It was 16 December 1971, when Pakistani General A A K Niazi signed the “Instrument of Surrender” with 93,000 Pakistani war of prisoners. Air was full of festivities and celebration after India’s splendid victory in winter of 1971 Indo Pak war. The nation welcomed its war heroes of Indian Armed Forces with beaming faces, open arms and swelling hearts with national pride. Nation paid tribute to Field Marshal Manekshaw and commended the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her statesmanship and indomitable guts. However, something was missing in national celebration. India didn’t express gratitude to R&AW, which provided indispensable intelligence to win the war. The nation didn’t even offer bouquet to warriors of R&AW, because they were faceless and unsung heroes.
When a powerful bomb, planted by a terrorist outfit from across the border, explodes butchering innocent citizens in trains, at railway stations, at airport or at a busy market in any Indian City, the whole nation rush to blame intelligence failure for death, destruction and despair. Indeed, every bomb blast is a grave intelligence failure. But, when a well conspired bomb blast is thwarted by sheer vigilance and acumen of Intelligence officers to save innocent lives, it hardly makes a news. Such intelligent officers or spies, who gather information from sensitive areas such as enemy territory by putting their lives at stake, are faceless and unsung heroes.
Mention of Ajit Kumar Doval, 75, the current National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India and former Director of Intelligence Bureau creates a picture of James Bond in mind. What mettle does it take for a secret agent, Ajit Doval to live in Lahore in Pakistan disguised as a Muslim for seven years among the predominantly Muslim population to gather intelligence and terror activities? Significance and value of real life hero, Ajit Doval is much larger than reel life fictional character James Bond.
In 1971, there were real life heroes, the unsung and faceless spies of RAW, which carried out covert operation during India Pakistan War—which gave birth to Bangladesh—to achieve splendid victory.
It is common perception that Pakistan used terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir in 1989, but during 1960s, Pakistan’s ISI were training Mizo National Front (MNF) headed by Laldenga at Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of then East Pakistan. The ISI in East Pakistan also supported the Naga and Mizo hostiles in North East India to favour China.
In 1970, East Pakistan was boiling, after military regime of Pakistan headed by General Mohammad Yahya Khan refused to honour the mandate of “December 1970 General Election” in which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had won 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan, thereby crossing the half way mark of 150 in the 300-seat National Assembly of Pakistan. Instead of allowing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to form the government, Pakistan Army started butchering Bangla speaking citizens of in East Pakistan to silence their voices and outrage against suppression.
Fed up with Pakistan’s ISI support system to hostiles like Naga and Mizo in North East from Chittagong Hill Tracts, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi decided to help people of East Pakistan to secure freedom from Pakistan. Thereafter, the Indian Army led by Field-Marshal Manekshaw, R&AW and the Intelligence Bureau headed by late Rameshwar Nath Kao under the political leadership of Indira Gandhi swung into action.
Formed on 21 September 1968, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was two and half years old, when people of East Pakistan revolted against the Military Regime in Islamabad. Wasn’t two and a half years too short a time for an intelligence agency to conduct a covert operation? Nevertheless, Kao Boys, fondly called as R&AW was headed by Rameshwar Nath Kao, managed to cross every hurdle on the way.
Bengali freedom fighters were fighting against Pakistani regime hiding in secret training camps. East Pakistan was still under rule of Pakistan’s military regime. However, R&AW reached to Bengali freedom fighters to provide them training. R&AW trained tens of thousands of Mukti Bahini Bengali freedom fighters under Kao’s guidance. R&AW created network with East Pakistan’s Bengali public servants, who were working in West Pakistan and in Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad to persuade them to help freedom fighters at home by providing intelligence. Parallely R&AW conducted a special operation at terror camps of Naga and Mizo hostiles at Chittagong Hill Tracts supported by ISI.
Then, world media did not pay much attention on brutal massacres of Bengali speaking natives and many intellectuals in East Pakistan by terrorist organisations Al Badr and Al Shams created by ISI and Pakistan Army. It was R&AW, which spread the reports about the massacres of Bengalis in East Pakistan and disseminated the news of humongous exodus of refugees to India. This tactic is called Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR) campaign against the enemy country. The flow of continuous and massive intelligence procured by R&AW proved to be vital for Indian Army before initiating any military action.
India pays its tribute to its war heroes of Indian Armed Forces led by Field Marshal Manekshaw and political leadership of Indira Gandhi of 1971 Indo-Pak war. What most of Indians are not aware is that excellent performance of R&AW, because they are faceless unsung war heroes, because they are trained to ditch their own shadows.