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Senior Intelligence Bureau official stopped from leaving India



Praveen Swami

The organisation rejects claims that espionage investigations are under way

Aranha's request for voluntary retirement was denied because he initially concealed the fact that he had secured employment in the U.S.While the case has nothing to do with espionage, it is pointing to a crisis of morale and leadership in the intelligence establishment

NEW DELHI: A senior Intelligence Bureau official was recently detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, while seeking to board a flight to New York without the special sanction needed for personnel in the covert services to travel abroad.

Francis Aranha, a 1984-batch Indian Police Service officer from the Maharashtra cadre, had until recently served as a Counsellor at the Indian embassy in Washington, D.C., where he applied for and obtained an assignment at the International Monetary Fund.

The 1959-born Deputy Inspector-General of Police had applied to retire soon after returning from the U.S., but was refused permission.

"Mr. Aranha's request for voluntary retirement was denied because he initially concealed the fact that he had secured employment in the United States," a senior official told The Hindu, "and he was placed on an emigration watch-list."

"We cannot have people using overseas tenures as job-seeking platforms," the official said. Mr. Aranha had earlier been suspended from service after he failed to report for work for several months.

No criminal action has been initiated against Mr. Aranha, and Intelligence Bureau officials rejected rumours that an espionage investigation was underway.

Mr. Aranha's work as a Counsellor revolved around ensuring the security of the embassy facilities and liaising with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He also handled extradition proceedings, notably against Khalistan terrorist Kulvir Singh Barapind.

Multiple blows

While the Aranha case has nothing to do with espionage, it is the latest in a series of incidents pointing to a crisis of morale and leadership in the intelligence establishment.

Last month, Director-General of Military Intelligence Lieutenant General Deepak Summanwar was asked to proceed on leave after charges emerged that he had misused his office to facilitate a film project which involved his relatives.

Gen. Summanwar is alleged to have helped provide military equipment, including helicopters, for the filming of Shaurya, a feature film dealing with the lives of the spouses and families of military personnel. Based on a novel authored by his wife, Sharayu Summanwar, the film was to star, among others, Anupama Singh, the wife of Chief of Army Staff, Gen. J.J. Singh.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee insisted that Gen. Summanwar be relieved of his command on learning of the film project, and is believed to have also reprimanded several officers involved in it.

Maj. Gen. Manbir Singh Dadwal, Gen. Summanwar's immediate subordinate, has been assigned charge of the office, one of the most sensitive positions in the intelligence set-up.

Army sources claimed the decision to remove Gen. Summanwar was linked to a long-running feud between the Ministry of Defence and the Directorate of Military Intelligence over the Army's liaison with the media and public. Bureaucrats were angered by what they saw as Gen. Summanwar's efforts to bypass the civilian bureaucracy's overall control of the armed forces.

The external intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing, is also mired in crisis. Mirroring the Aranha case, several officers are exploring career opportunities abroad or in the private sector a phenomenon which holds out considerable security risks.

"The fact that each of the three pillars of our intelligence establishment is facing problems," a retired Intelligence Bureau official said, "does not bode well for the future."

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