In its sixth decade, R&AW needs to look at the world outside terrorism

Without humint assets, it will gradually become only a collection agency and not an anticipatory agency

The Research & Analysis Wing, the department I served in for 37 years, is 50. It came into being on September 21, 1968, following a realisation that intelligence had been inadequate during the 1962 Indo-China conflict. This year is also the 100th year of the birth of its first chief, the legendary R N Kao.

It was one of the first such post-Independence structures created for a specific need, much like the nuclear establishment and ISRO. It owes much to the vision of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who recognised that a modern state needed an agency for external intelligence.

Indira Gandhi chose Kao, then in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), to set up a specialised and independent organisation. V Balachandran, in his excellent commentary on the R&AW on its 50th anniversary (‘Struggling to preserve ‘Kaoboys’ legacy’, The Tribune, September 30, 2018), writes ‘Kao told me that the only advice Indira Gandhi gave him in 1968 was not to structure the new organisation as a Central Police Organisation (CPO). In this she did not mean to deride police work but that foreign intelligence needed something more than police skills. Police is a hierarchical and transparent organisation, accountable to law and society for their actions’..….whereas foreign intelligence often operates outside the law.

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