Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kao

Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kao

RN Kao

RAMESHWAR NATH KAO, the founder of India's external intelligence agency, R&AW, was no ordinary spymaster. He was one of the architects of modern India. His yeoman services to the country in the field of intelligence and national security remain unsurpassed. When Kao was alive Prof. ML Sondhi, a great admirer of his, used to describe him as a 'living legend'. A great visionary, Pt. RN Kao shunned publicity, never sought gubernatorial appointments for himself after retirement. He was a profound patriot. How to strengthen India's national security remained a lifelong passion with him.

Kao was an institution builder of high ranking. Rarely in the intelligence world, do individuals arise around whom entire institutions are built and whose personality leaves indelible marks on the community as a whole? His personal contribution to an exciting and significant chapter of Independent India's history should have been written in letters of gold. He was real author of India's secret history. Kao has been described as master spy of the 2oth century and rated better than Kim Philby, Allen Dulles and Alexander Orlov.

As founder of India's external intelligence agency Kao built R&AW into such a formidable organization that within three years of its birth it was able to harness Pakistan's anti-Bengali campaign in the then East Pakistan to India's advantage, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. The professional touch he imparted to the organization earned for his disciples the sobriquet of 'Kaoboys'. Kao commanded international prestige for his professional capability and integrity. This he harnessed well to enhance India's national security. He had razor sharp intellect, was decisive, often ruthless in his job.

Kao was one of the first Hindus to join Intelligence Bureau, shortly before independence and gained deep insights in to colonial administration and its support structures in Indian society. Later, he utilized these insights to undermine these support structures with subversive potential to put Indian security on a sound footing. His contributions in this sphere have been awesome but little known.

He was a great visionary. Through the creation of Bangladesh he eliminated a grave security threat to India from its eastern flank along which China menacingly loomed. It is a different issue altogether that Indian political leadership failed to build on this. Kao's other feat was snatching away of Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim from under China's nose and making it a part of India. The remarkable work Kao did in cultivating clandestine relationship with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, at a time when the very name of Israel used to be a taboo for the dominant Indian political class, has yielded rich dividends. Kao has also been the architect of India's elite National Security Guards, NSG. Unfortunately, his advice was not heeded to at the time of Simla Talks, leading to frittering away of the advantages India had gained by humbling Pakistan.

Kao was a professional to the core, abhorring all ideologies except one of promoting India's national interests ceaselessly. He displayed pragmatism in his approach, never tailored his assessments to requirements of the political class. He admired Indira Gandhi not because she was ruler of the day. Kao observed in Independent India's history no leader of the stature of Sardar Patel had emerged after him other than her. She matched him in courage, display of political will, decisiveness and commitment to pursue national interests with total commitment. Yet Kao showed his disapproval on declaration of emergency. Morarji Desai was paranoid about Kao's role during emergency, blaming him for excesses. In the high-level enquiry that was ordered nothing could be found against him. Charan Singh, the then Home Minister, acknowledged, "Kao was a thorough professional to his fingertips."

Kao displayed strong pride in his Kashmiri ancestry, was firmly rooted in Indian civilization. He disregarded political correctness of the day by expressing total solidarity with Displaced Kashmiri Hindus. Even in his retirement days when he was no longer involved with the affairs of the state Kao kept himself fully posted with information about Kashmir.

George Tanham once shocked Indians when he said India had no strategic culture. In this country where national security is not a public issue we decorate political leaders and smaller people with Bharat Ratnas. Pt. RN Kao who changed India's geography remains unsung, unhonoured .There are no avenues named after him, no official biography on him exists either. In India's 60th year of independence who else than Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kao deserves Bharat Ratna ?


  1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. --Ranjit Bhushan, (Outlook, Feb. 4, 2002)
  2. 'Never Trust the US on Pakistan' --B. Raman, July 21, 2006
  3. Capital Talk: A reticent spymaster. --Inder Malhotra, The Hindu, 2002
  4. The House that Kao Built-Mohan Guruswamy --The Asian Age, 2002
  5. Rameshwar Nath Kao (1918-2002). --Sunil Saini, Bharat Rakshak Monitor, March-April, 2002
  6. Spy who knew Bangladesh better than its president-Edited excerpts ofInside RAW: the story of India's secret service by Ashoka Raina, 1981 as published in Indian Express, 2002
  7. R.N. Kao-Kuldip Singh, The Independent, London, Feb 1, 2002
  8. The CIA's secret war in Tibet-OAK Tree
  9. Jihadis and their American Puppets. --B. Raman, Rediffmail, July 2006
  10. Indira Gandhi's Covert Track. --T. Sabaratnam, Vol. 2, Pirapaharan 2, Chapter II
  11. 'We should leave Pakistan to stew in her own juice'. --B. Raman, January 18, 2003
  12. Kao, the doyen of Indian Intelligence. --K.N. Daruwalla, Indian Express, 2002

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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