I was introduced to Late B. Raman sir by the website: South Asia Analysis Group

It’s a non-profit think-tank which writes India’s foreign relations, military and intelligence aspects. B. Raman was a regular contributor and his insights were very informative.

His book on Research & Analysis Wing was preceded by a book on Intelligence Bureau of India by Late Maloy Krishna Dhar. This book was a treasure trove of information on India’s contemporary political & intelligence history. It broke a lot of myths surrounding intelligence services of India. So, when the first insider account on R&AW came out – I was super excited

The book begins with an anecdote of his not so cordial interactions with the US State Department. This is the day he is retiring from R&AW. He mentions a particular US State department official within the first few pages who has caused trouble for India in Kashmir. That was a cheeky reference to the famous Robin Raphel.

The book begins with a flashback of him being positioned in Burma when he had joined IB. This was before R&AW was formed. His candid account of Indo-Burmese relations is rare.

R&AW was still a baby in 1971 and was trying to find its feet. The 1971 war gave a chance to the agency to prove its credentials. B Raman goes into detail about R&AWs work in the heady days of the crisis and how it contributed to India;s decisive win. The founding of R&AW’s Signal intelligence capabilities, PSYWAR division took place during this time.

The book follows events in independent India history – Bangladesh, Punjab – Khalistan, North-East & Srilankan insurgencies and the assassination of 2 Indian Prime Ministers. He has dedicated chapters on each PM from 1968 to 1994 and how they interacted with the agency.

The Indo-Iran-French intelligence co-operation to monitor the activities of the US in the Indian ocean was something completely new to me.

Throughout the book, B. Raman manages to maintain a neutral tone and still gives enough meat to keep any student of international relations engaged. He has not mentioned any intelligence trade-crafts or any operational aspect of his work. The book does include some anecdotes on the foibles of a few politicians and bureaucrats.

The author mentioned some details of his brief involvement as the Bofors scam was breaking. Although I was a bit disappointed when he restricted his experience during the Emergency to R.N. Kao’s attempts to keep R&AW away from any domestic involvement. In addition, the book does not cover KGB’s involvement in the Indian subcontinent or Indo-Russian relations in detail.

In the end, he mentions something profound:

Does India have the intelligence agency it needs? – NO.

Does India have the intelligence agency it deserves? – More than it deserves.

For long people as well as the political class has not demanded a more robust agency with the capabilities to deal with 21st-century threats. R&AW to this day is not covered by any Gov of India Act. Although few politicians have tried to bring oversight to R&AW, not many have paid attention. R&AW has been mostly delivered what it was created for, but ignorance for long has created chinks in its armor. As per the author, India can ignore it at its own peril.

My verdict: 4/5 star. A must read for anyone interested in intelligence services or Indian foreign policy.

Ravi Singh

Author: Ravi Singh

I am an MBA grad working as a Consultant in an IT firm. You will always find me with a book or a Kindle in my hand during my spare time. Topics of interest: Tech news, Foreign Policy & Economics. Wannabe Entrepreneur!!