Saturday, November 8, 2008

The IB chief who dined with militants

The IB chief who dined with militants
15 Jul 2004
Source: Times of India

A daredevil operations man who spent three decades chasing, terrorising and educating terrorists is now India's Intelligence Bureau chief.
Unlike his predecessors, who have largely been faceless officers with just grey hairs of wisdom and a bit of luck in winning the crucial political nod, Ajit Kumar Doval, brings with him action, dynamism and adventure that has kept him in the news for years.
The office of the Intelligence Bureau chief demands seniority, which all his predecessors had. Doval has that too. But he has more to offer. He is starkly different in his approach as his track record shows.
An operations man, Doval has spent more than three decades in the rough and tumble of India's fight against terrorism.
He was posted in the northeast at the height of militancy. Among the numerous tales surrounding Doval, one tells of the few days he spent with a senior militant in his hide-out, without the latter realising that his companion was a top cop.
It was during the height of Punjab terrorism that Doval, a 1968 batch Kerala cadre IPS officer, actually proved his mettle. In fact, he went on to become India's first civilian to win the military bravery honour Kirti Chakra.
Doval, say his peers, has shown an uncanny ability to seize the moment and act, on several occasions putting his life at risk.
Once, in pursuit of a hardcore Punjab terrorist, Doval got a tip-off that his quarry was planning to flee the area.
Doval had to act before the reinforcement arrived. The not-so-tall IPS officer jumped on the terrorist and held on to the tall, well-built Sikh for quite a while before the back-up arrived.
"He is unconventional, courageous and sharp," says one of his contemporaries.
On another instance, Doval had asked a few of his colleagues to meet at a particular point for the day's work, mostly surveillance.
Minutes after the juniors arrived, Doval showed up as a rickshaw-puller, and asked his juniors to hop on to the rickshaw.
It is his hands-on approach that endears him to his juniors. When his appointment as IB chief was announced last week, the entire IB office erupted in celebrations, including those who were in the running for the post.
"I am sure he would bring back a lot of professionalism. He definitely has a vision for the agency," says a former IB officer.
When IC-814 was hijacked in December 1999, Doval was the obvious choice to go to Kandahar, Afghanistan to negotiate.
Doval's training as a professional negotiator helped, as did his ability to speak Pashtu and Urdu. At the end of his Kandahar negotiations, Doval was featured on the front page of a Pakistani magazine and was a prominent media figure across the border.
But the then government was in a hurry. Doval and other officials had to talk to Jaish militants without any proper brief, without much time, and with not much space to manouevre.
Decisions had already been taken in Delhi and on the last day of 1999, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh landed at Kandahar with three dreaded terrorists, who are now kingpins of terrorism in Kashmir.
Doval continues to do what he is best at: watching, chasing and studying terrorists, and warning and informing the government about the nation's security situation.
The Kashmir Challenge
For the past few years, Doval has been a crucial advisor to the government on Kashmir and Pakistan matters. His judgement has been on target on
Kashmir and Pakistan, says a senior bureaucrat who has interacted with Doval on several occasions.
Now as the Kashmir situation once again threatens to get out of hand, Doval is in the thick of action. It would require much courage and imagination to keep Kashmir on track and to get the doves among Hurriyat Conference to come back to the negotiations table. This will involve some political manoevring as well.


Unknown said... just fills u with pride that we still have such great spies in india...hope to see him in full axnn yet again... in a bigger role

Pinaz Kullar said...

"We still have great spies in India" ... How many great spies of the past do you know of? I just know about the Black Tiger and Ajit Doval. You implicitly mean there were many great Indian spies once upon a time. Please do share some names related to the said golden era of Indian spying that no one has any idea about!
Or did you just say this because that is how people in India talk, like we have lost all greatness and anyone successful in India is a surprise to you which "fills you with pride".