RAW founder Kao: “If it weren’t for you, 1971 wouldn’t be here

RAW founder Kao: "If it weren't for you, 1971 wouldn't be here
RAW founder Kao: “If it weren’t for you, 1971 wouldn’t be here

RAW founder Kao: “If it weren’t for you, 1971 wouldn’t be here

In 1996, Bangladesh’s 25th anniversary was being celebrated across India, and a number of events were held to mark the occasion.

At one such event, a Bangladeshi journalist saw a tall, handsome man sitting in the back of the hall. The journalist approached him and said: ‘Sir, you should have been on stage, 1971 would not have been possible without you.’

The man replied: ‘No, I did nothing. The people on the stage deserve praise. The man then got up and walked out of the hall.

His name was Rameshwar Nath Kao and he was the founder of India’s intelligence agency RAW.
Rameshwar Nath Kao was born in 1918 in Banaras. In 1940 he joined the police. When the Intelligence Bureau was set up in 1948 after the partition, he was made a member and assigned to the security of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In 1955, he discovered Taiwan’s hand in the sinking of a Chinese ship, which made him very famous. He was also awarded a special honor by China.

RAW’s first director
In 1968, Indira Gandhi founded the Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), modeled on the CIA and the British agency MI6, to oversee intelligence affairs abroad.

Cao became its first director.

Anand Kumar Verma, a former director of RAW and a friend of Kau, told the BBC: ‘One of our men in Yahya Khan’s office told us on what day the attack would take place.

The Indian Air Force has been placed on high alert. Two days passed but no attack took place. “We can’t stay on high alert for long,” he said. Cao asked for another day’s respite.

“On the same day, December 3, when Pakistan attacked, India was fully alert.”

Indira Gandhi’s umbrella
Cao was also responsible for Indira Gandhi’s security. Inside, Malhotra narrates an interesting incident.

“We went to Melbourne, Australia, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. One day an Australian security official approached me and said, ‘Your prime minister is a great leader of a great country, but I have a responsibility to protect him in Australia.’ He continued: ‘I don’t know. What is the custom among the people but when they get out of the car they hand me their purse and umbrella. I can’t tell them, but I’m telling you that when a leader gets out of a car or gets in, that’s the best opportunity for terrorists to shoot. At this point, both my hands should be empty to protect them.

When Kao explained this to Indira Gandhi, she stopped giving the official an umbrella and a purse.

Allegations and inquiries
When Indira Gandhi lost the elections in 1977 and Murarji Desai came to power, Kao was accused of being behind the 1975 emergency. Cao denied the allegations and said there should be an investigation.

A commission was set up for this purpose. After a six-month investigation, it ruled that Cao or Ra had no hand in the emergency.

‘Cowboy’
Almost all RAW officials remember Kao fondly.

Jyoti Sinha was the Additional Secretary of RAW during his tenure. He says: ‘He never said anything to hurt anyone. He used to say that if someone dies from honey, why should he be poisoned? We were young at the time, these things were diamonds for us.

How much has India benefited from RAW leaders like RAW or KAO who are rarely known?

Former United States President and former CIA chief George W. Bush Sr. once gave him a small Cowboy statue as a gift. Later, when Cow’s fans came to be called ‘Cow Boys’, they made a fiberglass model of the statue, which still adorns RAW’s headquarters.

Note: This article was first published on January 20, 2018.

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