R&AW: India’s Spy Agency And Its Role In The Liberation Of Bangladesh

The war that made R&AW is the story behind the creation of a clandestine organization, its founding father, his team, their heroic deeds and the war that led to the birth of a new nation, post world war II.

Espionage or the art of intelligence gathering is an ancient statecraft. In fact, In Kautilya’s, Arthashastra, which was written around 300 BCE, the author had mentioned some important points which a King or a ruler should not only follow to protect his or her empire from the enemies but also to avoid conflict with other kingdoms.

These are the following seven principles (or the ideas) mentioned in the Arthashastra, A treatise on Statecraft –

Sama – Negotiations

Dama – Reward

Dand – Punishment

Bheda – Discord or Division

Maya – Deceit, or Treachery

Upeksha – Ignore

Indrajal – Psychology war, Deception


Even today in this era of high end modern warfare where different nations have different capabilities of intelligence gathering, no one can afford to miss the golden rules mentioned above. Especially, those countries who are surrounded by hostile neighbours.

But, sometimes people or even states ignores great people or ingenious ideas who shouldn’t have ignored at all. The same omissions India did after gaining the independence in August 1947, when the people in power brushed off the evergreen rules of Kautilya.

The results of that mistakes were the wars of Indo-China of 1962, and the 1965 Indo- Pak.

These wars led to the creation of an organization which with time became a force to reckon with. This agency of subterfuge came to be known as the one and only, R&AW.

So, let’s unravel the story of this Indian Spy agency.


What is the war that made R&AW?

The war that made R&AW by Anusha Nandakumar and Sandeep Saket is a concisely written book about the creation of independent India’s external intelligence agency, R&AW. And the latter’s role in the creation of Bangladesh.

The war that made R&AW

R&AW, And fight for the liberation of Bangladesh


The main USP of this book is that it’s an easy to read. In fact, even a layperson can finish it in a day or two. Although, you will only get a glimpse of the entire story.



Do or Die –

In the year 1942, Mahatma Gandhi gave the slogan, Do or Die, while launching his Quit India movement against the British colonialism. Although, the movement didn’t succeed but the slogan outlived the cause.

The situation which India found itself surrounded with in the 1960s needed its now or never kinda moment. The reason was simple. In 1962, India lost a battle with China. Poor intelligence and the over confidence of the then political leadership were some of the main causes behind that loss.

In 1965, Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar which led to the second Indo-Pak war. Although, India won the war. But, again it was an intelligence failure. A country like India which is surrounded by hostile neighbours like Pakistan and China can’t afford to loose its guards.

So, it was decided to form an intelligence agency precisely an external intelligence agency. Because, at that time the IB, intelligence bureau was managing India’s internal as well as external security.

And the task to create a new organization from scratch fall on the shoulders of a man by the name of R. N. Kao. The then Prime Minister of India, Indira Feroze Gandhi and her Principal advisor, P N Haskar gave their full support to Kao.

And in September 1968, A new organization came into its being. It was named as R&AW, Research and Analysis Wing. It was the brainchild of Rameshwar Nath Kao, the founding father and the first Chief of modern India’s external intelligence agency.

Although, the term R&AW was given by the then cabinet secretary, D. S. Joshi.


West Pakistan, East Pakistan and the conflict –

In August 1947, a new nation by the name of Pakistan was born. At that time it was divided into two wings, West Pakistan (Now Pakistan) and East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh). Both the wings were separated by thousands of miles and in between them was India. The only factor which attached them together was Islam.

Other than the religious factor there were uncountable number of differences between the people of these two wings. In fact, since its inception in 1947, People of West Pakistan started dominating the economy, bureaucracy, army and the politics of the nation.

This hegemony of West Pakistan towards East Pakistan led to the resentment of the latter towards the former.

In fact, in 1948, the founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, came to the capital of East Pakistan, Dhaka and said in a clear terms that, Urdu would be considered as the national language of Pakistan.

This statement bewildered the people of East Pakistan, as their mother tongue was Bengali. This led to the start of a movement which came to be known as the ‘Bhasha andolan’ or the language movement.

People of different cues came in to support this movement. From students to teachers everyone gave their support. A new party by the name of Muslim Awami league, later Awami league was formed in East Pakistan.

A new leader, In fact a charismatic man by the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman also came to the light during the andolan. This young man was renowned for his energetic speeches.

Although, somehow the leaders and the authorities managed to quell the movement. But, it sowed the seeds of secession which fructify in December 1971.


Coup After Coup –

In its seventy plus years of Independence, Pakistan has seen three coups. In fact, within eleven years of Independence Pakistan experienced its first coup.

In 1958, Field Marshal Ayub Khan took the reins of power in his own hands. The so-called rule of the civilians-cum-bureaucrats were overthrown by him and the Pakistani Army.

With that pustch, the domination of the army began which remained unabated to date. In fact, Ayub Khan had a disdain towards the Bengalis of East Pakistan, his own citizens. They considered Bengalis as inferiors and they treated them as second class citizens.

In fact, West Pakistan developed at the expense of the East Pakistan. The latter became a backwater. And the people of East Pakistan realised that how vulnerable they were when Pakistan and India fought the 1965 war. All the focus of the Pakistani Army were towards the safety and security of the West Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan was left alone in the midst of a war.

After the failure of the second Indo-Pak war voices were heard in the corridors of West Pakistan against Ayub Khan. Although, he remained in power until 1969 when he finally relented and passed on the reins of the power to Yahya Khan, another army man.

Yahya Khan, the man who enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle. In fact, the cruelty and horror which Yahya Khan unleashed on the people of East Pakistan remained in the annals of history as a pogrom. Although, it also led to the birth of a new nation.


Bangladesh and Research and Analysis Wing-

In December 1970, Yahya Khan announced General elections for the national assembly of Pakistan. He along with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto thought that they will easily win the elections. But, they were wrong.

Awami league under the leadership of Shiekh Mujibur Rahman won the highest number of seats in the general elections. And the people of West Pakistan, especially Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Yahya Khan were miffed with the outcome of the results. So, they did what they knew the best. They delayed the meeting of the national assembly. They can’t fathom that a Bengali of East Pakistan would become a Prime Minister and rule over them.

Although, riots were already started in East Pakistan because of the colonial attitude of the West Pakistan. As they were not ready to accept the election results.

R. N. Kao, his team members along with the prime minister of India, Indira Feroze Gandhi were also monitoring the chaos which was going on in East Pakistan. Although, at that time India couldn’t do anything because it was the era of cold war. The nations like United States, China, UK were supporting Pakistan. So, India decided to wait and watch.

On 25th March 1971, Operation Searchlight was launched by the army of Pakistan ( West Pakistan) against their own people, East Pakistan. Yahya Khan appointed General Tikka Khan for this monstrous act. And the latter committed horrors against the people of East Pakistan that he earned the sobriquet of the ‘Butcher of Bengal’.

Within a span of few days, the Pakistani Army killed multitudes of people of East Pakistan. Rape, torture and mutilation of human bodies became the law of the land. In fact, they also arrested Mujibur Rahman and they sent him to one of the jails of West Pakistan.

Although, Pakistani Army nor their leadership were aware that R&AW under the leadership of Rameshwar Nath Kao had already planned something else for them.

R&AW had cultivated several assets amongst the nationalist Bengalis who were ready to do anything for Mujibur Rahman and the birth of Bangladesh. Some of them remained in East Pakistan and they used to pass vital information about the activities of the Pakistani Army to their Indian handlers.

In fact, several militias were raised by the R&AW. The most famous amongst all of them was Mukti Bahini. These people were either the former Bengali soldiers of the Pakistani Army who defected to India after the Operation Searchlight or those people who espoused Bengali nationalism.

As, the Pakistani Army continued to commit crimes in East Pakistan. India also started preparing for war. Although, the then Indian Army Chief, General Sam Manekshaw told Indira Gandhi very clearly that the armed forces were not ready for war. Attacking the Pakistani army in East Pakistan during the months of June-September when monsoon season at its peak would be like committing harakiri.They had to wait for the appropriate time.

In fact, Indira Feroze Gandhi knew very well that if India attacked Pakistan then the whole world will raise hue and cry. And they will portray India as the aggressor. So, she along with her team started touring the capitals of different nations. They told them about the crimes which the Pakistani armed forces were committing in East Pakistan.

In fact, R&AW also started a PR campaign and they invited journalists of all shades to the camps where the victims of East Pakistan were residing. The world shocked when they saw the conditions of those Bengalis. This was before the era of social media. But, R. N. Kao and his people managed to do this. A feat in itself.

Although, situation in East Pakistan was getting worst day by day. But, the guerrilla warfare tactics of the Indian spy agency was also showing its results. The Mukti Bahini, the Mujib Bahini managed to inflict a substantial damage to both the men and the logistics of the Pakistani Army.

In fact, India was also able to infiltrate their agents in the highest echelons of the Pakistani authorities. They got the information that Pakistan will attack India On December 1, 1971. The whole Indian Army which became ready to attack as they got the necessary time to prepare remained in high alert. Although, no attack came. They waited for 48hrs and finally on December 3, 1971, Pakistan unilaterally attacked India.The plan worked.

In fact, within 13 days the war ended. Pakistan had lost the battle. And on 16th December 1971, The Instrument of Surrender was signed by Lt. Gen. A. A. K. Niazi of the Pakistani Army at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka. He surrendered to Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, Joint commander of the Bangladesh-India allied forces.

In fact, not only Pakistani Army surrendered but India had taken around 93,000 prisoners of war (POWs), including Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators. It was the largest number of POWs taken into custody since world war second.

R&AW, under the visionary leadership of Rameshwar Nath Kao gained a place in the annals of history, especially in the world of intelligence agencies. They were the architect of a new nation, Bangladesh. A nation for the Bengalis, by The Bengalis and with the blood and toil of Indian Army and its secret agents.


Work smart and stay humble –

There are too many differences between a real hero or a reel hero, isn’t it. Similarly, a patriot will do whatever it demands for the safety and the integrity of his or her country.

You won’t hear from a patriot or a real hero (heroine) that people should put their posters all over the country. Nor they want unnecessary paean for them. They just do their work diligently and silently. They work in silence. Sometimes we know their names and sometimes we don’t.

When Rameshwar Nath Kao created R&AW, he knew that there were chances that people may or may not remember him or his team members. But, the work which they started should continue no matter what. This is the definition of a real hero or a patriot.

It’s not only the responsibility of every sane Indian to read about such great people but it is also necessary to remember the deeds of these great souls which they did for the welfare of this country which we proudly say, Bharat Mata (Mother India).

Let me conclude with a bon mot –

The life of a spy is to know and not to be known.

I hope you like this, Thanks for reading, Jai Hind.

My Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5) 

Order your copy from here- The war that made R&AW

Yash Sharma

Namaste reader, My name is Yash, and books for me are like a medicine, which removes my ignorance and also helps me in behaving more like a human.Though I live in the world’s largest democracy, India, but when I look around, I realized that this democratic nation of mine has turned into a kind of feudal oligarchy or kleptocracy, where people from a particular community or I would say particular surname has hijacked this democracy, and the political parties in India has turned itself into a kind of family enterprises where the family members are the only shareholders. And I want to change this, and books are a weapon which is helping me, so that I can help others and my nation.Shukriya for reading this Thought of mine.

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