A new book on the life and times of legendary spymaster RN Kao, founding father of India’s external intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), will hit the stands soon, announced publishing house Bloomsbury.
The book, RN Kao: Gentle Spymaster, which is based on reminiscences of Kao’s family, professional colleagues, and his personal papers, is written by security expert Nitin A Gokhale.
Kao, who has many firsts to his credit, was one of the founding fathers of the Directorate General of Security (DGS) in the aftermath of the disastrous Sino-Indian conflict in 1962 and brain behind the secretive Aviation Research Centre, India’s premier technical intelligence agency.
A deputy director at the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Kao took over as director of RAW in 1968 after former prime minister Indira Gandhi split the former to carve out an intelligence agency focused on international threats. Also, he was a close adviser and security chief to three Indian prime ministers — Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Kao’s legendary exploits include conducting ‘Kashmir Princess’ probe in the mid-1950s, his contributions in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 and role in ensuring Sikkim’s merger with India.
“For an author like me, it had to be a combination of the personal and the professional to try and capture the essence of Kao, the man, the legend.
“This is neither history nor a detective thriller. It is by no means a comprehensive chronicle of the RAW either. Just read it for what it is: a short glimpse into how organisations tasked to protect India’s national interests took shape,” writes Gokhale in the preface.
A fiercely private person by nature, the biography on Kao, which seemed an “impossible” task to the author at first, also became possible because just months before his death Kao thought of recording his reminisces in a tape-recorder. He even corrected the transcripts, but with the proviso that these tapes should be gradually opened to the public after his death.
“Alas, only part of those papers transcripts of tape-recorded dictations left behind by Kao are currently available.
“Three crucial files on Bangladesh, the merger of Sikkim and Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination will not be open until 2025, according to instructions left behind by him, months before he passed away in January 2002,” writes Gokhale, whose previous books include Securing India The Modi Way: Pathankot, Surgical Strikes and More, 1965 Turning the Tide: How India won the War and Sri Lanka: From War to Peace.
The foreword of the book is written by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who is himself considered a legend in the world of intelligence.
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