Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Appointment of Secretary, 2016
The Indian Express, December 18, 2016
Rajiv Jain to be new IB chief, Anil Dhasmana to head RAW
The Centre appointed Balochistan expert and 1981-batch Madhya Pradesh cadre IPS officer Anil Dhasmana as Secretary of Research and Analysis Wing and 1980-batch Jharkhand cadre IPS officer Rajiv Jain as the Director of Intelligence Bureau.
As reported earlier by The Sunday Standard, Dhasmana will take over the reins of the Research and Analysis Wing from the outgoing chief Rajinder Khanna whose tenure comes to an end on December 31. RAW is the external Intelligence of the country and its chief is designated as Secretary, Research, Cabinet Secretariat.
Dhasmana was scheduled to retire on December 31 but with this appointment, he will have a fixed tenure of two more years in the key agency.
Dhasmana, originally an IPS officer merged his cadre with the Research and Analysis Service. He has served with the RAW for the last 23 years and was presently Special Secretary in the agency. He has served with the RAW in major desks including London, Frankfurt and Pakistan.
Both the top posts carry a fixed tenure of two years from the date of joining. Both the appointees will take over the charge of their respective top posts on January 1.
Jain is a recipient of President's Police Medal and has served in various capacities in the agency including the sensitive Kashmir desk.
Jain was advisor to the previous NDA government's interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with Kashmiri separatist leaders.
Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s 2021 book
RAW vis-à-vis ISI: An overview
RAW and ISI are usually seen as less effective than their Western counterparts. Is this true or a cultivated cover?
Having spent many years observing both, it would be fair to say that both RAW and ISI are ruthless, disciplined and engaged in everything one associates with a spy agency — including recruiting liars, killers, cheats, knitting together the impossible and unlikely, manipulating local and international conditions, gathering and analysing data. A lot of spying — contrary to the movies — is also drudge work. The image of RAW is both cultivated but also a default as a draconian secrecy cloaks India, whereas ISI has never had to answer to the people, as they are underpinned by a military that prefers its own company, and fears exposure.
What has been RAW’s biggest success?
Apart from projecting itself as a victim, RAW’s soft power is stellar, working around the world in tandem with the diaspora and the MEA to sell a story of India and denigrate Pakistan.
While India has been a real victim of terror and insurgency, much of which was fuelled by Pakistan, this is not the whole story. India is the protagonist too — or if you prefer, India is also “the one who knocks”, to steal a line from Walter White and Breaking Bad.
RAW often wins, especially in the narrative control game. It works with the diaspora to reap the rewards of its connections to global finance, tech, and political science. RAW also wins diplomatically. It won over China to defeat Jaish and Masood Azhar at the UN where he was proscribed as a terrorist. It wins over Pakistan in the perception wars, with the exception of post-Balakot where ISI took the high ground by handing back its pilot ‘prisoner of war’.
You indicate that India had prior knowledge about the 26/11 attacks?
Indian intelligence, collectively, had access to an enormous amount of live intelligence inside Lashkar-e-Taiba, and had been following in real time the growth of a maritime operation targeting Mumbai but why this penetration and its feed did not gain traction is something you’d have to ask RAW about.
There have been several infamous cases when RAW officials like Unnikrishan and Rabinder Singh were discovered as double agents. Red flags were ignored because the agents had powerful patronage. Have things changed?
All intelligence outfits are penetrated — the UK and US know this well. So RAW officers have been suborned or flipped, entrapped or ambushed, lured by sex, power and cash. RAW has also had to contend with the national psyche. India, profoundly non-aligned but also pacifist for many years, never really got behind the idea of RAW.
It was frequently poorly funded, and not backed by governments, which cut it adrift. Through this process of being loved and unloved, of being led but never allowed to lead, of failing to be chartered or provided with a constitutional role, RAW did calcify. It could not escape its police roots and its rigid promotional structures, however well its hard-working ingenious officers performed. This left it out of the running — globally, or marginalised in terms of languages, analyses, and tech, especially AI etc.
Whereas foreign intelligence elsewhere is looking to become like the societies around it, recruiting widely from them, RAW has become ideological with a recruiting pool that has not responded to faith, caste, class and linguistic challenges. It looks more like a version of 80s India told by foreigners than the agile new millennium. And we believe it is being kept like this, as is the police, so that they can be controlled for political dogfights. This transcends governments, and so it would be wrong to characterise this as simply a BJP innovation post-2014. Governments of all colours in previous years have had the chance to make dramatic changes but have bottled it.
You write that Kulbhushan Jadhav, languishing in a Pakistani jail since 2016, has become part of a tug of war between India and Pakistan. What’s your take on Jadhav?
Intelligence sources suggest Jadhav was likely an asset and not an officer, a source in the right location, able to traverse a deadly corridor between Iran, Karachi and India, who became desirable after 26/11 when intel needed new sources. Jadhav might have passed on tidbits that he heard and saw to India. Pakistan, in a classic intel operation, did not capture him but let him roam, tracking him, actively trying to grow this minnow into a whale, which it would then harpoon. This is the world of intelligence. Jadhav, Pakistan’s spies claim, was handed plans for an airbase in Pakistan, and as soon as he accepted them he became what ISI wanted him to be. India, some sources say, left him to dangle, neither protecting him nor training him, but hoping for the best. Whatever you believe, a married man with children in Mumbai, is now collateral seeking a Bridge of Spies trade. These versions which go far deeper are set out in the book.
“The high khaki class in Pakistan and India are cousins, which makes the spy war in some ways a family dispute.” The throwaway sentence in the Acknowledgements section of Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, is what defines and bedevils this ambitious book. The two authors have a reputation to protect, boasting an enviable record of investigative work, dealing with Kashmir, Pakistan and India, that has won them global acclaim and awards.
The 340-page book plays to the established strengths of the authors – a racy and gripping narrative, dramatic action, strong and powerful characters, access to powerful people on record, and a “fly on the wall” view to the reader. It is a three-part book, where the first part skims over the backstory between 1968 and 2000.
From 1968 to Davinder Singh
The authors choose 1968 because on 21 September that year, the Research and Analysis Wing or RAW was founded by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Its motto: “Justice protected, protects,” which seems more suited to a security agency providing cover to judges in court. The first part ends with the Kandahar hijacking episode, where India’s current NSA (then Additional Director in the Intelligence Bureau) Ajit Doval, the authors say, “would never forget being outplayed and losing traction with a government in Delhi that chose flight rather than fight”.
That government was headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee. After the “colossal intelligence failure” of hijacking, the book claims that a moratorium on RAW hot actions in Pakistan was lifted as India successfully launched an information war to build a narrative of Rawalpindi being the prime manipulator of regional terror.
In the second part, the book focuses on the period after the 9/11 bombings and traverses the decision-making in Pakistan to go with the US against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the events in Kashmir, and the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. It is now forgotten that Davinder Singh, the J&K Police officer dismissed from service in May without an enquiry in “the interest of the security of the state” after he was caught with an armed militant in his car, was deeply involved in the Parliament attack.
The book notes that “no court that sat for the Parliament attacks examined Davinder Singh’s role, and if they had, they might have been made aware that he was already being monitored by the security services that not only doubted his honesty but also questioned his patriotism”. In a tactic witnessed regularly to evade tough judgements, the authors dismiss this critical issue with a “Davinder Singh somehow wriggled free” without attempting to dig any further.
The communal card
The rest of the second part deals mostly with Pakistan and Kashmir during the Musharraf era: the Ilyas Kashmiri saga, Major Abdul Rehman Hashim Syed or “Pasha”, Daniel Pearl’s murder, Koka Parray’s killing, and assassination attempt on Musharraf. The 26/11 attacks on Mumbai are next, something the authors have gone through in their earlier book. Packed with too much detail, but scarcely any new revelations, the tale is taken forward through the eyes of a Pakistani intelligence operative called Major Iftikhar and a now-retired woman RAW officer, Monisha.
When it comes to 2010-11, Monisha, now based in the US, makes the revelation that “officials and activists allied to the religious right were becoming sectarian and politicised, in a mirror of forces that were corroding Pakistan”. The authors note that “an as yet unknown number of police officers, spies, and soldiers began to elevate their Hindu values over those of the secular Indian republic. They began to brazenly promote a Hindu land, whose neighbour was an Islamic one, to where India’s Muslim should go…”.
The book talks about communalisation of certain sections of RAW, as regional police chiefs were informed by IB in 2011 in a private meeting that “at least 16 bombing conspiracies had been linked to suspected Hindu militants, and that new intelligence detachments would have to be created to probe the far right-wing threat in India, just as Israel was doing with its home-grown Jewish right-wing chauvinists”.
Instead of frontally exploring the rise of Hindu militancy, the book in its characteristic manner ducks it by stating, “when the BJP was swept into government in 2014, and Ajit Doval was elevated to the job of National Security Adviser, the painful soul-searching was curtailed”. If only it was as harmless as soul-searching.
The Kashmir story
The final part deals with the events during the Narendra Modi regime, where the officials quoted on record are Doval and senior officials in his team. Pakistani officials are either those who have retired or unnamed, which is certain to raise eyebrows of any discerning reader.
This part covers young Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani’s killing, in which the authors contend – with little proof to substantiate their assertion – that Doval allowed Wani to be built into a larger-than-life Kashmiri hero. That he survived for so long, and that his death in 2016 broke the morale of the Kashmiri people – eventually paving the way for abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir – was all part of Doval’s grand design is a far-fetched proposition.
The authors appear to have overlooked the fact that there was a general election in between, and Article 370 was preceded by the announcement of the CAA and followed by the foundation-laying ceremony of the temple at Ayodhya, the other core issues of the Sangh Parivar.
This part also covers the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase, but doesn’t mention that it took place days after PM Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Nawaz Sharif’s residence, or that a Pakistani investigation team, including an ISI official, was invited by Doval to visit the Indian airbase. The 2016 “Surgical Strikes” are given a miss as well, but the Pulwama bombing and the Balakot airstrike are covered in some detail.
Even though the authors drop enough hints, the questions they raise about Pulwama and Balakot being “proactive operations” to help the political masters, which Doval didn’t answer, are tantalisingly left hanging.
The book is not without flaws. Unlike the authors’ earlier books, Spy Stories, because of its structure, is devoid of a plot and a gripping climax, which can make it a tough read for those who aren’t domain specialists. The structure also makes it a fragmented book, which risk being mistaken as nothing more than a few random spy stories thrown together.
This aspect becomes pronounced due to the absence of any significant discussion on the overall context in which these spy vs spy games were being played; the politics, diplomacy and the military are marked by their absence. The routine use of quotations to dramatically convey decades-old conversations ensures a smooth narrative, but raises serious questions about accuracy and recollection.
More problematic, however, is the equivalence that the book attempts to draw between India and Pakistan, two countries who chose diametrically different paths in 1947, even though the Hindu majoritarianism dominating Indian polity now seems to be a mirror image of Islamist extremism in Pakistan.
Still, the parallels between ISI and RAW are more contrived than real, and do not fit the formulaic CIA vs KGB framing of the Cold War, which the book attempts. That it is a book made possible by high-level access, which becomes abundantly clear in the last part, will be construed as an attempt to build Doval up as a national security hero, despite his patchy record as Modi’s NSA.
That the authors don’t question him about the intelligence failures that led to Uri, Pathankot, Pulwama or the crisis on the China border in Ladakh sticks out. Much was expected from ‘Spy Stories’ since it was first announced a couple of years ago but the book leaves the reader unconvinced and unsatisfied.
In the final analysis, if there is one word that can be chosen to describe the book, it is quixotic. It may well make it to the bestsellers’ list but it must be read carefully, with a critical eye, for all that it reveals and all that it doesn’t. The India-Pakistan story is too vivid and important to be limited to some stories about spies.
Sushant Singh is a senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research and a visiting lecturer at Yale University.
2008: India joins exclusive surveillance group
India joined exclusive surveillance group after 26/11, says book
The book, “Spy Stories – Inside the Secret World of the RAW and ISI”, releasing this week, says Pakistan’s entropy, despite being enriched with billions of dollars post 9/11, brought the American intelligence community, begrudgingly, to Delhi.
India, ignored by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) over Pakistan during America’s “war on terror” and the decades preceding it, became the member of an exclusive surveillance group after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, making it a formidable intelligence force, according to a book by journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark.
The book, “Spy Stories – Inside the Secret World of the RAW and ISI”, releasing this week, says Pakistan’s entropy, despite being enriched with billions of dollars post 9/11, brought the American intelligence community, begrudgingly, to Delhi.
In 2008, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), received an invite from US National Security Agency (NSA) to join a regional body known as SSPAC (Signals Intelligence Senior Pacific), which, the book says, was a “step up” for India, which had been trying to gain Washington’s attention for a very long time.
The members of this exclusive surveillance group included the so called Five Eyes countries – the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain – and also South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.
The SSPAC is a platform for sharing technical intelligence, and here countries pooled their signals, gathered through eavesdropping, but also built trust and learned new surveillance techniques from the world’s most powerful spy agencies.
The book says the RAW finally began breaking through and winning NSA plaudits. “The RAW officers were now ‘read into’ some highly classified reports and introduced to data produced by cutting-edge technology and coding that bored into Islamist hotspots.”
To find suspects and describe their associations – panning out to even wider friendship circles – involved pooling colossal amounts of sensitive metadata from an enormous volume of calls and messages in Five Eyes members states and (surreptitiously) beyond.
“This meant the sender and recipient details for emails, or the phone numbers someone called from, and to, as well as time stamps for when these messages, emails, and calls were sent and made. All of it would be funnelled into a new reference repository, known as SMAC, or the Sensitive Metadata Analytic Collaboration programme,” the authors write.
A significant part of the surveillance was “contact chaining,” a method used by British technical intelligence at GCHQ in Cheltenham, to describe entire networks linked to a single exposed phone. “Analysts examined calls, messages, and emails from one suspect and derived from them lists of others and their associates, building a matrix of association in top-secret projects, code-named CLASP and Prime Time,” the book adds. Subsequently, work on tracking Thuraya satellite phones as well as countering burner phones was developed by agencies. The face of Kashmir’s new wave of militancy, Burhan Wani (Hizbul Mujahideen commander), who was killed by security forces on July 8, 2016, was, in fact, constantly tracked though his Thuraya satellite phone, the book claims.
Quoting a RAW defector identified with her nom de guerre Monisha, the writers say that information for 26/11 had also come through SSAPC apart from 18 detailed briefs, with likely targets, numbers of attackers, etc shared by the CIA.
However, the ground for SSAPC had been laid in January 2004 itself, when India and the US, under former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, signed the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership”, that opened the way for Delhi to receive assistance with its civilian space programmes, high technology trade, missile defence efforts, and civilian nuclear activities.
Levy and Scott-Clark write the by-product was bringing the US and Indian militaries closer together, even the intelligence services, much further down the line, creating an alliance that would immediately concern Beijing. “Geopolitical fault lines had made Pakistan a necessity in 2001, but as Islamabad’s economy collapsed and its institutions crumbled, overcome by the terror war, so India began to shine by virtue of not succumbing, emerging as a bulwark to emerging superpower China,” the book says.
The writers add that the Congress party walked the country back from war after 26/11 and with its allies, constructed this (intelligence) grid.
By 2010, Levy and Scott-Clark write, the grid in Kashmir had become a formidable tool. “A matrix made of every kind of intelligence, compiled by multiple Indian agencies, and refined with US assistance and Israeli hardware and software, and driven by indigenous persistence.”
Comparing the intelligence agencies of the South Asian arch-rivals, the book says while ISI was battle-hardened, accomplished in unconventional warfare, tuned in to insurgencies all over the subcontinent, and flush with US dollars and Saudi riyals in the early days, RAW became more tech-savvy, thanks to a burgeoning relationship with the Mossad, and tactical shopping expeditions in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
“As Langley refused to supply Aabpara (referring to ISI headquarters) with eavesdropping and surveillance equipment, arguing that these would be used against India, the ISI fell behind,” the writers adds.
The journalists spoke to the who’s who of India and Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and security structure for the book over the years.
Spy vs Spy: ISI knew Kulbushan Jadhav was ‘small fry’, waited before snaring him, says new book
In the book 'Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI', the authors quote an unnamed colonel in the external intelligence wing of ISI as saying, “The ISI waited patiently, hoping to grow Jadhav into something special and then when he was big enough, as a target, ISI would pull him in."
Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) knew Kulbushan Jadhav was “small fry” but waited to “manufacture a big, fat Indian catch”.
Indian intelligence agencies infiltrated Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s circles and waited for foreign militants to join him.
On the 26/11 attack, foreign agencies sent 18 detailed briefs, including likely targets in Mumbai, the number of attackers, their route, and method — but all this intelligence was “largely ignored”.
These are some of the claims in Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, journalist couple Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark’s latest book, published by Juggernaut, on the alleged secret dealings of Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies.
While the authors have pieced together the anecdotes in the book from talking to several high-profile serving and retired spies, their main sources are two lesser-known, mid-level ex-officers, one in the ISI and the other R&AW. The ISI officer, identified by his nom de guerre ‘Major Iftikhar’, is supposed to have taken part in several ISI operations, including in Kashmir, before going rogue. The former R&AW officer, identified as ‘Monisha’, too got disillusioned by the agency she served and is now settled in the US, the authors write.
On Jadhav — who was arrested in Balochistan in 2016 on charges of being an Indian spy and who has been languishing in a Pakistan jail since then — the authors write that ISI used the network of Uzair Baloch, a Karachi-based “landlord, trader, thug, local hero, robber, and philanthropist” with “deep connections into Iranian Baluchistan”, to spy in the Iranian port city of Chabahar.
Sometime in 2014, in a compound in Chabahar, the ISI “identified men they believed to be RAW officers and they puzzled over one repeat visitor they did not know… He was not an Iranian. But he appeared to be running a marine freight business from there,” the book quotes an ISI officer.
The authors quote an unnamed colonel in the external intelligence wing of ISI as saying, “The ISI waited patiently, hoping to grow Jadhav into something special and then when he was big enough, as a target, ISI would pull him in”.
The book says Jadhav was outraged by the Parliament attack of 2001 and offered to assist Indian agencies.
Four years after 26/11, Jadhav reported something that was too good to be true. “He told the people he was speaking to that he had managed to work his way into the Baloch family of Lyari. His contact was a nephew of Uzair Baloch,” says the book.
Jadhav had thus “been ensnared by the ISI which had been dangling the Baloch family, hoping he would bite… The game was on… a Karachi crime family serving ISI to buy their freedom; the ISI that wanted to manufacture a big, fat Indian catch”.
On Kashmiri militant and Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose killing in 2016 set off protests across the Valley, Levy and Scott-Clark say he could have been killed earlier, but Indian agencies had infiltrated his internal circle, and kept him under constant surveillance, using him to trap foreign militants.
“More people of every kind wanted in. Veterans risked the LoC crossing into India, without knowing that the NTRO and RAW were constantly monitoring them, Burhan Wani acting like flypaper for the Indian intelligence community,” they write.
Wani was shot dead on July 8, 2016, in a village named Bamdora, where he was hiding with some accomplices. “Outside the Valley, in New Delhi, something had shifted,” the journalists say. On the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the authors say what “unfolded on 26/11 was so close to the intelligence excavated by Western agencies”, who had an undeclared, high value source in David Headley, the Pakistani-American Lashkar terrorist who is serving a prison sentence in the US.
Indian agencies had been told by the US to safeguard the targets — intelligence that went “largely ignored”.
The book quotes Monisha as saying, “I was unable to get traction in Lodhi Road [R&AW]… What mattered was whether India bothered to develop the intelligence from GCHQ and the NSA before the raid. Or did we fail, through laziness, or – worse still – by intent?”
A forthcoming book, “Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and ISI”, by two American authors has detailed their active involvement in a back channel connection between India’s top security managers and their Pakistani counterparts. Highly respected Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, who have written well received books on the region, made startling claims on Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Pulwama and Pathankot attacks, Burhan Wani and the Mumbai attacks.
On Jadhav, for which the primary source is a middle-level ISI officer gone rogue, the authors write that he was not an Indian intelligence officer but after basing himself in Iran, he was outraged by the Mumbai attacks and had offered his services to the intelligence services. The Pakistanis had spotted him meeting RAW men and had baited him by using a Baloch strongman with connections in Iran.
The authors claim that the ISI had got them to tell NSA Ajit Doval that it was not involved in the Pulwama attacks. It was the handiwork of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) which had planned it in Afghanistan and was intended to start a regional war. But Doval and Deputy NSA Rajinder Khanna disbelieved the Pakistani messages and India decided to carry out the Balakot air strikes to “humiliate the Pakistan military”.
They were told by a former RAW officer that the Pathankot airbase attack by four JeM terrorists was facilitated by “corrupt local police officers” but the NIA charge-sheet has no mention of that.
Burhan Wani’s whereabouts were known to the security forces but they did not deliberately kill him for a long time as they used him as `flypaper’ to trap other militants, they claim. The book also dwells on the 1999 Indian Airlines’ flight IC-814 hijack, which Doval says was a “diplomatic failure”.
The authors have quoted from interviews by Doval, Khanna, former Defence Intelligence chief Lt Gen Vinod Khandare and former IB chief Asif Ibrahim. They have also claimed that Saudi Arabia has played the role of mediator between India and Pakistan.
We called around. ISI officers gave us more context on what we were seeing play out. Iftikhar chimed in too. They described how Aabpara had canvassed to operate deeper in their strategic western border region, because the Iranian port of Chabahar vied with Pakistan’s deep-water docks of Gwadar to become a pre-eminent marine staging post. Located only 72 km apart, these two harbours in neighbouring countries influenced the strategic balance of the region.
Gwadar — in the Gulf of Oman, close to the Strait of Hormuz — gave China (Pakistan’s patron) access to the Indian Ocean, and the ability to monitor US and Indian naval activity in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Chabahar, backed by India and a station for RAW, enabled India to observe Pakistani and Chinese naval activity, and sought to make Iran the gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, and beyond.
Former chief of C-Wing, Lt Gen Naeem told us: “Progress in the Chabahar region was painfully slow because ISI fouled its network.” The handing over to Iran of the Rigi brothers, the Jundullah founders, who were hanged, set Iranian Sunni fighters against the ISI. “We had not much left.”
Iftikhar [an ISI officer, identified by his nom de guerre] learned from officers in the Karachi Det that ISI had found a solution in that city. “Aabpara latched on to a home-grown Karachi bandit with deep connections into Iranian Baluchistan.” This man was a landlord, trader, thug, local hero, robber, and philanthropist. His name was Uzair Baloch, and he ran a profitable syndicate in the tenements of Lyari, one of Karachi’s oldest neighbourhoods, where dense lanes were home to duelling gangs.
Uzair Baloch had an irresistible provenance. He was the cousin of the former kingpin of Lyari, a legendary gangster-philanthropist whose death in a police shootout in 2009 had triggered political and criminal vendettas. To assert his thug empire, Uzair had abducted his main competitor, Arshad Pappu, his brother, and a friend. They were driven to Lyari and tortured, before being publicly decapitated. Pappu’s head was used as a football, while his body was dragged behind a donkey cart, set on fire, and thrown into a sewer.
The entire sequence had been filmed and uploaded to social media. When paramilitary Karachi Rangers stormed Lyari looking to arrest Uzair and restore the reputational damage done to Pakistan, he fled to Muscat where he was not welcome. When he crossed the border into the UAE, the National Electronic Security Authority (NESA), which did not want him either, tipped off the ISI. “Uzair was told that his old life was gone forever,” Iftikhar said. “And now he had to decide what he wanted to become.”
Uzair had travel documents that enabled him to cross the Pakistan-Iran border freely, and a nephew, who still lived in Lyari, had a deep network that ran from Karachi to Baluchistan and into Iran. A brigadier in the ISI Baluchistan Det confirmed the story. “Aabpara made an offer to keep him out of the Pakistan courts, so long as he signed up to the ISI’s counter-intelligence operation that aimed to snag India and make headway in Iran,” he said.
ISI officers in Karachi described how after Uzair agreed to have his network spy inside Chabahar, he was flown back to Pakistan in 2014 and “moved into a safe house guarded by the army’s V Corps and Covert Action Division operators.” After some months, Uzair’s network, suborned by the ISI, zeroed in on one compound in Chabahar secured by the Revolutionary Guard.
Soon they identified men they believed to be RAW officers and they puzzled over one repeat visitor they did not know. This stranger was followed back to the nearby port city of Bandar Abbas. “He was not an Iranian. But he appeared to be running a marine freight business from there,” an ISI officer claimed. This “ferryman” was watched as he travelled into Pakistan, heading for Karachi, where the Baloch family was waiting.
Acting for ISI, it reached out to the ferryman, and obtained a copy of his travel document, number E6934766, issued in Pune in India, in the name of Hussein Mubarak Patel. It stated he was a Muslim and, according to one ISI briefing note, “inside were seven entry and exit stamps for India and two visas for Iran, issued in India.” He moved in Muslim circles in Iran, washing, praying, and eating with them. However, according to the ISI, Baloch’s network finally spotted something jarring — the Muslim ferryman was uncircumcised. Whatever he was, he was not a Muslim.
Iftikhar messaged. He had the bit between his teeth. “Officers I talked to claim they photographed the ferryman making contact in Baluchistan and Sindh with individuals and groups who belonged to outlawed groups.” Iftikhar added a caveat. He could not decide if this information was real or if the ISI had found a way of manipulating a naive Indian trader, travelling incognito. He preferred the latter theory — that a hapless man had walked into an ISI trap. Iftikhar vanished, saying he was going to explore this avenue.
We got in touch with ISI officers in Karachi, who claimed that the next time the Baloch brothers got to look at Jadhav’s papers, they found he had a second travel passport. Its number was L9630722, issued in 2014, expiring on May 11, 2024. This one came from Thane and gave Jadhav’s place of birth as Sangli in Maharashtra, which was a slip as this was where the real Jadhav was born on April 16, 1970.
“It was a lucky strike,” the ISI officer told us. The document was registered to a home in Mumbai — C-11, Jasdanwala Complex. This place belonged to Avanti Jadhav, the wife of an assistant commissioner of police, Sudhir Jadhav, Kulbhushan’s parents.
Iftikhar was incredulous: “A real birthplace and home address; living, reachable people. The game was up. Even if Jadhav had done nothing, he was an Indian serviceman, travelling with two sets of papers, issued under an assumed identity, with a religion that was not his, but with official visas, issued in India. And one of these passports was linked to the man’s real family. Tradecraft is everything,” he sniffed. “But in this case, there was none. And Jadhav was now the ISI’s mark.”
The Indian sailor was small fry and the ISI intended to turn him into an enormous trophy, a C-Wing brigadier told us. A colonel in B-Wing, external intelligence, based in Europe, agreed. “The ISI waited patiently, hoping to grow Jadhav into something special and then when he was big enough, as a target, the ISI. would pull him in,” he claimed.
Excerpted with permission from Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI (published by Juggernaut Books)
Using foreign journalists to talk to ISI after Pulwama
Journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark claim in their new book that Pakistan denied involvement in the 2019 Pulwama attack, something Indian agencies didn’t believe.
New Delhi: A senior official from National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval’s office and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) exchanged messages with officials of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) through two foreign journalists — Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark — in the 2018-19 period, a new book written by the duo has claimed.
According to the book, back-channel talks also took place following the Pulwama attack in February 2019 that killed about 40 CRPF personnel.
The book claims that ISI officials distanced themselves from the attack, saying it was planned in Afghanistan. They also denied the Indian charges that the suicide bomber, Adil Dar, a Kashmiri, was “launched from Pakistan”.
The book, Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of The R.A.W (R&AW) and I.S.I, which is releasing this week, claims that Indian agencies did not believe the Pakistani messages and maintained that the Jaish-e-Mohammed, allegedly backed by Islamabad, had “armed Dar” and so was responsible for the attack.
The journalists have also written that Islamabad reiterated that carrying out such an attack would “push Pakistan over the edge — from greylist to blacklist in at the Financial Action Task Force (F.A.T.F.) in Paris” and cited “blacklisting, as one forceful reason for Pakistan having no direct involvement”. Indian agencies, though, did not believe them.
The journalists claim they had conversations with Lt Gen. Nusrat Naeem, the ISI’s former C-Wing chief; former RAW chief Rajinder Khanna, who is now a deputy NSA, and military defence official Lt Gen. Vinod Khandare.
The book states that Pakistan maintained it had nothing to do with the Jaish.
Referring to an exchange, the journalists have written that while they were on a call, messages arrived from “an I.S.I. officer in its A-Wing, the analysis section, that stressed that Jaish remained an I.S.I. target and was on its ‘kill list’”.
“We read one of these out to Khandare: ‘For the last sixteen years, after Jaish tried to repeatedly kill Musharraf and many other officers, the ISI has been hunting down its fighters and striking them. They are in our crosshairs – do not forget,” it claims.
Khandare, however, disagreed, the book claims.
“You know, terror has no reason or season,” the book quotes Khandare as having said. “Plans are seeded and then gestate. They go off like rockets on short fuses. Do not judge an atrocity by its timing. Judge Pakistan on its record. Pulwama bomber Adil Dar was a Kashmiri. True. But he was in the thrall of an outfit that has its bases inside Pakistan…”
According to the authors, NSA Ajit Doval “assured them” that a report on Pulwama was coming, and it “would lay bare” the ISI’s involvement.
According to the authors, India then carried out the Balakot air strikes, which Doval reportedly said was “pivotal for India”.
“What really matters is the operation itself, that India has changed its strategic calculations,” Doval is quoted as having said.
Talking about the 2016 Pathankot airbase attack in which seven security personnel were killed, the authors claim that “corrupt local police officers were suspected of scouting the airbase”.
“Jaish had paid for the 350 kilos of explosives but they had been procured in India and the haul was waiting for the raiding party on the Indian side,” the book claims. “Indian allies, including corrupt local police officers, were suspected of scouting the airbase.”
According to the authors, one “dirty” cop had found an area where there were “multiple vulnerabilities: the floodlights were down, and the C.C.T.V. cameras had no coverage. There was no surveillance equipment of any kind and a large tree grew beside the perimeter wall that one written report identified as a security hazard.”
According to the authors, an Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer also told them that the police officer or one of his collaborators had “climbed up and attached a rope”.
“The raiders had used it to heave over 50 kilos of ammunition, and 30 kilos of grenades, mortars, and AK-47s,” the IB officer is quoted as having said.
The book also says that several key pieces of protection were “missing”, “despite constant warnings”.
“More than 91 kilometres of the Punjab border was not fenced. At least four reports had suggested that rivers (and dry creaks) were vulnerable spots, but no nets were pegged across them,” the authors quoted a BSF officer as having told them. “There were no extra patrols, despite six written requests. Surveillance technology and movement trackers had not been deployed. The B.S.F. was thin on the ground because it concentrated its activities in Kashmir, and its requests for more men had been ignored, repeatedly.”
Pathankot airbase attack
New Delhi, Aug 13 (PTI) "Corrupt local police officers" were suspected to have scouted the Pathankot airbase before the terror attack at the IAF facility in 2016 and one of them identified a no-surveillance spot which was used by the raiders to heave ammunition, grenades, mortars, and AK-47s, a new book has claimed. This claim has been made by journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark in their book "Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the R.A.W. and the I.S.I." On January 2, 2016, a team of gunmen wearing Indian army fatigues waded through a branch of the Ravi river on the India-Pakistan Punjab border. Arriving on the Indian side, the men hijacked vehicles and drove towards the sprawling Pathankot Air Force base. Scaling a perimeter wall, they recovered in the long grass and then ran towards a residential compound where the first gun fight crackled. Four attackers were killed as also three members of the Indian security forces. Four more Indian soldiers died the following day in an IED blast. It took three days for the security forces to be certain they were back in control. India responded by heaping pressure on battle-weary Pakistan, threatening war, the authors say. "But internal reporting by combined intelligence was coruscating and painfully honest. It acknowledged that several key pieces of protection were missing, despite constant warnings. More than 91 kilometres of the Punjab border was not fenced," they write. "At least four reports had suggested that rivers (and dry creaks) were vulnerable spots, but no nets were pegged across them. There were no extra patrols, despite six written requests. Surveillance technology and movement trackers had not been deployed," they say. They also quote a BSF officer telling them that the border guarding force was "thin on the ground because it concentrated its activities in Kashmir, and its requests for more men had been ignored repeatedly". On the Pathankot strike, Levy and Scott-Clark say that terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed had paid for the 350 kilos of explosives but they had been procured in India and the haul was waiting for the raiding party on the Indian side. "Indian allies, including corrupt local police officers, were suspected of scouting the airbase. One of these dirty cops had found an area where there were multiple vulnerabilities: the floodlights were down, and the C.C.T.V. cameras had no coverage. There was no surveillance equipment of any kind and a large tree grew beside the perimeter wall that one written report identified as a security hazard," the book, published by Juggernaut, says. An I.B. officer who investigated the case told the authors that the "police officer or one of his collaborators had climbed up and attached a rope. The raiders had used it to heave over 50 kilos of ammunition, and 30 kilos of grenades, mortars, and AK-47s used in the strike". The heavily armed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants sneaked into the air base, killing six soldiers and an officer. Four militants were gunned down by the Indian security forces. The authors write that after the Pulwama attack, "spy games were at play by seasoned officers on both sides of the border who knew that once the past was edited the future remained clouded". The book also mentions how ISI considered Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer on death row in Pakistan over espionage charges, a "small fry" and "intended to turn him into an enormous trophy". They quote an unnamed officer connected with the ISI who says, "The I.S.I. waited patiently, hoping to grow Jadhav into something special and then when he was big enough, as a target, the I.S.I. would pull him in." PTI ZMN GSN ZMN ZMN