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A hero of Indian intelligence passes away
B Raman
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November 30, 2007

Ranjan Roy, an officer of the Indian Police Service belonging to the Orissa cadre, who headed the Research & Analysis Wing as Secretary (R) for 13 months in 1996-97 under prime ministers H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral, passed away at his house in New Delhi on the afternoon of November 27. He had suffered a sudden and massive cardiac arrest after lunch while working on his PC. He was 69.  Ranjan Roy, a widower, was living alone, assisted by a servant.

Ranjan joined the IPS in 1961 and was trained in the Central Police Training College at Mount Abu, Rajasthan. He was allotted to the Orissa cadre. After he had spent some years in his state, he was asked to join the Intelligence Bureau under what used to be known as the Earmarking Scheme under which those who did exceptionally well during the CPTC training, used to be permanently transferred to IB after they had done some months of district police training.

R N Kao took him into R&AW after the birth of Bangladesh and entrusted him with the responsibility of creating an analysis and operational capability in the organisation for monitoring developments in Bangladesh. He also served for some years in Bangladesh. Subsequently, he shifted to the Pakistan set-up. As joint secretary, he headed for many years the branches responsible for analysis and operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ranjan was an extremely pleasant-mannered and low-profile officer, who was immensely liked by everyone who came into contact with him. He became a walking encylopaedia on Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. He developed a wide network of contacts in these countries and was very well-informed. As a joint secretary and an additional secretary, he made a name as an analyst as well as an operative. As Secretary (R), he strengthened the analytical capability of R&AW -- particularly in respect of these countries. He firmly believed that all the intelligence collected would be of only limited use if it was not well analysed and assessed. In its 39-year-old history, R&AW has produced very few officers who could be called genuine area experts. Ranjan belonged to a small core of about 15 officers, whose area expertise was of a very high order.

Ranjan had many great achievements to his credit, the knowledge of which would, unfortunately, remain buried in the archives of the R&AW unless one day the government shows wisdom in letting historians have access to them. I would mention but two. He was the first to sound the alarm bell when the Taliban, with the encouragement of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] and her husband Asif Zirdari, made its appearance in Afghanistan in 1994 and subsequently managed to establish its control over large parts of Afghanistan. He again sounded the alarm bell when in 1996, the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul, after consulting her, allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from Khartoum to Jalalabad. He apprehended that the emergence of the Taliban with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and the shifting of bin Laden to Afghanistan would aggravate India's internal security problems and took steps to create a counter-Taliban capability in the R&AW. He also considerably strengthened its counter-Pakistan capability and added to its teeth.

Shortly after Ranjan retired, Gujral ordered the R&AW to wind up its counter-Pakistan capability under the Gujral Doctrine of unilateral gestures to India's South Asian neighbours, but allowed it to maintain and strengthen the counter-Taliban capability created by Ranjan. If an objective account of USA's post-9/11 victory against the Taliban, with the help of the Northern Alliance, is written one day, the vision of Ranjan in creating a counter-Taliban capability would find prominent mention. Of course, the US victory was short lived due to its blunders. The Taliban is back today with a vengeance.

The second achievement of Ranjan which I would like to mention relates to the co-ordination between the IB and R&AW, which was of a very high order when he headed R&AW, just as it was when A S Dulat headed R&AW in 1999-2001. When Ranjan headed R&AW, Arun Bhagat headed the IB as its director. Both belonged to the 1961 batch of the IPS and both were very close personal friends. They worked like a team without any jealousies or friction or urge for one-upmanship. One of the outstanding results of this teamwork between the two organisations was the detection of the penetration of the IB at a senior level by the Central Intelligence Agency.

After his retirement in July 1997, Ranjan maintained a very low profile. He was a strong believer in the classical traditions of the intelligence profession, which believed that an intelligence officer should be as discreet and silent in retirement as he was while in service. He wrote one or two articles for the print media, but avoided all contacts with the world of journalism just as he used to do while in service. He was taken aback by my writing a book on my years in R&AW. He gently rebuked me through an e-mail message and asked me. 'What happened to you? What made you expose our crown jewels?'

Ranjan was a lovable individual and officer. He left this world without ever having made an enemy. His contribution to the protection of our national security was immense. He is one of the heroes of the Indian intelligence, who chose to live and die unsung and unknown outside a very small circle of the cognoscenti.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi)

B Raman
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