS, should have become chief. But the government brought in A S Dulat, an IPS officer with the Intelligence Bureau, India's internal intelligence wing.

Nagarajan was posted out as a member to the Banks Administrative Tribunal in Chennai, with the rank of a secretary to the Government of India.

Dulat's appointment created bitterness in RAW, among the IPS and non-IPS officers, mainly as he had never served in the agency.

IPS officers were unhappy because a non-RAW officer had become their chief. The others believed Nagarajan was removed because of the IPS lobby's pressure.

Sood's appointment to succeed Dulat on January 1, 2001 removed some of this bitterness. But now, a similar situation is likely to rise with Bedi. If the government gives him a raw deal, the armed forces will definitely not like it.


The Rediff Specials

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