Deccan Chronicle, 28 Jan 2000

India plots against Pak, says US report

From Ashish Kumar Sen

San Francisco:

India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, has been engaged in disinformation campaigns, espionage and sabotage against Pakistan and other neighbouring countries, according to a report put out by the Washington DC-based Federation of American Scientists. The report says India’s external intelligence agency has enjoyed the backing of successive Indian governments in these efforts. “Working directly under the Prime Minister, the structure, rank, pay and perks of the Research and Analysis Wing are kept secret from Parliament. The RAW and the Ministry of External Affairs are provided Rs 25 crore annually as ‘discretionary grants’ for foreign influence operations.

These funds have supported organisations fighting Sikh and Kashmiri separatists in the United Kingdom, Canada and the US,” it says. John Pike, the author of the report, told this correspondent in a telephone interview from his office in Washington DC that the number of reports supporting claims that the RAW was involved in disruptive activity in Pakistan were abundant and in “sufficient detail to lend credibility to that claim.”

“Everything I read made it clear this was anti-Pakistan clandestine political warfare. Its (the RAW’s) motivation and the Indian government’s motivation was easy to understand,” Pike said. The FAS is a privately funded non-profit policy organisation whose board of sponsors includes half of America’s living Nobel laureates. Interestingly, Islamabad had accused the RAW of playing an active role in the recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane.

Pike, however, brushed aside such charges as being frivolous. “It would be very unusual for an intelligence agency to mastermind an operation which had the potential of endangering its own country’s citizens,” he reasoned.

“If something did go wrong, it would have been an awfully big disaster. And if a subsequent investigation were to show the RAW was behind it, it would decimate the organisation,” he said, adding: “Intelligence agencies have an instinct for self-preservation. They wouldn’t want to destroy themselves.”

He, however, said the amount of information on the hijacking could not “confidently sustain” charges of Pakistan’s role in the incident. Pike denied the existence of a “foreign hand” in any of the violence in either India or Pakistan saying it was not in the interest of any other country to cause trouble in the region.

While admitting Russia might be providing training and assistance to the RAW, he said it was not directly participating in the trouble making. Similarly, the Chinese may also be training Pakistani security personnel.

“China might have a small hand in the political violence in India, but this is purely speculative,” Pike said. Current policy debates in India have generally failed to focus on the relative priority given by the RAW to activities directed against India’s neighbours versus attention to domestic affairs to safeguard India’s security and territorial integrity, the report observes, adding the RAW has had “limited success” in dealing with separatist movements in Manipur, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Kashmir.

“In 1968, India established this special branch of its intelligence service specifically targeting Pakistan. The formation of the RAW was based on the belief that Pakistan was supplying weapons to Sikh terrorists, and providing shelter and training to the militants in Pakistan,” Pike said. Pakistan has accused the RAW of sponsoring sabotage in Punjab, where the agency is alleged to have supported the Seraiki movement, providing financial support to promote its activities in Pakistan and organising an International Seraiki Conference in New Delhi in November-December 1993.

The report says the RAW has an extensive network of agents and anti-government elements within Pakistan, including dissident elements from various sectarian and ethnic groups of Sindh and Punjab.

Published reports allege that as many as 35,000 RAW agents have entered Pakistan between 1983-93, with 12,000 working in Sindh, 10,000 in Punjab 8,000 in the North West Frontier Province and 5,000 in Baluchistan. As many as 40 terrorist training camps at Rajasthan, east Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India are “run by the RAW’s Special Service Bureau.”

Throughout the Afghan war, “the RAW was responsible for the planning and execution of terrorist activities in Pakistan” to deter Pakistan from supporting the Afghan liberation movement against India’s ally, the Soviet Union. The assistance provided to the RAW by the KGB enabled it to “arrange terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities throughout the Afghan war.”

“The defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan did not end the role of the RAW in Pakistan, with reports that suggest India has established a training camp in the town of Qadian, in east Punjab, where non-Muslim Pakistanis are trained for terrorist activities,” Pike said.

Touching on the ISI’s role in disruptive activities, the report describes Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence as having become “a state within a state,” answerable neither to the leadership of the Army, nor to the President or the Prime Minister.

The result is there has been no real supervision of the ISI, and corruption, narcotics and big money have all come into play, further complicating the political scenario. Drug money is used by the ISI to finance not only the Afghanistan war, but also the proxy war against India in Punjab and Kashmir.

“Personnel working for both the RAW and the ISI are getting paid huge salaries. It would be very difficult to understand what else they have been doing, other than creating trouble in each other’s countries,” Pike said, defending his charges against the intelligence agencies.

He admitted that both the ISI and the RAW are far less active than allegations made by Indian and Pakistani governments suggest. “There is plenty of spontaneous domestic trouble in both countries that gets blamed on either the RAW or the ISI.”

He felt the recent decision by Washington and New Delhi to set up a joint working group on terrorism would, to some extent, curb the activities of both the intelligence agencies. “Both organisations are the main cause of tension between the two countries.

It’s easier for governments to discuss nuclear missiles, but then there is no talk of the clandestine political warfare these two intelligence agencies are involved in,” Pike said. He underlined the seriousness of the activities both organisations indulge in saying in conclusion: “People are actually getting killed in such operations. Nuclear weapons are just a threat so far, here it is difficult to monitor such violence which has a potential to escalate into something much bigger.”