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Updated: June 17, 2013 04:23 IST

A Kao-boy till the end

Special Correspondent
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The Hindu

B. Raman, one of India’s first external intelligence agents, died here on Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 77. Raman served for 26 years in the Research and Analysis wing, right from the day it was carved out of the Intelligence Bureau in September 1968 on Indira Gandhi’s orders, until his retirement in 1994.

An IPS officer of the 1961 Madhya Pradesh cadre, Raman was on deputation to the Intelligence Bureau when he was handpicked by Rameshwar Nath Kao to join R&AW, set up in the aftermath of the wars with China and Pakistan.

He retired as Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat. In the last six years of his career, he headed R&AW’s counter-terrorism unit. Throughout his career, he was, in his own words, known “as a man with a poker face. As someone who showed no emotion or passion on his face.”

The first assignment that Kao, who headed R&AW, gave him was to be in charge of the agency’s Burma branch. He was there for five years handling analysis as well as clandestine operations, an early phase in his career that earned him the sobriquet ‘Burma Raman’.

In his book, The Kao-boys of R&AW – Down Memory Lane (2007), Raman gave a detailed account of the external intelligence agency’s work that contributed to the liberation of Bangladesh. Kao had given the agency’s operatives two priority tasks — “to strengthen its capability for the collection of intelligence about Pakistan and China and for covert action in East Pakistan.”

In a rare foray by a “spook” into writing about field operations, Raman disclosed that providing intelligence to policy makers and the armed forces, to train Bengali freedom fighters in clandestine camps, to network with Bengali public servants from East Pakistan posted in West Pakistan and in Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad to persuade them to cooperate with the freedom fighters and mount a special operation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts where Naga and Mizo hostiles had sanctuaries and training camps.

He recorded the secret negotiations Rajiv Gandhi had on behalf of Indira Gandhi with Sikh leaders before Operation Bluestar in 1984. Indira Gandhi was keen that these be recorded so that posterity would know how she tried in vain for a negotiated solution before she sent the Army into the Golden Temple. Raman was entrusted with this task. He says he had the negotiations secretly recorded and spent endless hours transcribing them. These records were handed over to the organisation’s archives, but nobody knows where these are now.

Raman strongly believed that covert capability was an indispensable tool for any state that had external adversaries. He served as the head of RAW’s counter-terrorism division from 1988 to 1994. He declined an offer by the Narasimha Rao government to be the intelligence coordinator for the north-east after his retirement, preferring to return Chennai.

He was a member of the special task force appointed by the government in 2000 to revamp the intelligence apparatus and a member of the National Security Advisory Board. He was also a member of the committee set up to examine the intelligence failure that led to the Kargil incursion.

In his retirement, especially in the last 10 years, he was active in writing about strategic affairs, touching on a range of internal and external issues. He spoke with precision and clarity. He was quick to respond to sudden and developing events such as terror attacks, posting his perspective and preliminary views on anti-terrorism portals and social media sites. He believed that all strategic thinking and discussion should have the national interests in mind, even though his analysis always took into account the political and social underpinnings of conflicts and crises.

He was active on Twitter as @sorbonne75, and despite his illness, continued to post messages on his timeline on issues of current national interest. In the last week of May, he tweeted that “Ind-Japan shd make China’s seeming strengths into strategic vulnerabilities.”

He also talked about his illness on Twitter, saying he wanted to create awareness of cancer and its treatment. In his very last tweet, on May 31, he spoke optimistically about returning from hospital soon.

Raman was associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and was a regular contributor to the South Asia Analysis Group. He was also Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.


Remembering a perfect spyJune 24, 2013

More In: National | News | Chennai

May His Soul Rest In Peace At The Divine Feat Of Hanumanji.


from:  Jayadevan TJ
Posted on: Jun 18, 2013 at 22:40 IST

Will miss your visionary thoughts...

may your soul rest in peace.

from:  Sreenivas
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 22:16 IST


He asked his readers to vote for modi in his last few days via twitter despite being congi supporter.

I am surprised hindu has not put that in the article.

from:  Gopi
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 17:28 IST

Great man to reckon among the greatest in Bharat.I know there are
more of next generation to be reckoned among them.

from:  chaitanya
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 16:39 IST

Huge loss to our country's think tank. RIP sir!!

from:  Lavanya
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 16:09 IST

I hope the present & future governments keep his legacy at RAW with utmost respect & the new generation follow in his footsteps. May his soul rest in peace.

from:  Kishore
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 14:57 IST

We salute you sir, for your selfless service. Although one sentence in this article is wriggling in my head:

"These records were handed over to the organisation’s archives, but nobody knows where these are now"

Is it just me or everyone smells something fishy??

from:  surya
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 14:48 IST

really sad.i used to read his articles regularly.his clarity and indepth
knowledge of strategic affairs was very impressive. rest in peace sir.
the baton now passes to the next generation.

from:  madhu
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 12:31 IST

One of the remarkable lives that we come across far and few between in
our lifetime having contributed so much to the country .

from:  Senthil
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 12:08 IST

A great servant of the Nation has passed away. Hats off Sir. We salute you.

from:  Rakesh
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 11:54 IST

Whether one agrees with all his analyses, B. Raman was one of the foremost analysts in India's unsung Intelligence network(s). A pioneer in his field, in getting the public informed and involved in all matters of national interest and security; sadly something about which the Indian press including this publication has no clue, as India has gotten increasingly encircled.

If we are in this quagmire now of even failed states like Pakistan, and tiny nations like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives can give us a black eye and a bloody nose, it is not due to these unsung heroes but despite them and their repeated warnings and untiring work. At least to pay tribute posthumously to such veterans, this reader hopes the current minions and baby-sitters of Indian politics fade away quickly, so that Bharatam can once again take its rightful place among present civilizations with the confidence and respect it deserves. A sad loss for the nation; and, indeed to his family.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 11:39 IST

We salute you Sir, for all the good services you have done to the nation.

Jai Ho

from:  Rajan Kumar
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 11:12 IST

R.I.P Unsung warrior

from:  Arun
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 10:42 IST

Always politics of survival is a kind of Darwinian survivalist concept.
No state wants that state territory is attacked. That way India carved
out East Bengal as Bangladesh that delayed indo pak wars further.
Bindranvala episode became self destructive to smt Indraji. truth is
never ever be friend with wrong people, hope india would have learnt!

from:  dr.g.balakrishnan
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 10:41 IST

Another patriot gone.Rest in peace.

from:  rama
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 10:27 IST

It is really very sad & disheartening to know that Raman Saheb had
left for heavenly abode.

May the soul rest in eternal peace in heaven.

Hopefully, all his scholarly work will get due attention in the public
parlance in order to get enlightened.

Sir, take rest, you have worked a lot, must be tired.........

from:  Abhinav Shukla
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 10:21 IST

RIP Raman sir. I have followed your articles and interviews with great
interest and you have always inspired a confidence in me that there are
some people within our system whose knowledge and effort keeps us safe
and enemies wary. May there be many more like you to serve this land.

from:  Jeeves
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 10:14 IST

A true patriot to the core, contributing immensely to the nation's
cause. We salute the hero.

from:  harry
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 10:12 IST

He was one of the best intelligence affairs writers I had seen. I was
closely following his articles about Sri Lanka's conflict with LTTE in
its last stages and he very correctly pointed out the outcome well
before it happened. His articles were very interesting to read and his
analyst are perfect to the tooth. Very sad to note his demise.

from:  Irshad Cassim
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 09:49 IST

I was a regular follower of his blogs for more than three years and I am sad to know that he is no more. A patriotic and humble human being who never hesitates to speak his mind. He educated indian people in moments of national distress from security factors with his analysis and gave some insights when people were looking for some explanation. My symphaties to his family member and prayers for his soul to rest in peace.

from:  Siva
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 09:48 IST

RIP. Thank you Mr. B. Raman for spending a lifetime trying to keep your motherland
and your fellow citizens safe.

from:  Krittik
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 08:09 IST

Always enjoyed Raman's analysis.. May his soul RIP

from:  Aravind
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 07:31 IST

He had a personal blog also called "Raman's strategic analysis".

from:  captainjohann
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 07:04 IST

Sad to hear about the loss of B.Raman. He was the finest and most
insightful writer on political, strategic and intelligence analysis. I
have read every one of his posts on the South Asia Analysis Group. They
are known for their clarity, depth and insight.

from:  Raghavan
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 05:45 IST

May his soul rest in peace. I salute a true son of soil for his
contribution to Indian govt and RAW.

from:  vijaiya prathap
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 04:25 IST

RIP 'Burma' Raman sir and thanks for your service!
It is very sad that most of us aren't interested to know the history of us.
Thanks Hindu for reporting such news. We won't see anything about his
'service and death' in news channels.

from:  Hariharan
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013 at 01:40 IST
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