This column is not to recount R N Kao’s successes or failures; he saw both in good measures. For despite the paucity, there have been some books both by his colleagues and some by later spies, one of whom had the good sense of recording him for posterity. Instead, this column is just to inspire us Indians – in a world where history is being slaughtered daily – to study our gradually eroding past.

Intelligence sharing is the most unsatisfactory aspect of Indo-US counter-terrorism co-operation. Before 26/11, the U.S. had hardly ever shared with India any worthwhile preventive intelligence.

David Coleman Headley had been planning an attack on India in collaboration with the ISI and the LeT for a long time. This was known to the U.S. authorities. Perhaps they could have forced Pakistan to restrain their spy agency.

Vice President Hamid Ansari has pushed for a parliamentary oversight committee to monitor the activities of the intelligence agencies, something which previous Canary Trap posts have strongly advocated for.

While delivering the late R N Kao memorial lecture on January 19, Vice President Ansari highlighted the case of “faulty intelligence” on weapons of mass destruction before the Iraqi invasion in 2003 and asked “How shall a democracy insure its secret intelligence apparatus becomes neither a vehicle for conspiracy nor a suppressor of the traditional liberties of democratic self-government?”

The findings of the internal inquiry of RAW into the Rabinder Singh episode will never be known even to the Indian Parliament or a parliamentary committee. How then can we be sure of their effectiveness in gathering information and protecting the country.

The Home Minister has to ensure that an oversight mechanism be created to ensure that such vital issues (Rabinder Singh episode) affecting national security are not swept under the carpet and appropriate lessons are drawn from it.

When Mrs Indira Gandhi again became Prime Minister in 1980, she recalled Kao from his retirement and appointed him as her senior advisor on internal and external developments. She used to consult him on political and intelligence matters. His professional guidance was of general nature.

In one major development, when Mrs Gandhi wanted to go USA she was not getting her choice of appointment date with the US President through External Affairs Ministry channels. Kao through his friend George Bush Senior – who was then US Ambassador in China – arranged her meeting with the US President.