Research and Analysis Wing
|Formed||21 September 1968|
|Headquarters||CGO Complex, New Delhi, India|
|Motto||धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः (Sanskrit) |
Dharmō rakṣati rakṣitaḥ (ISO)
(lit. transl. The law protects, when it is protected.)
|Annual budget||Classified |
|Parent Wing||Cabinet Secretariat|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) (ISO: Anusandhān Evam Viślēṣaṇ Skandh) is the foreign intelligence agency of India. The agency's primary function is gathering foreign intelligence, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, advising Indian policymakers, and advancing India's foreign strategic interests. It is also involved in the security of India's nuclear programme.
During the nine-year tenure of its first Director, Rameshwar Nath Kao, R&AW quickly came to prominence in the global intelligence community, playing a role in major events such as accession of the state of Sikkim to India. Headquartered in New Delhi, R&AW's current chief is Samant Goel. The head of R&AW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat, and is under the direct command of the Prime Minister, and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister.
Prior to the inception of the Research and Analysis Wing, overseas intelligence collection was primarily the responsibility of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which was created by the British raj. In 1933, sensing the political turmoil in the world which eventually led to the Second World War, the Intelligence Bureau's responsibilities were increased to include the collection of intelligence along India's borders.
In 1947, after independence, Sanjeevi Pillai took over as the first Indian Director of the IB. Having been depleted of trained manpower by the exit of the British after Indian independence, Pillai tried to run the bureau on MI5 lines. In 1949, Pillai organised a small foreign intelligence operation, but the Indian debacle in the Sino-Indian War of 1962 showed it to be ineffective. Foreign intelligence failure during the 1962 Sino-Indian War led then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to order a dedicated foreign intelligence agency to be established. After the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, the Chief of Army Staff, General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri, also called for more intelligence-gathering. Around the end of 1966 the concept of a separate foreign intelligence agency began to take concrete shape..
The Indira Gandhi administration decided that a full-fledged second security service was needed. R. N. Kao, then a deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau, submitted a blueprint for the new agency. Kao was appointed as the chief of India's first foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing.:259 The R&AW was given the responsibility for strategic external intelligence, human as well as technical, plus concurrent responsibility with the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence for tactical trans-border military intelligence up to a certain depth across the Line of control (LOC) and the international border.
R&AW started as a wing of the main Intelligence Bureau with 250 employees and an annual budget of ₹20 million (US$280,400.00). In the early seventies, its annual budget had risen to ₹300 million (US$4.2 million) while its personnel numbered several thousand. In 2007, the budget of R&AW is speculated to be as high as US$150 million to as low as US$100 million.
Additional child agencies
Slowly other child agencies such as The Radio Research Center and Electronics & Tech. Services were added to R&AW in the 1970s and 1990s. In 1971, Kao had persuaded the Government to set up the Aviation Research Centre (ARC). The ARC's job was aerial reconnaissance. It replaced the Indian Air Force's old reconnaissance aircraft, and by the mid-1970s, R&AW, through the ARC, had high quality aerial pictures of the installations along the Chinese and Pakistani borders. In the 1970s, the Special Frontier Force moved to R&AW's control, working to train Bengali rebels.:262 In 1977, R&AW's operations and staff were dramatically cut under the premiership of Morarji Desai, which hurt the organization's capabilities with the shutting of entire sections of R&AW, like its Information Division. These cuts were reduced following Gandhi's return. In 2004 Government of India added yet another signal intelligence agency called the National Technical Facilities Organisation (NTFO), which was later renamed as National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). While the exact nature of the operations conducted by NTRO is classified, it is believed that it deals with research on imagery and communications using various platforms.
Decline (1977 to 1990s)
From its inception R&AW has been criticised for being an agency not answerable to the people of India (R&AW reports to Prime Minister only). Fears arose that it could turn into the KGB of India. Such fears were kept at bay by the R&AW's able leadership (although detractors of R&AW and especially the Janata Party have accused the agency of letting itself be used for terrorising and intimidating opposition during the 1975–1977 Emergency). When the Janata Party won a majority in 1977, Ram Nath Kao was ousted. R&AW employees staged a strike in December 1980 and indiscipline spread across the agency. Eighty employees were dismissed.
In 1981, India Today reported the agency "has been reduced to a pathetic parody of a government department."
Inter-departmental rivalry (2000s to present)
The main controversy which has plagued R&AW in recent years is over bureaucratisation of the system with allegations about favouritism in promotions, corruption, ego clashes, no financial accountability, inter-departmental rivalry, etc.
The present R&AW objectives include:
- Monitoring the political, military, economic and scientific developments in countries which have a direct bearing on India's national security and the formulation of its foreign policy.
- Moulding international public opinion and influence foreign governments.
- Covert Operations to safe guard India's National interests.
- Anti – Terror Operations and neutralising terror elements posing a threat to India.
In the past, following the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and due to India's volatile relations with Pakistan, R&AW's objectives had also consisted the following:
- To watch the development of international communism and the schism between the two big communist nations, the Soviet Union and China. As with other countries, both these powers had direct access to the communist parties in India.
- To control and limit the supply of military hardware to Pakistan, from mostly European countries, America and more importantly from China.
Structure and Organisation
R&AW has been organised on the lines of the CIA. The head of R&AW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat. Most of the previous chiefs have been experts on either Pakistan or China. They also have the benefit of training in either the USA or the UK, and more recently in Israel. The Secretary (R), is under the direct command of the Prime Minister, and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister. Moreover, the National Security Adviser is also regularly briefed by the Secretary (R). Reporting to the Secretary (R) are:
- An Additional Secretary responsible for the Office of Special Operations and intelligence collected from different countries processed by large number of Joint Secretaries, who are the functional heads of various specified desks with different regional divisions/areas/countries: Area one – Pakistan; Area two – China and Southeast Asia; Area three – the Middle East and Africa; and Area four – other countries. Two Special Joint Secretaries, reporting to the Additional Secretary, head the Electronics and Technical Department which is the nodal agency for ETS, NTRO and the RRC.
- The Directorate General of Security has two important sections – the Aviation Research Centre is headed by one Special Secretary and the Special Services Bureau controlled by two Special Secretaries.
The internal structure of the R&AW is a matter of speculation, but brief overviews of the same are present in the public domain. Attached to the Headquarters of R&AW at Lodhi Road, New Delhi are different regional headquarters, which have direct links to overseas stations and are headed by a controlling officer who keeps records of different projects assigned to field officers who are posted abroad. Intelligence is usually collected from a variety of sources by field officers and deputy field officers; it is either preprocessed by a senior field officer or by a desk officer. The desk officer then passes the information to the Joint Secretary and then on to the Additional Secretary and from there it is disseminated to the concerned end user. R&AW personnel are called "Research Officers" instead of the traditional "agents". There is a sizeable number of female officers in R&AW even at the operational level. In recent years, R&AW has shifted its primary focus from Pakistan to China and have started operating a separate desk for this purpose.
The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), under the Cabinet Secretariat, is responsible for coordinating and analysing intelligence activities between R&AW, the Intelligence Bureau and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). In practice, however, the effectiveness of the JIC has been varied. With the establishment of the National Security Council in 1999, the role of the JIC has been merged with the NSC. R&AW's legal status is unusual, in that it is not an "Agency", but a "Wing" of the Cabinet Secretariat. Hence, R&AW is not answerable to the Parliament of India on any issue, which keeps it out of reach of the Right to Information Act.<[a] This exemption was granted through Section 24 read with Schedule II of the act. However, information regarding the allegations of corruption and human rights violations has to be disclosed.
|Secretary (R)||Class I / Group A Officers|
|Special Secretary/Additional Secretary||Class I / Group A Officers|
|Joint Secretary||Class I / Group A Officers|
|Director/Deputy Secretary/Attache||Class I / Group A Officers|
|Senior Field Officer||Group A Officers|
|Field Officer||Group B Officers|
|Deputy Field Officer||Group B Officers|
|Assistant Field Officer||Group C Officers|
Initially, RAW relied primarily on trained intelligence officers who were recruited directly. These belonged to the external wing of the Intelligence Bureau. Candidates are recruited from the Indian Armed Forces, Police and Indian Revenue Service Officers. Later, RAW began directly recruiting graduates from universities. However owing to allegations of nepotism in appointments, in 1983 RAW created its own service cadre, the Research and Analysis Service (RAS) to absorb talent from other Group A Civil Services, under the Central Staffing Scheme. Direct recruitment at Class I executive level is from Civil services officers undergoing Foundation course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. At the end of the course, RAW conducts a campus interview. Based on a selection of psychological tests and the interview, candidates are inducted into RAW for a lien period of one year. During this period, they have an option of rejoining their parent service (if they wish to) after which they can be permanently absorbed into the Research and Analysis Service. Delhi-based security think tank Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses noted in one of its reports that RAW suffered from the 'tail-end syndrome' where the 'bottom of the entrance lists' of those qualifying the UPSC examinations were offered jobs. Additionally, recruitment is also by lateral deputation from the Officer corps of Armed Forces or Group A Civil Service Officers. The Civil and Defence Service Officers permanently resign their cadre and join the RAS. However, according to recent reports, officers can return to their parent cadre after serving a specific period in the agency if they wish to. Most of the secretaries have been officers from the IPS and other posts are held by IRS and IFS officers. RAW also employs a number of linguists and other experts in various fields. The service conditions of R&AW officers are governed by the Research and Analysis Wing (Recruitment, Cadre and Service) Rules, 1975.
- Basic training
Basic training commences with 'pep talks' to boost the morale of the new recruit. This is a ten-day phase in which the inductee is familiarised with the real world of intelligence and espionage, as opposed to the spies of fiction. Common usages, tradecraft techniques and classification of information are taught. Financial and economic analysis, space technology, information security, energy security and scientific knowledge is imbibed to the trainees. The recruit is made to specialise in a foreign language and introduced to Geostrategic analysis. Case studies of other agencies like CIA, KGB, ISI, Mossad and MI6 are presented for study. The inductee is also taught that intelligence organisations do not identify who is friend and who is foe, the country's foreign policy does. Basic classroom training in tactics and language are imparted to R&AW officers at the residential Training and Language Institute in Gurgaon. A multi-disciplinary school of economic intelligence is also being set up in Mumbai to train intelligence officers in investigating economic crimes like money laundering for terror purposes etc.
- Advanced training
After completing 'Basic Training' the recruit is now attached to a Field Intelligence Bureau (FIB). His/her training here lasts for 1–2 years. He/she is given firsthand experience of what it was to be out in the figurative cold, conducting clandestine operations. During night exercises under realistic conditions, he/she is taught infiltration and exfiltration. He/she is instructed to avoid capture and if caught, how to face interrogation. He/she learns the art of reconnoitre, making contacts, and, the numerous skills of operating an intelligence mission. At the end of the field training, the new recruit is brought back to the school for final polishing. Before his deployment in the field, he/she is given exhaustive training in the art of self-defence mainly Krav Maga, and the use of technical espionage devices. He/she is also drilled in various administrative disciplines so that he could take his place in the foreign missions without arousing suspicion. He/she is now ready to operate under the cover of an Embassy to gather information, set up his own network of informers, moles or operatives as the task may require. Field and arms training is provided in the Indian Military Academy Headquarters at Dehradun. The training model has been criticised as being 'archaic and too police-centric' and not incorporating 'modern technological advances in methods of communication' etc.
Shortage of staff
RAW has a severe shortage of employees. The number of personnel in 2013 was estimated to be 5,000 personnel. This represents a staff deficit of 40% below sanctioned strength. In 2013, the Hindu reported the organization was short on management level staff by 130 and in specialized areas like technology there was also a huge shortage. In number of cyptanalysts, RAW was short by approximately 33%. V. Balachandran, a former RAW officer openly wondered, “Why should skilled technical people come to RAW when there are far better prospects in the private sector?”
Functions and methods
The primary mission of R&AW includes intelligence collection via espionage, psychological warfare, subversion, sabotage, and assassinations. R&AW maintains active collaboration with other secret services in various countries. Its contacts with FSB of Russia, NDS, the Afghan agency, Israel's Mossad, the CIA and MI6 have been well-known, a common interest being Pakistan's nuclear programme.
R&AW has been active in obtaining information and operating through third countries. R&AW offices abroad have limited strength and are largely geared to the collection of military, economic, scientific, and political intelligence. R&AW monitors the activities of certain organisations abroad only insofar as they relate to their involvement with narco terrorist elements and smuggling arms, ammunition, explosives, etc. into India. It does not monitor the activities of criminal elements abroad, which are mainly confined to normal smuggling without any links to terrorist elements.
R&AW officers are posted to Indian diplomatic missions under official cover as diplomats, frequently in the consular wing. The relationship between R&AW and the Ministry of External Affairs has been unstable because they "inhabit different worlds" according to the Times of India. In 2008–9, two R&AW officials were kicked out from Vienna and Beijing respectively by ambassadors of the embassies. In Vienna, Ambassador Saurabh Kumar ordered R&AW officer Ravi Joshi to leave the country on suspicion of corruption in issuing a passport. In Beijing, Ambassador Nirupama Rao sent back the R&AW station chief Uma Mishra for mishandling an investigation into the misconduct of a subordinate.
A task force report prepared by a New Delhi-based security think tank highlighted that R&AW operatives have inadequate non-official cover for overseas operations which 'limits access to spot real targets' and causes issues on handling 'high-value assets'.
Operations and Activities
The known activities and operations of R&AW, by country:
South Africa and Namibia
R&AW trained the intelligence officers of many independent African countries and assisted the anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa and Namibia. Retired R&AW officers were deputed to work in training institutes of intelligence agencies of some African states.
R&AW was one of the primary agency that provided the information about Ravi Pujari, being located in Senegal. This information was then provided to Senegalese authorities, that arrested and deported him to India. He was formally arrested at Bangalore Airport by Karnataka Police.
During the mid-1990s, after the rise of Pakistan-backed Taliban in Afghanistan, India decided to side with the Northern Alliance. By 1996, R&AW had built a 25-bed military hospital at the Farkhor Air Base.[b] This airbase was used by the Aviation Research Centre, the reconnaissance arm of R&AW, to repair and operate the Northern Alliance's aerial support. This relationship was further cemented in the 2001 Afghan war.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, R&AW provided the intelligence to western countries that there were over 120 training camps operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, run by a variety of militant groups.
In 2017, A Joint R&AW – CIA counter-terrorism operation, described as “unprecedented in its scale and scope”, foiled a major terrorist attack by an Islamic State - Khorasan suicide bomber in New Delhi. The terrorist was later transferred to a US base in Afghanistan for further questioning. The operation spanned 3 countries and involved 80 Research officers.
In November–December 2019, a special exfiltration operation was undertaken by R&AW. At least four Indian nationals working in various parts of Afghanistan, that had been abducted by the Haqqani network, were successfully rescued.
In the early 1970s, the army of Pakistan launched military crackdown in response to the Bangladesh independence movement. Nearly 10 million refugees fled to India. R&AW was instrumental in the formation of the Bangladeshi guerilla organisation Mukti Bahini and responsible for supplying information, providing training and heavy ammunition to this organisation. It is also alleged that R&AW planned and executed the 1971 Indian Airlines hijacking as a false flag operation to ban overflight by Pakistani aircraft and disrupt Pakistani troop movement in East Pakistan. Special Frontier Force, then under R&AW actively participated in military operations especially in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. After the war ended in the successful creation of Bangladesh. However, four years later Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on 15 August 1975 at his residence. R&AW operatives claimed that they had advance information about Mujib-ur-Rahman's assassination but Sheikh Mujib tragically ignored inputs. He was killed along with 40 members of his family. Later, R&AW successfully thwarted plans of assassinating Sheikh Hasina Wazed, daughter of Mujibur Rahman, by Islamist extremists.
In 1990, R&AW had helped engineer and support a democratic uprising against Mohammed Ershad, thus leading to his resignation. His Pro-Pakistan and Anti-Hindu policy decisions had been considered a threat by Indian government.
In 1991, after Khaleda Zia had won election, India was alarmed over increased harassment of pro-India politicians, large-scale radicalisation and meticulously planned infiltration of trained extremists into Indian territory by Jamaat-e-Islami. JeI had stateup several terror training camps located along the border. So in order to stop all this activity, R&AW spontaneously bombed several of its camps and a major ISI safe house, thus dismantling JeI's terror network. 
After China tested its first nuclear weapons on 16 October 1964, at Lop Nur, Xinjiang. India and the USA shared a common fear about the nuclear capabilities of China. Owing to the extreme remoteness of Chinese testing grounds, strict secrecy surrounding the Chinese nuclear programme, and the extreme difficulty that an Indian or American would have passing themselves off as Chinese, it was almost impossible to carry out any HUMINT operation. So, the CIA in the late 1960s decided to launch an ELINT operation along with R&AW and ARC to track China's nuclear tests and monitor its missile launches. The operation, in the garb of a mountaineering expedition to Nanda Devi involved celebrated Indian climber M S Kohli who along with operatives of Special Frontier Force and the CIA – most notably Jim Rhyne, a veteran STOL pilot – was to place a permanent ELINT device, a transceiver powered by a plutonium battery, that could detect and report data on future nuclear tests carried out by China. The monitoring device was near successfully implanted on Nanda Devi, when an avalanche forced a hasty withdrawal. Later, a subsequent mountain operation to retrieve or replant the device was aborted when it was found that the device was lost. Recent reports indicate that radiation traces from this device have been discovered in sediment below the mountain. However, the actual data is not found[non sequitur]
In February 2020, Indian Customs officials detained a Chinese ship from Shanghai Port, at Kandla Port. The ship was bound for Port Qasim in Karachi. It was seized for wrongly declaring an autoclave, which can be used in the launch process of ballistic missiles, as an industrial dryer. This seizure was done on an intelligence tip-off by R&AW.
During the 2020 China–India skirmishes, SFF which comes under R&AW, were reported to have conducted operations in Ladakh, including the capture of heights near Pangong Tso. In another incident, an official statement by the Indian Army read: "Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground". During this activity, on 1 September 2020, company leader Nyima Tenzin of SFF died in a landmine blast when undertaking a reconnaissance mission along the line of actual control.
Since 2014, R&AW has undertaken numerous identification, physical surveillance and tracking operations, in Malaysia, targeted towards Khalistani terrorist and organizations. It is only of because such operations that many high-ranking Khalistani terrorists like Harminder Singh Mintoo, Tara Singh, Kulbir Kaur, Ramandeep Singh etc. have been arrested and deported to India.
In November 1988, the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), composed of about 200 Tamil secessionist rebels under abdullah luthufi, invaded Maldives. At the request of the president of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Indian Armed Forces, with assistance from R&AW, launched a military campaign to throw the mercenaries out of Maldives. On the night of 3 November 1988, the Indian Air Force airlifted the 6th parachute battalion of the Parachute Regiment from Agra and flew them over 2,000 km to Maldives. The Indian paratroopers landed at the airstrip of Hulhule island and restored the Government rule at Malé within a day. The operation, labelled Operation Cactus, also involved the Indian Navy. Swift operation by the military and precise intelligence by R&AW quelled the insurgency.
In February 1983, Mauritian Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth requested assistance from Mrs Indira Gandhi in the event of a coup by rival politician Paul Bérenger. In March 1983, Gandhi ordered the Indian Army and Navy to prepare for a military intervention against a possible coup against the Jugnauth government. But the military intervention was put off by Mrs. Gandhi, after a squabble between the Indian Navy and Army, on who would lead the operation. Instead, she chose to task the Research and Analysis Wing's then chief, Nowsher F. Suntook, with supervising a largely intelligence-led operation to reunite the Indian community of Mauritius whose fracturing along ideological and communal lines had allowed Mr. Berenger to mount a political challenge.
During the 1990s, R&AW cultivated Burmese rebel groups and pro-democracy coalitions, especially the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). India allowed the KIA to carry a limited trade in jade and precious stones using Indian territory and even supplied them weapons. It is further alleged that KIA chief Maran Brang Seng met the R&AW chief in Delhi twice. However, when the KIA became the main source of training and weapons for militant groups in Northeast India, R&AW initiated an operation, code named Operation Leech, to assassinate the leaders of the Burmese rebels as an example to other groups. in 1998, six top rebel leaders, including military wing chief of National Unity Party of Arakans (NUPA), Khaing Raza, were shot dead and 34 Arakanese guerrillas were arrested and charged with gunrunning.
In 1995, in Mizoram along the India–Myanmar border, the 57th Mountain Division of the Indian Army carried out the Operation Golden Bird. The operation was launched because R&AW had provided information that a huge consignment of arms for northern eastern had reached to Cox's Bazar (Bangaldesh) and was to be sent to insurgents in Manipur. The arms, as per intelligence were meant for groups in Nagaland and Isak-Muivah group in Manipur. Forces were deployed for counterinsurgency in the states of Manipur and Nagaland. Radio sets and other technological instruments were used to intercepts insurgents messages. On 5 April 1995, the Indian troops captured an insurgent named Hathi Bsrvah, trained by Pakistani ISI near Karachi. By 21 May 1995, the operation was finally called off.
During 1997–2013, R&AW along with IB carried out multiple operations, in which many high value terrorist like Yasin Bhatkal of Indian Mujahideen; Bhupinder Singh Bhuda of Khalistan Commando Force; Tariq Mehmood, Asif Ali, Syed Abdul Karim Tunda, Abu Qasim of Lashkar-e-Taiba; Fayaz Ahmed Mir of Jaish-e-Mohammed were secretly brought to India.
In 2014, R&W along with DGFI tracked down Indian Mujahideen's top commander, Zia Ur Rehman in Nepal. The operation was executed by DGFI after formal request from India's R&AW and Nepal's law enforcement agencies.
In 2017, it was reported that R&AW had kidnapped a mid-level ISI officer Lt. Col. Mohammed H Zahir from Lumbini. There were reports that Zahir was among the ISI team that had taken part in kidnapping and smuggling of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav from Chaman, Iran to Pakistan
During the late 1960s, R&AW had infiltrated the highest levels of Pakistani military and political leadership. It even had a mole inside General Yahya Khan's Office. This mole had also alerted the Indian armed forces, a week before about impending Pakistani Air attack. This alert was correct as Pakistan attacked India on 3 December thus starting War.
Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging centre for long-range missile development. The primary Pakistani missile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). R&AW first confirmed Pakistan's nuclear programs by analysing the hair samples snatched from the floor of barber shops near KRL; which showed that Pakistan had developed the ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade quality. R&AW operatives knew about Kahuta Research Laboratories from at least early 1978, when the then Indian Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, accidentally thwarted R&AW's operations on Pakistan's covert nuclear weapons program. In an indiscreet moment in a telephone conversation one day, Morarji Desai informed the then Pakistan President, Zia-ul-Haq, that India was aware of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. According to later reports, acting on this "tip-off", Pakistan's ISI and army eliminated most of R&AW's assets in and around Kahuta.
R&AW received information from one of its informants in a London-based company, which had supplied Arctic-weather gear to Indian troops in Ladakh that some Pakistan paramilitary forces had bought similar Arctic-weather gear. This information was shared with Indian Army which soon launched Operation Meghdoot to take control of Siachen Glacier with around 300 acclimatised troops were airlifted to Siachen before Pakistan could launch any operation resulting in Indian head start and eventual Indian domination of all major peaks in Siachen.
In the mid-1980s, R&AW set up two special units, Counterintelligence Team-X(CIT-X) and Counterintelligence Team-J(CIT-J), the first directed at Pakistan and the second at Khalistani groups. Rabinder Singh, the R&AW officer who later defected to the United States in 2004, helped run CIT-J in its early years. Both these covert units used the services of cross-border traffickers to ferry weapons and funds across the border, much as their ISI counterparts were doing. According to former R&AW official and noted security analyst B. Raman, the Indian counter-campaign yielded results. "The role of our cover action capability in putting an end to the ISI's interference and support of khalistani militants in Punjab, thus completely stopping years of violence and insurgency", he wrote in 2002, "by making such interference prohibitively costly is little known and understood." These covert groups were disbanded during the tenure of IK Gujral and were never restarted. As per B Raman a former R&AW Additional Secretary, these covert groups were successful in keeping a check on ISI and were "responsible for ending the Khalistani insurgency".
During the mid-1990s, R&AW undertook an important operation to infiltrate various ISI-backed terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir and restore peace in the Kashmir valley. R&AW operatives infiltrated the area, collected military intelligence, and provided evidence about ISI's involvement in training and funding separatist groups. R&AW was successful not only in unearthing the links, but also in infiltrating and neutralising the terrorism in the Kashmir valley. It is also credited for creating a split in the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Operation Chanakya also marked the creation of pro-Indian groups in Kashmir like the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, Muslim Mujahideen etc. These counter-insurgencies consist of ex-militants and relatives of those slain in the conflict. Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen leader Kokka Parrey was himself assassinated by separatists.
About 2–6 months before 26/11 Mumbai attacks, R&AW had intercepted several telephone calls through SIGINT which pointed at impending attacks on Mumbai Hotels by Pakistan-based terrorists, however there was a coordination failure and no follow up action was taken. Few hours before the attacks, a R&AW technician monitoring satellite transmissions picked up conversations between attackers and handlers, as the attackers were sailing toward Mumbai. The technician flagged the conversations as being suspicious and passed them on to his superiors. R&AW believed that they were worrying and immediately alerted the office of the National Security Advisor. However the intelligence was ignored. Later, just after the terrorists had attacked Mumbai, the technicians started monitoring the six phones used by the terrorists and recorded conversations between the terrorists and their handlers.
During the 2016 Line of Control strike, R&AW played an important role by providing real time and accurate intelligence to operational advisors and planners. It had deployed its human assets closest to the 8 demarcated launch-pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It also started Physical Surveillance of Chief of Pakistan army, 10 Corps commander and force commander of Northern Areas.
During 2019 Balakot airstrike, R&AW played an important role by identifying and providing intelligence on Markaz Syed Ahmad Shaheed training camp, to operational planners. It had HUMINT that a large number of terrorists had congregated in the camp.
In the late 1980s, R&AW allegedly started funding and training LTTE to keep a check on Sri Lanka,[better source needed] which had helped Pakistan in the Indo-Pak War by allowing Pakistani ships to refuel at Sri Lankan ports. However, when LTTE created a lot of problems and complications for India, R&AW switched sides and started providing intelligence support to Sri Lanka. When Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi was forced to send the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) under Operation Pawan in 1987 to restore normalcy in the region. The disastrous mission of the IPKF was blamed by many on the lack of coordination between the IPKF and R&AW. Its most disastrous manifestation was the Heliborne assault on LTTE HQ in the Jaffna University campus in the opening stages of Operation Pawan. The dropping paratroopers became easy targets for the LTTE. A number of soldiers were killed. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi ended Indias involvement in Sri Lankan Civil war.
In 2010, R&AW carried out a snatch operation in Sri Lanka, in which a top HuJI terrorist Sheikh Abdul Khawaja – handler of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attackers was captured and secretly taken away to India.
In 2015, it was allegedly reported by the Sri Lankan newspaper The Sunday Times, that R&AW had played a role in uniting the opposition, to bring about the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa. There had been growing concern in the Indian government, on the increasing influence of economic and military rival China in Sri Lankan affairs. Rajapaksa further upped the ante by allowing 2 Chinese submarines to dock in 2014, without informing India, in spite of a stand still agreement to this effect between India and Sri Lanka. The growing Chinese tilt of Rajapaksa was viewed by India with unease. Further, it was alleged, that a R&AW officer, helped coordination of talks within the opposition, and convincing former PM Ranil Wickremasinghe not to stand against Rajapaksa, but to choose a common opposition candidate, who had better chances of winning. The agent is also alleged to have been in touch with Chandrika Kumaratunga, who played a key role in convincing Maithripala Sirisena to be the common candidate. However these allegations were denied by the Indian Government and the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Before the 2019 Easter bombings, R&AW had issued precision intelligence warnings to its Sri Lankan counterpart about an impending terrorist attack. All of these warnings were based on HUMINT gathered by it.
In the mid-1990s, after the rise of Pakistan backed Taliban in Afghanistan, India started supporting the Northern Alliance. In ordering to provide support, India had acquired Farkhor Air Base. This airbase was used by R&AW, along with M.I., as a base of operations for all their activities directed to Afghanistan like covert paramilitary operations and HUMINT gathering. The airbase was also used by Aviation Research Centre and DAI, to provide aerial reconnaissance to Northern Alliance.
During the 2015 G20 Antalya summit, the R&AW station in Ankara increased its strength in order to provide additional security cover for visiting PM Modi, along with SPG. Officers from MI5 and Mossad were also deployed to provide Security as part of liaison agreement.
Since 2014, R&AW has undertaken numerous physical surveillance, identification and tracking operations in Germany, targeted towards Khalistani terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists. It has aggressively recruited agents inside pro-Khalistan circles all across Germany, in cities like Frankfurt, Berlin.
After 26/11, it was uncovered that Pakistan's ISI had not only laundered large amount of money for the attack but also arranged VOIP calls that allowed the handlers to talk to the terrorists, through the Italian city of Brescia.
So in order to counter these activities R&AW established a new station in Rome. Since then, it has undertaken hundreds of operations, directed towards Sleeper cells/operatives of Pakistan-based Islamic and khalistani terrorist organizations. It has also aggressively recruited agents inside Pro-khalistan circles all across Italy
During 1980s, R&AW launched an extensive operation in London to neutralise UK-based Pakistani national Abdul Khan, who had played an instrumental role in sheltering extremists and planning attacks in India.
Since the suppression and defeat of Khalistani insurgency in late 1990s, R&AW has great expanded its informant network inside Khalistani circles and associations in the UK. Wanted Khalistanis like Paramjeet Singh Pamma and Kuldeep Singh Chaheru have been living in UK since they ran away in 1992, thus necessitating increased R&AW presence.
The Kanishka Bombing case: On 23 June 1985 Air India's Flight 182 was blown up near Ireland and 329 people died. On the same day, another explosion took place at Tokyo's Narita airport's transit baggage building where baggage was being transferred from Cathay Pacific Flight No CP 003 to Air India Flight 301 which was scheduled for Bangkok. Both aircraft were loaded with explosives from Canadian airports. Flight 301 got saved because of a delay in its departure. This was considered as a major setback to R&AW for failing to gather enough intelligence about the Khalistani terrorists.
In April 2020 , it was reported that R&AW and IB had launched an extensive operation in 2009–2015, to influence the Canadian government and politicians into supporting India's interests. Canada has long being accused by India for being a safe haven for khalistani separatists.
R&AW was heavily criticised in 1999, following the Pakistani incursions at Kargil. Critics accused R&AW of failing to provide intelligence that could have prevented the ensuing ten-week conflict that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war. While the Army has been critical of the information they received R&AW has pointed the finger at the politicians, claiming they had provided all the necessary information. However, R&AW was successful in intercepting a telephonic conversation between Pervez Musharraf, the then Pakistan Army Chief who was in Beijing and his chief of staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz in Islamabad. This tape was later published by India to prove Pakistani involvement in the Kargil incursion. In 2011, a think tank report stated that R&AW had warned in its October 1998 assessment that Pakistan Army might launch a limited swift offensive with possible support of alliance partners, however the government ignored such reports.
Amalgamation of Sikkim
In 1947 Sikkim became a protectorate under India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications. It is alleged that in 1972 R&AW was authorised to install a pro-Indian democratic government there. After widespread rioting and demonstration against the King of Sikkim in 1975 a referendum was held in which 97.5% of the electorate voted to join the Indian Union. On 16 May 1975, Sikkim officially became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished.
Operation Smiling Buddha was the name given to India's nuclear programme. The task to keep it under tight wraps for security was given to R&AW. This was the first time that R&AW was involved in a project inside India. On 18 May 1974, India detonated a 15-kiloton plutonium device at Pokhran and became a member of the nuclear club.
War on Terror
Although R&AW's contribution to the War on Terror is highly classified, the organisation gained some attention in the Western media after claims that it was assisting the United States by providing intelligence on Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban's whereabouts. Maps and photographs of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan along with other evidence implicating Osama bin Laden in terrorist attacks were given to US intelligence officials. R&AW's role in the War on Terror may increase as US intelligence has indicated that it sees R&AW as a more reliable ally than Pakistani intelligence.
In late 2009, investigative journal The Week ran a cover story on one of India's major clandestine operations that the R&AW ran with Intelligence Bureau to nab terrorists infiltrating India, via Nepal and other neighbouring countries. To bypass the lengthy extradition process, R&AW conducts snatch operations to nab suspects from various foreign countries. The suspect is brought to India, interrogated in black sites, later shown as arrested at an airport or border post and is usually produced before a court. With emergence of Nepal as a terror transit point R&AW and the IB started closely monitoring the movement of suspected terrorists in Nepal. According to The Week, in last decade there has been close to 400 successful snatch operations conducted by R&AW and/or IB in Nepal and other countries. Some famous snatches netted Bhupinder Singh Bhuda of the Khalistan Commando Force, Lashkar militant Tariq Mehmood and Abdul Karim Tunda, Sheikh Abdul Khwaja, one of the handlers of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Yasin Bhatkal founder leader of the proscribed terrorist organisation Indian Mujahideen. Most of the suspects are kept at Tihar Jail.
In popular culture
Unlike in the Western cultural sphere, which has portrayed its foreign intelligence agencies (such as the CIA and MI6) in different media forms, Indian authors and actors have been shy to explore the area of espionage, especially R&AW, until the 1990s. Unlike CBI, the federal investigative agency of India, whose existence is known to the majority of people, R&AW receives little to no attention from the populace, which seems to be unaware of the existence of such an organisation or even India's internal intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Excessive secrecy surrounding activities and rare declassification of the information are considered to be the major reasons behind this.
Nevertheless, there were films which refer to 'agents' and 'espionage', like Aankhen (1968, Ramanand Sagar Production, starring Dharmendra, Mala Sinha), Prem Pujari starring Dev Anand in 1970, Hindustan Ki Kasam (starring Raaj Kumar, Priya Rajvansh in 1973) and Highway (starring Suresh Gopi, Bhanupriya) including some modern films such as Romeo Akbar Walter(RAW) in 2019. However, since the late 1990s and early 2000 the following Bollywood and other regional films have openly mentioning R&AW and its allied units, with the intelligence agencies at the centre of the plot.
|Year||Name of the film||Director||Plot synopsis and highlights|
|1998||Highway||Jayaraaj||In this Malayalam film Suresh Gopi plays the role of an undercover R&AW officer investigating a bomb blast.|
|1998||Such a Long Journey||Sturla Gunnarsson||Focuses on covert operations by R&AW operative played by Naseeruddin Shah to finance the Bangladeshi rebels. Based on the novel of the same name written by Rohinton Mistry.|
|2003||The Hero: Love Story of a Spy||Anil Sharma||Sunny Deol plays the role of a R&AW officer who almost single-handedly derails plans by Pakistan-based jihadi terrorists to get hold of a nuclear weapon in Canada. The film was third highest grosser of the year.|
|2003||Ottran||Ilankannan||In the original Tamil film Arjun Sarja plays the role of an undercover officer working to thwart ISI activities in India. The film was later dubbed in Telegu and titled as Goodachari No. 1.|
|2004||Asambhav||Rajiv Rai||Jammel Khan essaying the role of a fictional R&AW agent Atul Bhatnagar helps army special officer played by Arjun Rampal in rescuing Indian President taken hostage in Switzerland by Islamic militants.|
|2008||Mission Istaanbul||Apoorva Lakhia||Shweta Bhardwaj played the role of Lisa Lobo, a R&AW agent in Istanbul, who helps journalist Vikas Sagar, played by Zayed Khan, in foiling the anti-India terrorist attempts by a terror group.|
|2008||Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam||Sanjay Chhel||Rahul Bose plays a R&AW officer (Arjun Rastogi) who attempts to thwart explosives delivery in the city.|
|2008||Chamku||Kabeer Kaushik||R&AW led by Irrfan Khan is shown as undertaking a covert program much in the lines of the Bourne series to build up a black team composed of Bobby Deol as Jaived Pratap Singh aka Chamku, Riteish Deshmukh as Arjun Tiwari and others for political assassinations.|
|2008||Dasavathaaram||K. S. Ravikumar||Kamal Hasan essayed the role of a Telugu R&AW operative in the original Tamil film. The film was later dubbed into a Hindi version titled Dashavatar where the ethnicity of the R&AW operative was changed to Bengali.|
|2011||Aazaan||Prashant Chadha||The film portrays Sachiin J Joshi as a R&AW officer who has to go undercover beyond enemy lines to save the country from the threat of biological warfare. It is one of the most expensive B-grade films in Bollywood.|
|2012||Agent Vinod||Sriram Raghavan||Saif Ali Khan plays the titular character of a James Bondesque R&AW officer who foils a false flag operation to start a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.|
|2012||Ek Tha Tiger||Kabir Khan||Salman Khan plays the titular role of an accomplished R&AW field officer who falls in love with an ISI agent played by Katrina Kaif and both desert their agencies. It was alleged that the film is inspired by the life of Ravindra Kaushik, a deep penetration agent of R&AW. The film is the one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time.|
|2012||Thandavam||A. L. Vijay||Vikram plays the central role of a R&AW agent retrieving a WMD.|
|2013||D-Day||Nikhil Advani||Arjun Rampal, Irrfan Khan and Huma Qureshi play a R&AW snatch team in a fictitious operation to capture Dawood Ibrahim alive and bring back to India.|
|2013||Madras Cafe||Shoojit Sircar||John Abraham plays an Army officer absorbed into R&AW to head covert operations in Jaffna shortly after Indian peace-keeping force was forced to withdraw. As he journeys to Sri Lanka, with the intention of disrupting the LTF rebels, he becomes entangled in rebel and military politics and uncovers a conspiracy to assassinate "a former Indian prime minister" which he fails to prevent.|
|2013||Vishwaroopam||Kamal Hasan||Kamal Haasan again played the character of a R&AW agent in this multilingual film, which explores the R&AW operation in Afghanistan and US to bring down terrorists affiliated to Al Queda.|
|2014||Bang Bang!||Siddharth Anand||An authorised remake of Knight and Day, the film portrayed Hrithik Roshan as intelligence agent Rajveer Nanda assigned to lead a joint operation of 'Indian Secret Service' (a fictional organisation loosely based on R&AW) and MI6 to stop a wanted terrorist Omar Zafar (played by Danny Denzongpa) from stealing Koh-i-Noor Diamond from Tower of London.|
|2015||Baby||Neeraj Pandey||Akshay Kumar plays an action hero character partly inspired from Jack Bauer and the Mission impossible film series. He leads a covert operation team of an Indian intelligence agency and helps in abducting and exfiltration of a Hafiz Muhammad Saeed-esque target from Saudi Arabia.|
|2015||Phantom||Kabir Khan||Saif Ali Khan plays role of disgraced army officer trying to regain his honour and Katrina Kaif plays role of deepcover R&AW officer. In the film they are tasked by R&AW with 'out of the book' assassination of masterminds of 26/11 attacks namely Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi in Pakistan and David Coleman Headley in a US prison. A spiritual sequel to Agent Vinod.|
|2016||Ambarsariya||Mandeep Kumar||Jatt Ambarsariya alias Diljit Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) lives a dual life as a R&AW agent and insurance agent. He is put on a mission to save the honest and idealistic Home Minister of Punjab from a drug mafia who is plotting the minister's murder.|
|2016||Force 2||Abhinay Deo||When multiple R&AW agents are killed in coordinated attacks around the world, John Abraham playing role of Mumbai Police officer is brought in to investigate the threat.|
|2017||Naam Shabana||Shivam Nair||It is a spin-off prequel to the 2015 film Baby with Taapsee Pannu reprising her role as Shabana. She is sent to kill Mikhail, an international arm dealer who has been on the radar of several intelligence agencies with the help of other R&AW agents, Ajay Singh (Akshay Kumar) and Om Prakash Shukla (Anupam Kher).|
|2017||Paisa Vasool||Puri Jagannadh||Theda Singh (Nandamuri Balakrishna) is an undercover RAW Agent who tries to nab Bob Marley, a mafia don operating from Portugal.|
|2017||Tiger Zinda Hai||Ali Abbas Zafar||Sequel to 2012 film Ek Tha Tiger, Salman Khan reprises his titular role of the R&AW officer, who is brought out of retirement to rescue Indian and Pakistani nurses held hostage by Islamic terrorist (modelled on ISIS) in Iraq. The film became a major commercial success and one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time.|
|2018||Raazi||Meghna Gulzar||The film is based on the book Calling Sehmat, the real-life story of a R&AW officer, portrayed by Alia Bhatt, who is married to a Pakistani military official.|
|2019||Uri: The Surgical Strike||Aditya Dhar||A dramatised account of the 2016 Uri attack's retaliation by India of which RAW is a part.|
|2019||Romeo Akbar Walter||Robbie Grewal||The film stars John Abraham as a R&AW Agent. The movie is based on true events.|
|2019||Bard of Blood||Ribhu Dasgupta||An excommunicated R&AW agent Kabir Anand returns to a covert mission with analyst Isha and another sleeper agent Veer Singh to rescue four other R&AW agents captured in Balochistan.|
|2019||Chanakya||Thiru||The film is about Arjun (Gopichand), a R&AW agent disguised as a Bank Employee.|
|2020||Special OPS||Neeraj Pandey||A R&AW Officer, Himmat Singh is under investigation for financial misappropriation of funds meant for covert operations. In the meanwhile, his network of agents is searching for a high level terrorist named Ikhlaq Khan.|
|2020||London Confidential||S Hussain Zaidi||R&AW agents in London investigate China's role in the pandemic and are close to a breakthrough when with a ruthless mole appears in their midst.|
The thriving entertainment channels in India have started to tap into the theme of Intelligence agencies. 2612 which used to air on Life OK, featured Cabir Maira as a R&AW agent Anand Swami who helps a STF officer Randeep Rathore to save the country from a terrorist attack. Time Bomb 9/11, a series aired on Zee TV, featured Rajeev Khandelwal in the role of a R&AW field officer who attempts to defuse a nuclear bomb set in India, as well as saving the life of the Indian prime minister. Zee Bangla featured a serial named Mohona where the chief protagonist is a R&AW officer. Sajda Tere Pyar Mein a series on Star Plus, features Shaleen Bhanot in the role of a R&AW officer who asks a young woman named Aliya for help in catching a spy named Mahendra Pratap. The Indian version of 24 has a host of characters affiliated to R&AW. The 2018 webseries Sacred Games has a R&AW agent played by Radhika Apte.
Some academic commentators have linked the increasing surfeit of Indian films and TV series on espionage thriller genre, where an Indian hero staves off impending global catastrophe, as a marker of an aspirational Pax Indica not based on 'older paradigms of internationalism based on universal brotherhood and non-violent pacifism associated with Gandhi and Nehru' but on the motif of an increasingly assertive potential superpower.
List of Secretaries
|No.||Name||Took office||Left office||Notes|
|1||R. N. Kao||1968||1977||Founder of R&AW, ARC|
• Bangladesh Liberation War
• Operation Smiling Buddha
• Amalgamation of Sikkim
• ELINT operation with the CIA against China
|2||K. Sankaran Nair||1977||1977||Resigned from service in protest of downgrading the designation of Head of R&AW as Director, R&AW instead of Secretary (R).|
|3||N. F. Suntook||1977||1983||Founder Director of RRC, ETS|
• Executed Operation Lal Dora
|4||Girish Chandra Saxena||1983||1986||Collaborated with the Intelligence Agencies of United States, the erstwhile USSR, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. |
• Kanishka Bombing
• Operation Blue Star
|5||S. E. Joshi||1986||1987||Continued collaboration with Intelligence Agencies|
• During his tenure, the post of Director of RA&W was re-designated as Secretary (R) and this designation has continued since then.
|6||A. K. Verma||1987||1990||Operation Cactus|
• Indian Peace Keeping Force
|7||G. S. Bajpai||1990||1991||Counter Insurgency operations|
|9||J. S. Bedi||1993||1993||Chief during 1993 Mumbai bombings|
• Specialist in China, Pakistan and counter terrorism.
|10||A. S. Syali||1993||1996||•Increased economic surveillance |
• Emphasis on advanced training and more recruitment
|11||Ranjan Roy||1996||1997||Negotiation on Farkhor Air Base|
|12||Arvind Dave||1997||1999||Kargil War|
• Operation Shakti
|13||A. S. Dulat||1999||2000||Negotiated with IC 814 hijackers|
• Tenure marred by allegations of incompetence and mishandling.
|14||Vikram Sood||13 December 2000||31 March 2003||Founder of National Technical Facilities Organisation|
|15||C. D. Sahay||1 April 2003||31 January 2005||Revamped ARC |
• Inauguration of R&AW headquarters at Lodhi Road, New Delhi
|16||P. K. H. Tharakan||1 February 2005||31 January 2007||Was instrumental in setting up of Nuclear Command Authority (India) |
• Negotiated the end of Nepalese Civil War and helped warring parties to sign the Comprehensive Peace Accord.
|17||Ashok Chaturvedi||1 February 2007||31 January 2009||• Tenure marred by many allegations of nepotism and corruption|
• Investigation of Samjhauta bombings
|18||K. C. Verma||1 February 2009||30 December 2010||Investigation of 2008 Mumbai attacks|
|19||Sanjeev Tripathi||30 December 2010||29 December 2012|
|20||Alok Joshi||30 December 2012||30 December 2014|
|21||Rajinder Khanna||31 December 2014||31 December 2016||• 2015 Indian counter-insurgency operation in Myanmar|
• 2016 Indian Line of Control strike
|22||Anil Dhasmana||1 January 2017||26 June 2019||•Operation Sunrise|
• 2019 Balakot airstrike
|23||Samant Goel||26 June 2019||Incumbent||•Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A|
Most of the Secretaries of Research and Analysis Wing have been Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. R. N. Kao and K. Sankaran Nair belonged to the Imperial Police (IP), of the British colonial days which was renamed as the Indian Police Service after Indian Independence in 1947. N. F. Suntook had served in the Indian Navy, then in the Indian Police Service and in the Indian Frontier Administration Service. Vikram Sood was from the Indian Postal Service (IPoS)and was later permanently absorbed in the RAS cadre. Now he acts as Advisor to Fair Observer. A. S. Dulat was an Indian Police Service officer deputed from the Intelligence Bureau, while K. C. Verma is an ex-Intelligence Bureau officer. All the chiefs have been experts on China or Pakistan except for Ashok Chaturvedi, who was an expert on Nepal.
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