Who will be India’s new chief spooks?

K C Verma, the current chief of India’s external intelligence agency RAW, who was appointed on February 1, 2009 for a two year fixed period is reaching the end of his tenure. The cloak and dagger stuff, which RAW officers are taught, has not helped them in their perpetual warfare against Pakistan or China, but it serves them well in seeking higher appointments. In true Chanakyan tradition, KC Verma, is manoeuvring to have his buddy Sanjiv Tripathi, currently heading the Aviation Research Centre, to become RAW’s 19th chief. This will benefit both Verma and Tripathi by providing them a new lease in life and getting fixed two-year tenures as Verma has eyes set on becoming the head of National Technical Research Organization (NTRO). As RAW chief, Verma is scheduled to retire on January 31, 2011, and as the Aviation Research Centre head, Tripathi is slated for retirement on December 31, 2010. Various rival Indian Police Service (IPS) officers are also vying to get themselves placed in the coveted position of head of RAW as well as the other intelligence agencies.

Practicing their insidious covert operations, the rival IPS officers have the knives out and are backstabbing each other to ‘eliminate’ their competitors for the top spook positions. The main focus is on the 42-year-old RAW, India’s foreign espionage agency, and the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) formed in 2004. According to Indian media, last Friday three advisors of the Indian Prime Minister—Principal Secretary, TKA Nair, National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon and Cabinet Secretary MN Prasad—met to consider the profiles of several ‘candidates’ for top positions of RAW, NTRO, Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). A decision from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected soon. Dr. Manmohan Singh, who already faces huge criticism because of the corruption scandal involving the botched sale of 2G telecom licenses in 2008 at a small fraction of their value had cost the country up to 40 billion dollars, will have weigh the consequences adroitly.The Daily Mail has examined the different Chanakyan moves being executed by diverse aspirants for the head spooks. Current RAW chief KC Verma is manoeuvring for the NTRO’s top slot, despite the fact that he has no experience in technical espionage. Verma, a 1971 Jharkhand cadre IPS officer, two years ago tried to become the NTRO chief but was refused. In the Intelligence Bureau, in-house number two officer — Nachal Sandhu — has been tipped to succeed current Director Rajiv Mathur, who retires on December 31. If Verma’s name is okayed by the PM for the NTRO, he will replace KVSS Prasad Rao, who retired on October 4. Verma’s “friend” Tripathi is the son-in-law of RAW’s seventh chief, Gauri Shankar Bajpai.

The well-connected, Lucknow-based Bajpai has virtually stationed himself at New Delhi for past several months to help Tripathi, who has also often been described as a protégé of 17th RAW chief Ashok Chaturvedi, in whose term the organization was hit by several controversies. As the Aviation Research Centre chief, Tripathi has also faced allegations of allowing his mentor, Chaturvedi and his wife Asha, ‘unsanctioned’ use of helicopter to travel to temples around India on private visits. During his earlier stint as a RAW officer in Mauritius, Tripathi had run into a controversy because of ‘unauthorized use’ of the cultural centre of the Indian High Commission by his wife for holding numerous exhibitions of her paintings. Tripathi is facing a tough competitor from within RAW—Anand K Arni—who as Special Secretary is number two in the organization. Considered to be an expert on Pakistan, Arni is from RAW cadre service. Technically, Tripathi is not an IPS officer. He had resigned from the IPS cadre to become part of RAW service cadre. Still, a powerful PMO and IPS lobby is backing Tripathi, claiming that he is a former IPS officer. A 1974-batch IPS officer from Himachal Pradesh, Ajit Lal — also an expert in IB on north-east affairs — is also eyeing RAW’s top post or ‘proper adjustment’ somewhere else. Once Sandhu becomes IB chief, Lal will move to number two position, and he will have nearly one-and-a-half year to retire. RAW has been hit by a number of controversies. The intelligence community was shocked when a director-level woman officer heading RAW’s training institute tried to commit suicide in front of the PMO on August 19, 2008, alleging inaction and wrong findings to a sexual harassment complaint filed against a joint secretary on deputation. All said and done, RAW will remain raw whatever chief heads it – Dailymailnews