Of ISI, RAW and the covert option

Of ISI, RAW and the covert option

The difference between Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies is in their ability to form policy, says Vikram Sood

The main difference between the Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies is in their ability to form policy in the country, said former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing Vikram Sood, listing the resources available to the two agencies as another disparity.

“Inter-Services-Intelligence [ISI, of Pakistan] decides policy, while the Research and Analysis Wing is a service provider to the policy makers,” said Mr. Sood. “The Army is now the largest corporate sector in Pakistan. It runs different industries. When the [RAW] is asked, we provide assessments. The ISI is the clandestine core of the Pakistan Army, which decides ties with India and Afghanistan,” he added. Mr. Sood’s view was, however, contested by an audience question about whether RAW didn’t play a “larger” role in India’s neighbourhood.

“Covert [operations] is my business, but it will not be at variance with the overt policy of the government. We are essentially a service provider, with a covert option,” Mr. Sood said.

Book launch

The candid comments from the former spy chief were made at the launch of his book on Indian espionage entitled “The Unending Game,” which looks at the works of intelligence agencies starting from the 1965 war with China, just before Mr. Sood joined as an officer, infiltration by the Russian intelligence agency KGB into the Indian leadership through the 1970s, attempts to infiltrate by the U.S. agency CIA, events leading up to the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999 and through to his stint as secretary, RAW from 2000 to 2003 after which he retired. However, he clarified that the book was a manual on intelligence rather than a personal memoir.

Speaking about the book, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said intelligence agencies were often blamed unfairly when there was an attack or infiltration, though their warnings go unheeded.

The event in Delhi on Monday was attended by several former intelligence chiefs and senior officials of the service.

Launching the book, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani took aim at officials who write “tell-all memoirs” and distinguished Mr. Sood’s book from them. “To sell a book, Mr. Sood didn’t break his oath of secrecy,” Ms. Irani said.

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