The right questions about RAW

Intelligence quotient

The recent flight of Rabinder Singh, a RAW official suspected of being a CIA mole has turned public attention to India’s intelligence agencies. Unfortunately, media coverage has either been directed towards portraying a rot within the intelligence community or towards suspecting sinister American designs.

In his op-ed piece in the Outlook, B Raman argues that the mainstream media’s irresponsible reporting masks two important issues: that RAW has been quietly competent in keeping its own house in order, and that the more important question is who indeed was Rabindra Singh working for.

There is no government department or private company without instances of misdeeds by some members of the staff or the other. Intelligence agencies, not only in India, but also in other countries have had their share of such misdeeds. The RAW is not an exception. It is not an organisation of saints, but of human beings, like you and me. Where there are human beings, there is bound to be frailty in some of them.

The question is not whether there was frailty in some elements in the RAW. The RAW would be the first to concede that there were instances of frailty in the past and there have been instances of frailty recently, the Rabindra Singh case being one of them. The question is whether such instances were sought to be covered up by the organisation by taking advantage of its cloak of secrecy. No. To my knowledge, there was not a single instance in the past when the RAW had tried to cover up such instances. In fact, it was the organisation which took the initiative in bringing the misdeeds of some elements in its staff to the notice of the government and the political leadership and initiated action against them, where called for. [Outlook]

The most worrisome aspect of the case is–why did he flee? Generally, intelligence officers who betray their country flee only when in their own mind they realise that they had caused serious damage to the country or when they were working for the intelligence agency of an adversary. Is there any ground for suspicion that in addition to working for the CIA, he might have also been working for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan? Is that the reason he fled? He had served in field postings where he could have come under pressure from the ISI. [Outlook]