Raw Treatment For Ex-RAW Man

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New Delhi, Sep 28 (UNI) A retired army and intelligence officer whose expose of questionable practices in spying on other countries led to a ''search'' of his premises wonders what is so secret about external intelligence.

''They have nothing secret,'' Maj Gen V K Singh, author of India's External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), told journalists yesterday afternoon albeit making an exception for a need to protect sources of intelligence.

Gen Singh who was the Chief Signal Officer of the Western command when he retired after a 37 year service in the Army joined the RAW in November 2000 where he served up to June 2004.

He said the raid on his premises by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday came out of the blue. Gen Singh has been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act (OSA) on the ground that his book reveals secrets that can affect national security.

''The charter of RAW is external intelligence. Any secrets it has pertain to foreign countries. RAW does not possess any information regarding India's defence capability, war plans, nuclear potential, space facilities, missile technology... disclosure of information held by RAW can harm the national security of foreign countries, not India,'' a statement at the newsmeet said.

''It doesn't hurt our national interest or security,'' said Gen Singh, sharing the dais with former Intelligence Bureau joint director M K Dhar, author of Operation Triple X: An Indian Spy-run In Pakistan and publisher Vivek Garg.

He said the raiders seized his computer and documents, including account and other personal data.They even took away his passport.

''All this is sheer harassment.'' A chapter in the book headlined For A Few Pieces Of Silver dealt with the Special Protection Group's acquisition of a Motorola communication system American or even Pakistani intelligence could have tapped to know the Indian Prime Minister's exact movements and security measures.

''It was a horrifying prospect,'' Gen Singh recalled. ''I was reminded of the biblical story, in which Jesus was betrayed by one of his own apostles, for a few pieces of silver.'' The statement demanded why no action has been initiated against officers involved in the purchase of Motorola equipment ''of doubtful security'' without clearance by India's Systems Analysis Group.

Gen Singh emphasised need for Parliamentary oversight of the way the RAW and other security agencies work.

He said the only time an effort was made to introduce an oversight machanism was during Prime Minister V P Singh's tenure at the suggestion of Jaswant Singh who was then Chairman of the Lok Sabha's Estimates Committee. He said most officers favoured it because they felt that it would make them less vulnerable to undesirable pressures from the executive. However, the move fell through with the Singh government's exit due to withdrawal of support by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The SPG, raised after Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984, has over the years ''expanded not not only in size but also in authority,'' Gen Singh observed.

The statement also touched on other purchases, including some overpriced antenna from Germany, demanding action against officers responsible.

Gen Singh also raised issues of transparency and accountablity in the employment practices pursued in the agency.He pointed ouy how ,its present chief did not attend office for eight months when he was superceded for promotion from additional secretary to special secretary.

He also cited how RAW officer Rabinder Singh fled to the United States in May 2004 ''facilitated by several senior officers ''in the spy agency.

He questioned the system's failure to initiate actions against such goings-on.


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