MHA plans to launch fresh probe into missing RAW officials
Singh, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances on 14 May 2004, is suspected to be hiding in America with his family. He, after serving the Indian Army as a major, had joined RAW and was placed under surveillance for being an alleged CIA mole. He aroused suspicion in March 2004 when counter-intelligence officials found evidence that he photocopied ‘confidential’ documents not related to his work. Before coming to a final conclusion over the necessary punitive measures, the agency wanted to be ‘doubly sure’ and put his phone conversations under surveillance.
On 14 May 2004, he went missing from Delhi and surprisingly his family members also could not be traced since then. Sources claimed that the CIA station chief in the US Delhi embassy reportedly helped him and his family flee the country via Nepal. In an affidavit submitted to the court, RAW claimed that Singh has been traced to New Jersey under a fictitious name, Surenderjeet Singh. Another officer, R Wadhwa, is suspected of passing confidential information on India’s security matters to British intelligence agencies, prioritising UK’s national security against threats such as terrorism and espionage but compromising India’s interests.
The government’s push for re-investigation into the matter is seen as ‘RAW’s clean up drive’, which is under severe criticism from the PMO for internal feud among the officers. Also, as a part of bilateral relationship, India wants to pursue the cases having links with the US after the controversy over the diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s recent arrest in US despite her diplomatic immunity. Presently, Khobragade is in India after being released by the US agency.
So far nine RAW officials are missing since the inception of the India’s external intelligence agency in September 1968. They are: M.S. Sehgal (a senior field officer, disappeared while posted as attaché in London in 1980), N Y Bhaskar (former attaché in Tokyo), B R Bachhar (senior field officer, disappeared in London), Major R S Soni (an undersecretary in RAW), Shamsher Singh Maharajkumar (an ex-IPS officer posted in Islamabad), Ashok Sathe, (a former attache at Ulan Bator in Mongolia and the lone Indian counsellor at Khorramshahr in Iran). It was suspected that some of the officers, who were posted in London and before they went missing, were working for Pakistan’s ISI for passing information related to Operation Meghdoot on. The covert operation was launched to capture the Siachen glacier in the disputed Kashmir region, precipitating the Siachen conflict. Operation Meghdoot was conceptualised after Pakistani generals decided to stake their claim through troop deployments to the Siachen glacier in 1983. They feared that India might capture areas near the glacier and decided to send their own troops before the Indian army reached the spot.
They had ordered Arctic-weather gear from a supplier in London, reportedly ‘unaware’ that the same supplier provided outfits to the Indians. It was suspected that some information was passed to Pakistan by RAW officials about the Arctic-weather gear acquired by India.