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Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)

What is R&AW?

R&AW short for Research and Analysis Wing is the external intelligence collecting agency of the Republic of India. Headquartered in CGO Complex, Delhi it is headed by its Chief who is a Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat. It came into existence on 21st Day of September in the year 1968. Gathering intelligence, caring out counter terrorism activities and advising the government on foreign relations are some of the key functions of the organisation. Rameshwar Nath Kao, the Indian spymaster was chosen by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi to be the first Chief of Research and Analysis Wing.

Image Source: India’s External Intelligence by Major General VK Singh

The organisation directly reports to the Prime Minister (unlike IB which comes under Ministry of Home Affairs) hence the details to it is not known to the Parliament. The funding, employees and many details about the agency are kept classified.

R&AW not RAW

Image Source: India’s External Intelligence by Major General VK Singh

The agency is often referred to as RAW (acronym for Research & Analysis Wing) by the masses, but it was rather frowned upon and R&AW was preferred. The staff refer to the organisation as the Cabinet Secretariat as the Chief is the secretary to the same.

Story behind the Logo

Image Source: India’s External Intelligence by Major General VK Singh

Amar Bhushan (then Additional Secretary Personnel) was the one who took upon himself the get the R&AW logo designed but which rather proved as nothing but waste of taxpayer money. As it couldn’t be used anywhere for security reasons obviously.

Need for a separate organisation?

The Republic of India had the Intelligence Bureau (IB) since 1887 (then known as Central Special Branch) then why did we need another agency? Primarily because IB was created keeping in check the internal security and had very few assets and man force focusing on external sector threats. This showed the infectiveness during the 1962 Sino Indian War as the IB failed to detect the build-up of the Chinese Military close to its borders. And after the war with Pakistan in 1965 the demand for a separate external intelligence agency was being felt.

Achievements of the Agency

· Balakot Air Strike

Operations carried outside territory of the Republic of India are dependent on the intel provided by R&AW. The detailed mapping of Pakistan was done by the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) which is an organ of the R&AW.

Image Source: Kitne Ghazi Aaye Kitne Ghazi Gaye by Lieutenant General KJS Dhillon

· Operation Smiling Buddha and Operation Shakti

On 18th May 1974, in the Army Test Range in Pokhran, Rajasthan the Republic of India carried out a nuclear bomb test (Operation Smiling Buddha). In May of 1998, 5 tests nuclear bomb test explosion were conducted at the same range (Operation Shakti). Planning and covertly execution of both were the responsibilities of the R&AW and it was a key requirement to keep them a secret or else India would be stopped from carrying out such tests. The following is regarded as one of the biggest intelligence failures of the CIA, USA.

In Picture: Site of the explosion during Operation Shakti Image Source: Hindustan Times

· 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War

R&AW played a key role in the 1971 War, not only in providing intelligence but they also trained and ( allegedly) provided weapons to the Mukhti Bahini ( guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians). R&AW under RN Kao and the Indian Army under Field Marshal (then Army Chief) Sam Mankeshaw worked together to help liberate and form the country of Bangladesh. This victory led to surrender of 93,000 Pakistani Soldiers which is the largest number surrender in history.

In Picture: 93000 Soldiers of the Pakistan Army being taken POW Image Source: The Wire

· Nuclear Blue Prints of Pakistan

R&AW had become suspicious of Pakistan being able to enrich uranium enough to obtain weapon grade uranium. In Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory R&AW officers tracked many scientists and finally were able to get the sample of hair of a scientist from a barber shop in Kahuta. R&AW then managed to convince the scientist to sell us the nuclear blue prints to which the scientist demanded the sum of $10,000. The following was not granted by the then Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Moraji Desai and he also during a telephonic conversation revealed to the then President of Pakistan, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. ISI upon get head of the news eliminated quite a big part of the network of R&AW agents in Pakistan.

This mission may not be a success but still getting till the point of almost successfully being in possession of the nuclear blueprints of Pakistan was no small feat Many even said R&AW had almost achieved such a thing which not even Israel’s Mossad could.

Shortcomings of the Agency

· Lack of Accountability

Image Source: India’s External Intelligence by Major General VK Singh

As the agency is not answerable to anyone, there is no one keeping a check on the working and there are no performance reviews. Many sources say R&AW is nothing like on would expect an intelligence agency to be, it works just like any other government department. The workers are slacking off and not too focused on carrying out their work.

· Rivalry between R&AW, Military Intelligence (MI) and IB

Image Source: India’s External Intelligence by Major General VK Singh

As said above and from data from other sources, the agencies not sharing intel and infrastructure has both wasted money and resources. Many speculate, many more terrorist activities could be stopped if the same was to be done. All the intel is reported to the National Security Advisor which intern reaches the Prime Minister.

· No option but to rely on the integrity of the officer concerned

Image Source: India’s External Intelligence by Major General VK Singh

As the work R&AW carries out is kept under wraps and the identities of these spies and the funds being sent to them are known only to the officer who controls them, the only thing stopping such an officer from being corrupt and pocketing the funds for themselves is to trust their integrity. Asking for the information of all such agents could be a major security hazard hence this practice still continues.

Major General VK SINGH even writes there is gossip about some officer who might be sending funds to his daughter studying abroad showing her as one of the assets. (This part is just a speculation and not backed my any concrete evidence)


The organisation has massive potential to carry out operations, espionage, and collect intelligence and they should make sure to utilise it fully instead of enjoying it like a leisure government job. R&AW is practically free form all red tapes, no worker unions and no one to scrutinize their actions. Having carried out really important operations in the past and having assisted the government of the Republic of India R&AW has proved its worth and justified the need for its existence, but still there are shortcomings to everything and if not fixed in time this might cause a major intelligence failure in the future which could turn out as a huge mistake. The leadership at the agency should start acting up and performing better in managing the resources it has. At an inter organisation level, government shall ensure that all agencies share the intel with each other and if possible, even share infrastructure (example sectors like Shankaracharya Hill).

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