Rameshwar Nath Kao, affectionately known as R N Kao, was the founding father of India's external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW). His remarkable contributions to RAW and Indian intelligence shaped the geopolitical landscape of South Asia. Let's delve into the life and legacy of this legendary spymaster.
Early Life and Background
Born in 1918 in Benares, R N Kao hailed from a prosperous Kashmiri Brahmin family. He joined the Indian Police in 1939 and later became a part of the Directorate of Intelligence Bureau. Kao's involvement in the Bureau during India's freedom movement laid the foundation for his future endeavors in intelligence.
The Birth of RAW
With the need for real-time foreign intelligence becoming a strategic necessity, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi bifurcated the Intelligence Bureau in 1968 to establish RAW. R N Kao, a deputy director in the Intelligence Bureau, was handpicked by Prime Minister Gandhi to become the first head of RAW. Kao's extensive experience and exceptional skills made him the natural choice for this crucial role.
The Rise of a Spymaster
Under R N Kao's leadership, RAW rapidly transformed into a professional intelligence organization. With meticulous planning and a team of hand-picked operatives and analysts, Kao built a formidable network. His agents, known as "Kaoboys," played a crucial role in gathering intelligence.
Role in the Birth of Bangladesh
One of Kao's notable achievements was his instrumental role in the creation of Bangladesh. RAW provided support to Mukti Bahini, the liberation force of Bangladesh, in their fight against the military junta of West Pakistan. This led to the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, resulting in India's victory and the birth of Bangladesh.
Protection of India's Interests
R N Kao's tenure as the head of RAW saw him protecting India's national security interests. He played a vital role in preventing a possible coup in the Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim. Kao's expertise and strategic guidance helped in the merger of Sikkim with India, thwarting any hostile takeover attempts by China.
Recognition and Legacy
Kao's professionalism and accomplishments earned him recognition among his peers. Count Alexandre de Marenches, the former head of the French external intelligence agency, named Kao as one of the 'five great intelligence chiefs of the 1970s.' Even after retiring from RAW, Kao continued to contribute to India's security as the Security Advisor to the Cabinet.
A Multifaceted Personality
Beyond his intelligence career, R N Kao possessed diverse talents. He was an accomplished sculptor, known for his sculptures of horses, reflecting his passion for wildlife. Kao also had a fine collection of Gandhara paintings, showcasing his appreciation for art and culture.
R N Kao's contributions to Indian intelligence and his leadership in establishing RAW have left an indelible mark on the nation's security apparatus. His strategic vision, professionalism, and dedication to the cause of national security continue to inspire generations of intelligence professionals. The legacy of this legendary spymaster lives on, ensuring a safe and secure India.