Among the least transparent of ministries is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which uses the catchall excuse of “national security” to justify the secrecy which pervades its working. Given the immense scope of its powers, it would be surprising if foreign intelligence agencies were not to attempt to win over the loyalties of those working within the gargantuan labyrinths of the MHA. That so few have been discovered this far is testimony not to the absence of such treasonous elements but to the shoddy manner in which counter-espionage activities get carried out in India. This is a country that has become a safe haven for hostile intelligence agencies working to penetrate in order to sabotage.
Sadly for the people of this country, the record of the NDA has been as much of a disaster as that of the UPA. It was during the period when “Executive Prime Minister” Brajesh Mishra ran the country that Rabinder Singh, a CIA mole, was in effect facilitated to escape to safety in the US. Singh must now be luxuriating in Miami on the earnings of his decade-long career as a spy with RAW while he covertly worked for the CIA. Although his treachery was discovered in 2003, nothing was done to apprehend him, nor to prevent his leaving the country for Nepal. Needless to add that once safely in Nepal, Singh used the new passport handed over to him in Kathmandu to take a flight to London and subsequently to Washington, for a final debrief at the Langley headquarters of the CIA. Neither was Brajesh Mishra questioned about his lapse by the successive government led by Manmohan Singh (indeed, he was given a Padma award for his negligence) nor was any action taken against those officers of RAW and other agencies who allowed Rabinder Singh to saunter across the border of India to freedom. Indeed, several of them were subsequently given high positions by the UPA.
Even countries complicit in US espionage, such as Germany, have protested at their Head of Government not being given the same immunity from NSA electronic interception as those from the white English-speaking countries. So, it was amusing to watch the Government of India’s subdued — even approving — references to the fact that this country is among the top five targets for such surveillance. Was it mere servility that made External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hold his tongue about the scandal? Or was it the fear of secrets in the possession of the CIA involving some top policymakers spilling out that stopped him? It will take a fresh bout of Wikileaks exposes to find out the truth.
It is now clear that the entire case against the arrested scientists was false. The damage to national interest was palpable. Yet, neither during the period of the NDA nor now under the UPA, has the slightest effort been made o interrogate those police officers (some now retired) involved in the frame-up.
The reality remains that India has thus far done little to protect itself from foreign agencies, especially when they act through treasonous elements within India’s own intelligence agencies. This must change, and the way to do that is to ensure accountability for those found guilty of sabotaging the national interest at the behest of a foreign power. The 1994 ISRO spy scandal is an obvious example of such penetration, where a foreign intelligence agency has clearly managed to use police officers in both the Intelligence Bureau as well as the Kerala Police to foist false cases against ISRO scientists working on the cryogenic engine program. The arrest of the scientists set the program back by more than a decade, thereby making this one of the most successful intelligence operations in the history of the subcontinent.
It is now clear that the entire case against the arrested scientists was false. The damage to national interest was palpable. Yet, neither during the period of the NDA nor now under the UPA, has the slightest effort been made to interrogate those police officers (some now retired) involved in the frame-up. Who were the mysterious individuals who gave them the false tips and who motivated them to file such cases? Who were those who ran a media campaign against scientists that was based on false data and which, to the media’s shame, it declined to cross-verify? Only a comprehensive probe — by those not themselves in the pay of foreign agencies or their associates in India — can uncover the truth behind a scandal which derailed a program vital to the defence of the country as well as to its civilian capability.
Whether it be the ISRO spy scandal and its internal linkages or the mysterious deaths of so many linked to the Indian nuclear programme, especially that part of it relating to the nuclear submarine, Manmohan Singh maintains similar silence as Atal Behari Vajpayee did about Rabinder Gate. The best way for both the BJP as well as the Congress party to atone for past sins would be to bring to book those guilty of delaying the cryogenic engine program that was set back by more than a decade due to the motivated and malicious arrests of the scientists working on it.