‘Open Secrets –– India’s Intelligence Unveiled’

IDC Book Review


New Delhi, 01 February 2005

For the first time this daring and explosive book by M K Dhar, reveals an insider’s account of India’s intelligence apparatus. Dhar retired as No. 2 in the Intelligence Bureau (IB). A well written book, which may have betrayed many a trust in India, it is likely to be frowned upon –– we are still hidebound and national interest is not a No. 1 priority. The intelligence community of India is good but semi professional as it is an IPS service and they normally scratch each other’s backs and even duds become joint secretaries.

Hence it must have been a departure for Dhar to bare some home truths about India’s intelligence, but they seem to be true even though he may have exaggerated a bit. His message is that India’s intelligence is good, but it is a tool of the politicians and individuals tend to take political sides –– as he himself did with leanings for Hindutva and then was disillusioned. His views on personalities like RN Kao who was close to Indira Gandhi, MK Narayanan (present NSA, whom he praises as a professional), Sanjay, Rajiv and Indira Gandhi, V P Singh, Narashimha Rao,  Nar Bhahadur Bhandari, TV Rajeshwar, RK Dhawan, Vincent George and so many others, are firm and strong. His views are interesting and all India watchers should read them.

We take you on a mini tour, although TOI , Indian Express and CNBC did some reviews but not being experts on Intelligence, they missed the fact that Dhar wants to correct India’s Intelligence and for that he needs to be congratulated. He tells us of the planning (months in advance) to bring down the Babri Masjid and LK Advani and others were present for the meeting and according to him IB has the tapes. He says Narashimha Rao defaulted as he knew of the plan. Dhar tells us what we know about bugging telephones and watching politicians etc. He recalls and we quote, “Sanjay Gandhi was the greatest bully of Indian public life” and much more as he used to brief Sanjay personally and the conversations are recorded in the book.

He helped research the prospective candidates of Indira Gandhi’s Congress and their chances in the 1977 elections and he correctly predicted the outcome –– she returned to power. RK Dhawan and Vincent George were the interlocutors and he briefed Mrs Gandhi. He says on page 193, “Indira Gandhi as I came to know better a little later could hit more ruthlessly than a gladiator cornered in a ring. Nobody could ever doubt her fighting spirit. She was a born fighter”.

Within the 518 pages of the book one finds the story of an intelligence operator, who devoted nearly 30 years in the country’s prime intelligence agency –– through stories of memorable events, which often shaped the contours of Indian polity and made valuable additions to the internal or external policies of the nation. The security ambience in the neighbouring countries and the geopolitical sphere especially the North East, secrets of Sikkim take over and the durbars and money making in New Delhi are all there. The defence services however are kept out of the ambit.

The book brings out, through narration of events and analysis of perspectives, the deplorable stories of blatant and brutal misuse of the India’s intelligence, security and investigative agencies by the ruling establishment. The operatives and officials are emasculated by politically tinged and often personalized demands of the politicians. Those who follow Indian politics closely will be able to corroborate a lot of what he says as correct.

The narrative candidly unlocks certain well-guarded vaults with the avid intention of appealing to the discerning readers, scholars and opinion makers to bring pressure on the ‘System’ to devise constitutional and legal tools to bestow more functional independence and to provide more teeth and armour to the intelligence, security and investigative agencies, both at the Centre and in the States. At the same time it is essential to initiate measures to make these agencies accountable to the supreme constitutional institutions of India, for safeguarding democracy and upholding freedom and liberty.

Maloy Krishna Dhar’s career with the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) spanned nearly three decades, during which he conducted and witnessed innumerable counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and political operations. He specialized in counterintelligence measures to meet Pakistan’s overt and covert aggression and the proxy war it unleashed in the past few decades against India. After retirement he took to freelance journalism and professional writing –– published two novels, “Mission to Pakistan – An Intelligence Agent in Pakistan” and “Bitter Harvest” and its Punjabi edition – ‘Kadwi Fasal’. He also co-authored “Pakistan After 9/11”.


On Changes

"However, what is required is a national level institutional arrangement, which has not materialized even after the Joint Intelligence Committee has been revamped and the National Security Council reconstituted. The intelligence Bureau has also set up a new stream of activity for multi-agency coordination. But these high sounding vocabularies end up in vocabulary itself. The ground level reality is: there is urgent need for reexamination of the entire gamut of intelligence generation process by the State and Central organizations and devising integrated ways and means for fast communication and interaction."

Lack Of Coordination

"Serious gap of communication between the IB and the State Police on the one hand and the IB and the R&AW and the CBI on the other, had become apparent during security operations in Punjab, Kashmir, Assam and against the Pakistan sponsored jihadist elements. The most glaring example of total intelligence failure was the Kargil adventure by Pakistan army. The R&AW, the Military Intelligence and to a lesser extent the Intelligence Bureau had miserably failed to unearth the Pakistani design and warn the policy planners. Whatever intelligence was available was not coordinated to cull out a coherent collage. The rest is history."

On Sanjay and Indira Gandhi

Did Sanjay have any secret weapon to blackmail his mother? I did not believe in many of the stories that linked Indira with dubious male stalkers, who walked the political stretch along with her. She had suffered much as a child. She had seen her mother being humiliated and tormented. She did not enjoy a blissful married life. Her sons’ intellectual achievements often dismayed her. She wasn’t happy with Sanjay’s marriage. However, it would be preposterous to imagine that Sanjay had in his possession some scandalous material that he used to paralyse his mother’s political will.

On Narasimha Rao

"I did not like the deceptive pout of the PM. His supposed direction to a political adventurer from Assam, to influence me was the most insulting experience I ever had with any political creature. I literally reprimanded the bully and advised him to try his muscle in Assam. Rao was beset with scandals. Association with Chandraswami had smeared his name. Later came the sordid episode of Harshad Mehta, the stock market plunderer. Personally I rated Rao as one of the worst hunter-gatherers of Indian politics. His alleged corrupt practices had fattened his own pocket and not the party coffers. His scholarly slough did glitter but like that of a black cobra."

On Personal Matters

"Having taken care of family I was prepared to jump into action. I sought out my RSS friend (Benares one), who had reverted back to his pracharak mission. A self-effacing person, he was not interested in governmental matters. Out interactions confirmed my doubt that the Jan Sangh was not in a position to provide good governance. The conflicting interest in the Janata conglomerate were straining the very seams of the coalition. The former Congress elements were in collision with the regional satraps, and the ever-splitting socialists. Charan Singh, Jagjivan Ram, and Bahuguna were pursuing their own agenda. Morarji Desai was obsessed with the mission of humiliating Indira and tarnishing the Nehru legacy with as much black paint as he could muster."

The Gold Auction Inquiry

"The crucial question of fitting a square peg like me in a round hole was temporarily solved. Rajeshwar called me to his room and told me that he was deputing my services to the Ministry of Finance, as a Director to assist the just constituted Gold Auction Enquiry Committee, headed by K. R. Puri, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Enquires revealed that my deputation was co-terminus with the life of the committee. My future, thereafter, would depend on the whims of the DIB. He might, I feared, revert me back to my state cadre after my tenure with Puri was over. I thought that was the time for me to consult Dhawan but I did not have to. I stood up to Rajeswar and told him that as an earmarked officer I cannot be sent on deputation to a ministry. I had accepted intelligence as the anchor of my career and I intended to hone up my professional capabilities in the fields of counterinsurgency, counter terrorism and counterintelligence fields."

On Maneka Gandhi

The popular perception that Maneka was thrown out of 1 Safdarjung Road is not correct. She had meticulously prepared for the event and precipitated the matter by floating a political outfit, Sanjay Vichar Manch just a day before Indira returned from London. My static watchers and moles inside the PMH had noticed Maneka and Ambika transferring out small baggage items, which allegedly contained cash, from Safdarjung house to her mother’s place at Jorbagh.


The book by Manas Publications may get withdrawn and so for Rs 795 it is a great read!

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