Our Intelligence Set-Up Suits a Totalitarian State’ – Retired R&AW Official

(October, 18, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Retired R&AW officer Major General VK Singh, who is being hounded for his book on his tenure in the agency, tells Indian based weekly the Tehelka, that he should be treated like a whistle-blower

Q:Do you regret writing the book, given the way you are being hounded?
A.I would have written the book anyway because whatever I have said is right. I should be seen as a whistle-blower. I expected to be given protection by the State and not to be hounded. I haven’t committed any wrong and I’m sure I’ll come out clean.

Q:Instead of addressing issues you have raised, the government is going after you. Is there some vendetta?
A.I did not have inimical relations with anybody. Maybe I’ve rubbed some people the wrong way because I’ve made some derogatory remarks. I think they are upset for personal reasons. There is nothing against the agency. I don’t think they have been subjected to criticism earlier and that’s why they have got worked up. They are not used to being criticised.

Q:Is there anything that you have withheld in your book?
A.I won’t reveal them because they are classified and then I would be really violating the Official Secrets Act (OSA). I could have given the locations of every monitoring station in the country but that I certainly won’t do.

Q:Don’t you think our intelligence agencies, be it the IB or RAW, should be more accountable and open?
A.That’s the whole point I’ve made in the book. After all, we are a democracy and there are intelligence agencies in other democracies. There is the CIA in America which is not as closed or away from the public glare as RAW. Yes, there is information which is sensitive but why should we be so closed about our method of functioning? The people, the taxpayers, have a right to know how the agencies function. It surprises me. I don’t know why no action is being taken on, for example, the suggestion of a Parliamentary oversight committee and a review of the OSA. This started, you know, when VP Singh was the Prime Minister and there was some move to do it, but it just fell through. But nobody in the government is talking about that.

Q:Do you agree that India’s intelligence agencies get away with a lot in the name of national security?
A.There are many institutions which are still a baggage from the past. Many institutions are contrary to the concept of democracy and RAW is one of them. We have an intelligence set-up which is suited to a totalitarian state. During the British Raj, there was a ruler and we were the subjects and maybe it suited their requirements but it is not in consonance with our present set-up.

Q:Is there a mindset problem?
A. Absolutely. It’s a mindset problem. From the lowest to the highest, the day anyone joins, this is drilled into his head: we are a super-secret organisation. Everything is secret. Don’t talk about anything, even among yourselves and so on. That’s why even a circular for a tea party is marked secret. There was a move to revamp the intelligence set-up after Rabinder Singh managed to flee. What happened then? Basically, there is a leadership problem. Rabinder Singh’s case was a classic case of failure of leadership. I pointed out another instance wherein a RAW station didn’t open for a year after an earthquake because no one wanted to go there. You see, failure of leadership translates into indiscipline. The problem is nobody is willing to take action, even if a driver comes to duty drunk.

Q:Do you think your phones are bugged now?
A.They may be bugged but I’m not using them for any anti-national activity. If they are being bugged, let them be bugged.
Courtesy: Tehelka