Israel is feared because Mossad (its secret service) is dreaded. The US is a superpower because the CIA is not just lethal, but nothing is beyond its reach. And finally, Pakistan can dream of ‘a thousand cuts’ to India only due to its ISI. However, Indian agency RAW seems to be in a turmoil. Soon after the Guwahati blast, Assam Governor Ajai Singh stated that intelligence in the country is bikau (for sale). It might be criticism of the highest order but growing defection of RAW personnel to foreign agencies has become a norm, rather than an exception. Recent reports suggest that in the previous three to four years, many top RAW officials have resigned and joined either American think tanks or the private sector.
Most surprisingly, on the one hand, when the US is going head-over-heels to impress India as its strategic partner for the future, it has been instrumental in making many of the RAW operatives pass on sensitive information pertaining to India’s strategic security to their US counterparts.
Even the revelation in 2004 that RAW operative Ranbir Singh was actually a CIA operative, did not work as an eye-opener and the Indian government did not show any nerve to take up the matter with the American government. The Indian government and polity would rather do well to find out as to why these defections are happening in such large numbers. Yet, serious contemplation is all that it takes to find out that the reasons are same as always have been. Low pay, poor job prospects and most importantly, a manpower which is simply not among the best. The lure of the private sector and higher pay packets make sure that in any case the best does not even apply. Added to it is the departmental rivalry of direct recruits against the IPS officers on deputation.
Probably RAW is among the few espionage organisations of the world which doesn’t maintain a strict segregation between personnel dedicated to clandestine and tactical missions, with the ones who are supposed to liaise with foreign agencies. Drastic steps, thus, are urgently needed to make the agency professional as well as the counter-espionage effective.