In Bollywood’s fantasised version, when a RAW agent has had “enough” of the spying business, he deserts his agency and leave for an unknown location with his lady love, to live happily ever after. That’s what Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif starrer Ek Tha Tiger would like us to believe.
But such espionages are limited to movies only. In real life, Indian spies trade their loyalties not for love per se, but for Western comfort and currency. Twelve years back, when Ravinder Singh, a senior RAW officer escaped to the US with the aid of the American CIA, the rot within the office first became public.
On 7 May 2004, Singh flew to America along with his wife from Nepal’s Kathmandu Airport using fake aliases of Mr and Mrs Rajpal Prasad Sharma. The RAW for the first time, admitted that Singh slipped out of its hands although he was under the agency’s scanner. Interestingly, the escape was not new to RAW; this was the ninth time a RAW official moved to America or the Western European soil on the sly.
The story of corruption and greed in RAW can be traced back to its initial years. But it took the escape of Ravinder Singh to jolt the agency out of its stupor, so much so, that the case reached the table of Manmohan Singh, then Prime Minister.
It all started with Sikander Lal Malik, the personal assistant of RAW founder RN Kao. While being posted in the US, Malik disappeared, which raised doubts that he was bought over the CIA. To save itself from the big embarrassment, the case was kept under the wraps by RAW for a long time. All this while, Malik must have flourished in the American soil, plump with the bags of green dollars he gained in the exchange.
A 2004 report in the Outlook magazine produced a list of RAW officials who threw dust into the very eyes of an agency that was looking after the foreign intelligence affair. MS Sehgal, an aid of ex-RAW chief Girish Saxena, vanished in the streets of London in 1980, while working as an attaché. In the early eighties, senior RAW official BR Bachhar disappeared in London too, with allegations of his links with foreign intelligence bureaus.
NY Bhaskar, an ex-envoy, procured a US Green Card citizenship and then disappeared in America. The RAW suspected that the CIA had a hand on it. There are several other instances when more such top officials associated with RAW just vanished in thin air once they touched the foreign soil. And interestingly enough, the point of disappearance would either be London or some part of the US. It was a pattern, not sheer coincidence.
The comfort of the Western soil is something that most Indians can’t say no to. In a typical case of the colonised mind, even the people who work for India’s inner security can’t resist the lure of a comfortable Western lifestyle.