It’s been a season of retrospection and sensation. Explosive memoirs of men who roamed the corridors of power, have made their way to Indian bookshelves. Public servants who reached the highest of echelons introduced us to the obscure ways of New Delhi and confirmed our worst fears. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe the old hands wished to be under the spotlight one last time. Nevertheless, they did make us sit up and take notice.
After the new government took over last year, two prominent faces associated with the previous government came out with their books. Projecting the old regime in a bad light, these books sought to capitalise on the tide which was clearly with the new regime. The ex-Prime Minister’s media advisor Sanjay Baru penned a book which spoke about the influence Sonia wielded upon Manmohan Singh. The retired coal secretary P C Parekh’s book spoke about how the ex-Prime Minister helplessly watched as the coal scam took place. Recently, another former public servant Amarjit Singh Dulat came out with his memoirs. Dulat was head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s primary foreign intelligence agency.
The Research and Analysis Wing or RAW obtains and analyses information about foreign governments and corporations. It is also involved with India’s nuclear programme. It takes part in anti-terror operations and covert operations to safeguard India’s national interests. The contents of Dulat’s book, at least the sensational bits that the media was quick to catch on to, seem ridiculous at first glance. But this article will refrain from speaking about his claims or their merits and demerits. In fact, they should never have made it to the public domain.
Some will say a stand like this reeks of political double standards. It’s a double standard alright, but a conscious double standard based on national interest. That the first two books embarrassed the Congress and this one the BJP is the least of our concerns. A distinction between them must be made. The first two spoke about several malpractices behind the scenes, instances of impropriety that should be ideally unacceptable. Most of what they spoke about had made its way already into the public domain, and more than anything these men seem to be giving their versions of certain situations and defending their positions. Even certain new revelations were a welcome step for they exposed a lack of transparency and attempted to correct that. But Dulat’s book ventured into an area which is supposed to remain secret. No sensible citizen expects our country’s covert manoeuvres to be realised with any degree of transparency.
Agencies like RAW functioning openly would not be in national interest for many reasons. Firstly, those who need to be manipulated for India’s benefit would know what is going on, putting India in a disadvantage while dealing with them. Secondly, certain ideological compromises have to be made at such levels for the greater good. These could be perceived independently and be gravely misunderstood by certain sections of society or other global forces. For agencies like this, the notion of propriety in non-existent. The idea that they too are subject to such limitations but fail to meet certain ethical or nationalistic standards, is either ignorance or ulterior motive. It’s hard to believe that somebody who headed the RAW is unaware of these phenomena.
Former CIA employee Edward Snowden is both loved and hated around the world. But for the USA, he is nothing short of a traitor. And rightly so from the American point of view, for disagreeing with the way one’s country works at covert levels is very different from exposing it. Snowden now bides him time in Moscow, scared for his life. Back home in India, there is no clarity on whether there even exists a provision to take action against someone who does the same. Although the media’s attention span was very short this time around, we can only hope that the unwelcome emergence of certain facts have no adverse impact on the country.