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Monday, June 17

B Raman dies; U.S. Dept of State breathes a sigh of relief

   Godspeed, Ramanji. From the Times of India obituary:     [...]On Sunday evening, the 77-year old Raman - Raman mama to some of his acolytes - one of the founders of India's spy outfit Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the public face of its underrated and understated analysts community, passed away in Chennai. In the arcane world of espionage, where practitioners generally keep a low profile (particularly in India), Raman became a prolific contributor to public discourse on intelligence matters, often challenging conventional wisdom, and going upstream of establishment flow, especially on Pakistan and the United States. In a political establishment that is increasingly in thrall of Washington, he repeatedly counseled caution and vigilance, a result of what he saw as repeated American betrayal of Indian interests.

In fact, the United States was the only country that riled him up in conversations - not even Pakistan, which he dismissed as a basket case beneath contempt. He said he ''always loved the US...and always liked the American people'' but he despised Washington's policies. ''There is one American species, which I could never bring myself to like during the 27 years I spent in the intelligence community -- the officers of the US State Department,'' he writes in his memoirs, The Kao-boys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane, the title being an admiring tribute to the RN Kao, RAW's principal founder and first chief.

Two incidents, both relating to Pakistan -- and to one individual in particular -- deeply colored his perspective of Washington and its mandarins. The first came after the 1993 Mumbai blasts engineered by Pakistan through Dawood Ibrahim. Raman headed the counter-terrorism division of RAW at that time and rushed to Mumbai soon after the serial explosions that killed 259 people, just two weeks before the first World Trade Center attack by Ramzi Yousef. Among the evidence gathered by the police were detonators and timers that were of American origin. On the advice of then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, Raman said he shared this evidence with US experts, and at their request, allowed them to take the material back to America. Bad mistake, he later regretted.

A few days later, Raman said, the Americans gave an unsigned report saying the detonators and timers were of American origin and were part of stock given to Pakistan during the Afghan war in the 1980s. The report gratuitously added this did not necessarily mean the terrorists got them from the ISI. It pointed out that in Pakistan there was a lot of leakage of government arms and ammunition to smugglers and expressed the view that the terrorists might have procured them from the smugglers.

''When I asked them to return the detonator and the timer as promised by them they replied that their forensic experts had by mistake destroyed them. They did not apparently want to leave any clinching evidence against Pakistan in our hands,'' Raman wrote later. ''This was a bitter lesson to us that in matters concerning Pakistan one should not totally trust the US. They would do anything to ensure that no harm came to Pakistan.''
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