Friday, May 6, 2011



Should India continue with the peace process with Pakistan initiated when Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani visited Mohali in India on March 30,2011, to attend the semi-finals of the World Cup cricket match?

Answer: Yes. India should. There is no reason why India should allow its policy towards Pakistan to be affected by the Abbottabad raid on May 2 by the US Navy SEALS that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. The consequences of that raid are a matter to be sorted out by the US and Pakistan and should not have any bearing on India's relations with Pakistan. The peace process between India and Pakistan should continue so long as terrorist organisations based in Pakistan and supported by its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) refrain from indulging in any act of mass casualty terrorism in Indian territory.

Should India emulate the USA's Abbottabad raid?

A. The Abbottabad raid was an officially admitted clandestine operation by the US Special Forces belonging to its Navy, which carried out the raid under the leadership of Leon Panetta, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was a raid carried out against the head of an international terrorist organisation, which has been responsible for a series of major acts of mass casualty terrorism directed not only against the US, but also against many other countries of the world. The US action in undertaking the raid despite its violation of Pakistan's national sovereignty, therefore, enjoyed considerable international support. Any operation by the Indian Special Forces in Pakistani territory against leaders of terrorist organisations operating against India would not enjoy similar support in the international community. Moreover, Pakistan would be forced by its public opinion to treat any officially admitted raid by the Indian Special Forces in its territory as an act of war and react accordingly. It could lead to a war between the two countries, which would not be in the interest of either.

Why should India be worried about what the rest of the world thinks?

A. If we take an action which is not deniable and which is officially admitted, we have to worry.

Does it mean India should never undertake an Abbottabad style raid in Pakistani territory by its Special Forces?

A. Not during times of peace when the two neighbours are engaged in the peace process. Such raids could, however, be justified in times of war. We should have the capability, but should not use it so long as peace, however unsatisfactory, prevails.

Then, how do you recommend the re-establishment of the covert action capability of our Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW)? You sound illogical.

A.One must understand some important differences between a clandestine operation by the Special Forces and a covert action by an intelligence agency. An operation by the Special Forces is carried out by specially trained units of your own armed forces in a clandestine manner. It is an act of unconventional warfare by conventional armed forces. It is kept clandestine till the operation is over, but often officially admitted after the operation. It is carried out with the help of your own nationals. A covert action by an intelligence agency in foreign territory has to be totally deniable and should not involve the participation on the ground in foreign territory of your own forces and/or nationals. You do not go into the foreign territory. You seek the assistance or co-operation of others who have legitimate reasons for being in foreign territory. A covert action can be undertaken anytime---in times of peace or war.

Every State having an adversarial relationship with another State should have three options at its disposal. The first option is talks to reduce the adversarial nature of the relationship. The second option is covert action by the intelligence agencies as a disincentive to make the adversary amenable to reason. The third option, which should be one of last resort, is war. Since India and Pakistan are nuclear powers war should not be lightly contemplated as an option . It should be contemplated only in extreme circumstances when national existence is in peril.

The problem which we face in our relations with Pakistan is that the option of deniable covert action by the intelligence agencies in Pakistani territory which we created for ourselves under Jawaharlal Nehru immediately after India became independent in 1947, was wound up in 1997 when Shri Inder Kumar Gujral was the Prime Minister. Neither Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee nor Dr.Manmohan Singh has been inclined to revive it. To revive it or not has to be a political decision.

There is no unanimity of opinion among senior intelligence officers as to whether it would be wise to revive it. I have heard of at least two recent heads of the R&AW, who were not convinced of the need for its revival. They reportedly felt that the R&AW should remain, as it is post-1997, a purely intelligence collection organisation, and should not get involved in covert action. There is a new generation of young intelligence officers which respects us old-timers, but does not agree with our views on the need to revive the covert action capability.

Then, why do you keep talking from time to time of the need to revive the covert action capability?

A. Because I do feel that in the absence of the intermediate option of a covert action capability, we are reduced to a position where we are either helpless spectators of Pakistan's use of terrorism against India or become advocates of an adventurous policy as we followed in 2002 which could have led to a war. There are two kinds of covert actions. The first is directed against the State of Pakistan. This has to be ruled out so long as we are satisfied with the peace talks with Pakistan. The second will be directed against the terrorists operating against India from Pakistani territory. This will be justified and necessary, My advice has always been: Re-create the capability, but use it only if the peace talks fail and Pakistan continues to evade our request and international pressure for action against the terrorist leaders operating against Indian citizens from its territory.This is a matter which needs to be examined quietly. (6-5-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


Vijainder K Thakur said...

Should India emulate the USA's Abbottabad raid?

Like the US, India has the right to self defense and innate to that right is any action that makes us more secure.

The US does not say it has the right to violate Pakistan's sovereignty with an Abbotabad like raid. It just says it has the right to self defense.

A nation's right to self defense, if it has the capability, will take precedence over another nations sovereignty when it is allowing war to be waged from its territory.

If elements in Pakistan are plotting war against India, India has a right to self defense. How we exercise that right is our business. Nothing should be off the table, as long as the action we takes enhances our security.

Those who say an Abottabad type raid could lead to war are forgetting that an Abottabad type raid will be made in response to a war that is currently being waged against us from within Pakistan.

By ruling out an Abottabad type raid, India only encourages Pakistan to continue doing what it is doing, and perhaps more to gain another bargaining chip.

Relationships, amidst people as well as countries, are influenced more by postures, than deeds.

Any posture that discourages acts of war being waged against us should not just be embraced, we should build capabilities around it.

A posture that embraces actions - covert, clandestine hot pursuit - to stop war from being waged against us from sanctuaries within Pakistan, matched with a demonstrated capability to carry out such ops, will encourage peace, not war.

If we have a capability to execute an Abbottabad raid, which we currently don't, the Musharaff's of this world will not be able to taunt us saying - India is not America. More importantly, they will think twice, nay many times, before allowing war against India from being waged within their territory.

Paresh said...

It takes atleast 5 years to build up a credible covert action capability, but for Indian standards, 10 years! So, if there is another Mumbai type attack soon, expect another set of dossiers 'with love' from India to Pakistan. No wonder Pakistan does not take us seriously.

Sandeep said...

"There is no unanimity of opinion among senior intelligence officers as to whether it would be wise to revive it. I have heard of at least two recent heads of the R&AW, who were not convinced of the need for its revival. "

Is it because they themselves are 'experts' in conducting other 'covert operations' like the one being mentioned in the Shri.Nalapat's article

"If the IB is in this pathetic state,can the (much-discussed in Pakistan) Research & Intelligence Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) be far behind? Because of the fact that many of its bosses have been chosen on grounds of personal loyalty to VVIPs rather than for any competence, the standards of the outfit have dropped to alarming levels.One of the past bosses was so close to a certain VVIP family that he used to personally go to London with huge bundles of cash that were distributed in secret to foreign relatives of the concerned VVIP. Not only did he personally hand over the cash,but he used to ask RAW officials not to accompany him on such “cash and carry:” missions. Naturally,he used to submit bogus receipts that showed the money being given to miscellanous South Asians,when in fact the cash was handed over to relatives and friends of a particular VVIP. The bureaucrat who ensured that this man took over RAW is likely to soon get a high position in the Prime Minister’s Office,because of his closeness to a certain VVIP. Incidentally,this bureacrat is the uncle of the former RAW chief,which is why he pished his case despite being aware of his dubious background. Clearly,nepotism is no crime in today’s India.

Shri.Raman Sir,
I would greatly appreciate your scholarly views on this.

Carlos said...

I vehemently disagree with Raman that India should continue "dialogue" with Pakistan. No good will come from it.

Instead India should immediately commence building covert capabilities. Do it efficiently and effectively. Let it take a few years if required. But, build CAC's.

kl said...

Mr Raman, what are you suggesting ? we should continue to talk to Pak, to serve whose interets ? America's ? Whats your suggestion if there is another assault on India which looks very likely in the near future. They will keep hitting us and we should only keep talking to them as you suggest there is no other alternative. Pakistanis are aware, India can do nothing and will only come back to talks after making some initial noise. What a banana republic our nation is reduced to ??

ambi said...

thank god u retired. our country is saved. with this kind of thoughts we r doomed!!!

Carlos said...

I just realised Mr. Raman that you think Pakistan is not at war with India right now. Yes, not an overt war, but they are certainly waging a sly, cunning, overt and fairly effective war with us right now.
Do we just turn the other cheek ???
Most definitely not. We should build up our covert action capabilities and take out selected high value targets. Make them pay. Heavily. Only then will they come to their senses.