Monday, 25 August 2008

Ashok Chaturvedi - Chief R&AW

An interesting aricle I read on Mr.Ashok Chaturvedi in Wikipedia which I felt like sharing with you guys.


Ashok Chaturvedi is the present chief of India's external intelligence agency the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW or R&AW) and is designated as Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat. Under divisive circumstances Chaturvedi succeeded P.K.H. Tharakan, a 1968 batch officer of the IPS Kerala cadre who retired on January 31, 2007. During his tenure as RAW Chief the agency has suffered a string of scandals and intelligence failures. His list of public embarrassments has littered the pages of the Indian newspapers, but Chaturvedi also became the focus of the international press as well.
Chaturvedi was part of the Indian Police Service (IPS) as a 1970 batch officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre before joining RAW's own service cadre the Research and Analysis Service (RAS). Chaturvedi, who was an analyst on Bangladesh and Nepal, had also served in the United Kingdom and Canada besides a stint in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.[1]

The Selection Controversy
Ashok Chaturvedi, is related to B.K. Chaturvedi, who was at one time a highly influential bureaucrat and at the time of Ashok Chaturvedi's selection as head of R&AW, B.K. Chaturvedi was cabinet secretary. During his three-year tenure as cabinet secretary, B.K. Chaturvedi became an alternative center of power in New Delhi and had wrestled away the authority of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).[2]
India's external intelligence agency operates on the basis of seniority and time spent in the organization, which helped Ashok Chaturvedi get into a position to be considered as the head of R&AW. He had previously been overlooked for promotion within R&AW on two separate occasions and it is believed that several government secretaries expressed their strong reservation in restoring his seniority. However, B.K. Chaturvedi dismissed their opinions and controversially declined to excuse himself from the committee which promoted and re-graded his relative in the organization.[
At the start of 2007, there had been a delay in officially announcing the new head of R&AW because of a torrent of protests from the country's vast intelligence community that Ashok Chaturvedi could be chosen over perceivably more experienced individuals. There were serious concerns that he would damage India's national strategic interests. It is also believed that India's National Security Adviser, Mayankote Kelath Narayanan, wanted the outgoing R&AW chief, P.K.H. Tharakan, to object to Ashok Chaturvedi's promotion as head of the intelligence agency. As a result an announcement on the new head of RAW was held back as the government wanted the row settled first.
However, Ashok Chaturvedi formally replaced Tharakan on February 1, 2007. Once again, B.K. Chaturvedi had attended the promotions panel that decided the head of R&AW and played a pivotal role in helping his relative take charge of the organization. Ashok Chaturvedi's appointment resulted in senior members of R&AW leaving the agency in apparent protest. Narayanan eventually endorsed Ashok Chaturvedi’s appointment despite serious misgivings. [6]

Personality Cult & Protégés
Since Chaturvedi took over as the head of R&AW, the agency has suffered a string of scandals and intelligence failures which appear to have damaged its reputation. While in a meeting abroad he left classified documents in a non-secure location. Chaturvedi has also been described as being part of the intelligence clique in India who had developed close relations with the Soviet Union and the communist bloc during the Cold War. There is now a perception that Chaturvedi's intent is to re-establish close relations with Russia's external Intelligence agency the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) or the Foreign Intelligence Service.
Unlike Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence, which has been the center of attention in South Asia, India's external intelligence service has managed to avoid attracting attention to itself and operated stealthily. However, this is beginning to change with the agency coming under greater scrutiny with much of this being attributed to Chaturvedi's tenure as head of R&AW.[9][10]
The Khaleej Times in an extensive investigative article, stated that Chaturvedi has used his current position to systematically downgrade and sideline all his perceived rivals within the organisation, replacing them with people loyal to himself, creating a tremendous amount of bitterness and resentment. It also added that Chaturvedi has been compared to the former director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, with some accusing him of having "developed a personality cult around himself, portraying the impression that he is untouchable".[9]
Chaturvedi's protégé has been identified as Sanjiv Tripathi who is being groomed to take over in 2009. He was personally selected by Chaturvedi to assess sensitive intelligence dossiers. However, according to the Khaleej Times, Tripathi is an administrator with no prior experience as an intelligence analyst. The Indian intelligence community has dubbed Chaturvedi and Tripathi "Dumb and Dumber" a reference to the Jim Carey film.
Chaturvedi has also been at loggerheads with several members of the Congress-led coalition, including the National Security Advisor MK Narayanan. At a conference in December 2007 in Bahrain, Narayanan warned about the threat of international terrorism and its intention to hit at economic targets in the Middle East and South Asia. However, Chaturvedi and Tripathi took a completely opposite view and decided to downgrade R&AW's focus on the threat of terrorism.[
Chaturvedi has also alienated himself from people within his own organization by ostracizing senior personnel and creating a culture of fear. Such is the level of animosity toward Chaturvedi that it is rumored he will have to leave India once he retires and it is for this reason that he has been trying to position his protégé Sanjiv Tripathi to take over his post in an attempt to pre-empt any retribution.

The V.K. Singh Book Dispute
Controversy and media speculation about his future has also continued to follow Chaturvedi's career with his failed attempts to ban the publication and sale of the book, India's External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing R&AW, written by Major General V.K. Singh, formerly a colleague and Joint Secretary in R&AW. In the book, V.K. Singh made a number of claims about R&AW including petulant conduct from a senior officer within the organization who went on unauthorised leave for eight months after being overlooked for promotion and who was tagged with malfeasance and ineptitude. The book was published and distributed both in India and abroad in June 2007 and the matter had largely been forgotten.[
However, Chaturvedi curiously resurrected the issue months later when V.K. Singh's home was raided on September 21, 2007 by officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A case was registered against V.K. Singh under the Official Secrets Act of India (OSA). The following day the offices of the publishers of the book, Manas Publications, were also raided.[17][18]
Addressing a media conference where former intelligence officials were present to support him, V.K. Singh spectacularly revealed that the R&AW officer who went on an eight month leave of absence without permission was in fact Ashok Chaturvedi.[19]
Singh said the R&AW chief's absence from work was "an act of gross indiscipline…can he (Chaturvedi) bring discipline to the organization if he does not attend office for eight months?"[19]
The investigative magazine, Outlook, stated that Chaturvedi appeared to have a personal vendetta against V.K. Singh. They also claimed that sources from the CBI had confirmed to them that the RAW officer, mentioned in VK Singh's book, who went on unofficial leave for eight months was indeed Chaturvedi.[20]
The raid on V.K. Singh's house has also been embarrassing for Chaturvedi as initially the wrong address, belonging to another retired R&AW official, was raided in Gurgaon, east Delhi. It took the officials another three hours before they finally reached the correct residence. Ironically, the whole controversy has embarrassed the Indian government and revived the sales of Singh's book. In fact, the publishers ordered another print run of 3,000 copies because of the high demand. The whole incident has also created a new debate over the freedom of expression in India and the level of public accountability of the countries' intelligence agencies. Legal experts also believe it would be a futile attempt to charge V.K. Singh under the Official Secrets Act, particularly as other former intelligence officials have released books that have been deemed to be more damaging in terms of disclosing R&AW's secrets, but no action was ever taken against them.
Chaturvedi had sanctioned publication of a book written by Shankaran Nair, a former head of RAW, in which the Gandhi family, particularly former prime minister Indira Gandhi, is reported to have been behind a number of controversial deals involving bribery. It has been questioned as to why Chaturvedi tried to gag V.K. Singh yet allowed Nair's book to be published without any scrutiny. This has brought Chaturvedi into a direct confrontation with the Nehru-Gandhi Family.

After V.K. Singh book dispute, Chaturvedi issued a directive wanting all R&AW's current employees to sign a declaration that they won't write about their careers after they leave the agency. Opinion, however, is divided on the issue as many say it's unfair to censor such voices. The declaration wants to bar officers from writing about the agency even after the two-year cooling off period post-retirement. The new ruling would mean that officers would have to take permission to write and even then it cannot be published without prior clearance from the agency. The declaration says for any violation the officer will be held liable for action, such as no pension, to charges under the Official Secrets Act. And whoever doesn't sign could be removed from R&AW. Some have suggested that Chaturvedi is concerned about other R&AW officers exposing him further when either they leave the organization or when he retires himself.[25][26]

The Colombo Spy Scandal
In October 2007 another highly damaging controversy erupted for Chaturvedi when it transpired R&AW was forced to recall one of its officers who was stationed at the Indian High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Ravi Nair, who held the rank of Joint Secretary within R&AW, was sent back to New Delhi when it transpired that he had developed irregular relations with a Chinese woman. Officials posted at the Indian High Commission, sent reports about Nair to their respective departments paving the way for his recall. What was of particular concern, was that Nair had started the relationship with the same woman during a previous posting to the Indian Consulate in Hong Kong. He apparently continued to maintain ties with her after he was posted to Colombo in 2006.[27][28]
Infighting within R&AW also may have led to the Nair's recall from Sri Lanka. In fact, Nair's activities had aroused suspicion prior to his posting in Colombo, whilst at the agency's Chennai office when it was alleged he was involved in another extramarital affair. Following reports from the Chennai office, then head of R&AW P.K.H. Tharakan, directed his second-in-command at the time and the current R&AW chief Ashok Chaturvedi to conduct an inquiry and take suitable steps. However, Chaturvedi did not take any action and conversely Nair's name was put forward for the Colombo posting, considered one of R&AW's most sensitive stations. Outlook Magazine stated that had Chaturvedi conducted an inquiry and taken action at Tharakan's behest, Nair would never have been considered for the posting to Sri Lanka and R&AW could have saved itself the embarrassment Nair has caused.[29][30]
The Colombo and Chennai scandals were apparently not Nair's first transgression. At various other foreign postings and travels, several allegations were filed against him in internal R&AW reports by senior intelligence officers. Prior to his posting in Sri Lanka, Nair had previously been stationed to the United States, Bhutan, Pakistan and Hong Kong but despite all the controversy surrounding him, Nair continued to receive support from Chaturvedi and another former head of R&AW, Shankaran Nair. Instead of being reprimanded by Chaturvedi, Nair has been allowed to carry on with his duties.

The Pakistan Intelligence Failure
In December 2007, it was revealed that there had been a massive intelligence failure inside R&AW. It was in relation to the state of emergency declared by the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. Apparently, just days before Musharraf installed emergency rule, Chaturvedi had advised the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, that the situation in Pakistan was stable and that there was no chance that Musharraf would declare martial law.[9]
Not anticipating any major change in Pakistan, Chaturvedi did not feel the need to prepare for any unpredictable change in circumstances. On November 3, 2007, Musharraf suspended the constitution and declared a state of emergency. New Delhi was caught completely off guard and the Indian prime minister apparently "was livid."

The Nepal Exposure
Unlike his predecessors who specialised in Pakistan, Chaturvedi is the first head of India's Intelligence agency whose area of expertise is Nepal but in December 2007 the R&AW Chief faced another embarrassing scandal when the 'Nepal Weekly' magazine revealed that R&AW was trying to interfere in the internal political dynamics of Nepal. The magazine also revealed the names of various R&AW agents working at the Indian embassy in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu which included Suresh Dhundiya, R&AW's station chief in Kathmandu, and his deputies Alok Tiwari posted as First Secretary (Education) and K. V. Johri, a counsellor. It was also publicized that Dhundiya was being replaced as station chief by Alok Joshi. This revelation resulted in Joshi being exposed before he even assumed his new position thus compromising R&AW's intelligence apparatus in Nepal. To make matters worse, Nepalese newspapers were also able to find out the detailed travel plans of Chaturvedi's visit to Nepal in December 2007, including the airline he flew on and which hotel he stayed in.[34][35] [36] [37]
Chaturvedi was trying to prop up the Nepalese Congress Party ahead of the country's April 2008 general elections and enhance R&AW's strategic interests inside the country. However, his much publicized Nepal strategy seriously backfired when the rival Maoists did exceedingly well in the elections.
Chaturvedi forced the interim government of Girija Prasad Koirala to award a contract to an Indian firm for a hydropower project. It has also been alleged that Chaturvedi may have financially benefited personally from the deal. Questions have been raised in India as to why the head of an Indian intelligence agency was promoting a commercial company in Nepal. [39] [40]
The timing of these events coincided with worsening relations between India and Nepal. In a snub to India, Nepal's Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan requested a high level Chinese delegation visiting Kathmandu to extend the Tibet rail into Nepal. The request carries significance against the backdrop of Nepal's warning to India not to go ahead with a proposed highway along the India-Nepal border.[35]
The Telegraph Weekly of Nepal commented that "With R&AW facing continuous debacle in its Nepal affairs, it is highly likely that the R&AW machinery will come in a heavy way in order to regain its lost ground in Nepal. Chaturvedi is being told to pack up by the New Delhi set-up, it is talked".

Diplomatic Faux Pas
In a number of important meetings, Chaturvedi did not appear to know who he was actually meeting. On one particular occasion, Timothy J. Keating, the commander of the United States Pacific Command made an official trip to India in August 2007 and met a number of senior Indian defense and intelligence chiefs including Chaturvedi. However, Chaturvedi did not know who Keating was, and kept referring to him as John Negroponte, the U.S. deputy Secretary of State. In another episode, before leaving on a trip to China in January, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Chaturvedi for a briefing about his perspectives of the current senior leadership in China. Instead of delegating the task to the China section within R&AW, Chaturvedi attempted to put together his own report which talked about Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, the former president and premier respectively, both of whom retired in 2003. [
In another incident Afghan President Hamid Karzai even complained to Manmohan Singh over the way he was spoken to by the R&AW chief. Chaturvedi allegedly treated Karzai in a coarse and abrasive manner and spoke to him while chewing and spitting out tobacco.

Government Sanctions Dismissal
Because of the repeated instances of incompetence and scandals during Chaturvedi’s tenure and the continuing decline of the intelligence agency, it was reported by the Indian and foreign press that the R&AW chief would be removed from his post. If that happens, it will be the first time when a serving head of R&AW would be sacked.
It was reported that several Western intelligence agencies were reluctant to share classified information with R&AW’s top officials, because of Chaturvedi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior officials of his secretariat were unhappy with him as a result. [
Adding to Chaturvedi's problems, his health has seriously deteriorated and his forced retirement is being discussed by the government. The R&AW chief was admitted for a week to Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, a specialist cardiac hospital in New Delhi, and diagnosed with pericardial effusion, which is the build-up of fluid around the heart resulting in hypertension, severe chest pain, and difficulty in breathing.
In addition, Chaturvedi's addiction to chewing tobacco has resulted in him becoming diabetic and contracting leukoplakia. He has tried to use homeopathic medicine to cure the problem as conventional medicine has failed to work. Leukoplakia is a problem also shared by Chaturvedi's wife, Asha.
The Middle East Times revealed that at a closed-door meeting at the start of 2008 which all of India's intelligence and military chiefs were present, Chaturvedi was asked for his opinion on the upcoming security challenges the country faced. The R&AW chief presented his views while chewing tobacco and sounding incoherent. Narayanan asked him to clean out his mouth. But "Embarrassment turned to humiliation when Chaturvedi resumed his analysis only to be told by Narayanan that he was making more sense when the tobacco was in his mouth." [56]
The pressure to sack him on the grounds of gross incompetence had reached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who supported by senior leaders in the ruling Congress Party, gave his approval to quietly remove Chaturvedi. [57]
Chaturvedi made a direct personal appeal to Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi to save his job, claiming that he was not in good health and that he should be allowed to serve out the remainder of his service period. Gandhi, passed the responsibility for the decision to Narayanan with her recommendation for a review. Narayanan deferred making any decision thus reprieving Chaturvedi. G.S. Bajpai, a former head of RAW and Tripathi's father-in law, also intervened and pleaded the case to keep Chaturvedi when it looked like he would be sacked. Quoting souces from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Middle East Times claimed that "The Congress Party was worried that if Chaturvedi was sacked it would be a sign of admitting that they had made a mistake." [58]
Criticism has focused on Narayanan himself, who despite being a respected figure within India for his record with the domestic spy agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), he has had to take criticism for sanctioning Chaturvedi's appointment and continuing in persisting with him.

Jaipur Terrorist Attack
On May 13, 2008, nine synchronized bomb blasts targeted Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan state. Over 60 people were killed and some 200 injured. It has now transpired that a Western intelligence agency had obtained information toward the end of April pointing to the potential of terrorist attacks in a number of Indian cities which included Mumbai (Bombay), Hyderabad, Kolkata (Calcutta) and notably Jaipur. The information was passed to Chaturvedi, however, the R&AW chief had reduced his work commitments due to his bad health and was seen more often at the Delhi golf club than his office. As a result he left the intelligence assessment to be analyzed by Sanjiv Tripathi. It is alleged that Tripathi either ignored the intelligence assessment or did not view it to be important enough to act upon and the information was not shared with any of India's other intelligence or police agencies. [60]

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