Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW): Inside India’s Foreign Intelligence Agency

1. Introduction to RAW

Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is one of the key intelligence agencies in India. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) stands as one of India’s key intelligence agencies. It initially focused primarily on China and Pakistan, but over the past forty years, it has expanded its mandate, significantly bolstering India’s global influence. RAW’s primary responsibility is to provide the government with strategic and comprehensive information to facilitate challenging decision-making. Collaborating with numerous intelligence services globally, such as the CIA, MI6, and Mossad, RAW actively plans, executes, and exchanges intelligence.

2. Organisation

2.1 Structure 

The Prime Minister of India directly oversees RAW through its director. Assisting the director is a deputy director and other senior officers responsible for overseeing various operational units and departments. RAW divides its operational sections based on specialisation and area of competence. The primary divisions of RAW are:

  • External Intelligence: This section is in charge of compiling and analysing data that originates from sources outside of India.
  • Technical Support Division: This division seeks to collect and process intelligence through the use of technology. Furthermore, it offers technical assistance to other RAW departments.
  • Aviation Research Centre: This division manages a fleet of aircraft and conducting aerial surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
  • Joint Intelligence Committee: The Joint Intelligence Committee coordinates all Indian intelligence institutions’.
  • Operations: The department bears the responsibility of planning and executing covert operations to fulfil India’s national security goals.

Besides these divisions, RAW comprises several other operational units. An example is special teams, a highly competent group of individuals conducting clandestine operations. RAW accepts applications from both military and civilian organisations in India.

In the end, the primary goals of RAW’s operational structure include gathering outside intelligence, carrying out covert activities, and advising the government on matters pertaining to national security. Thus, to safeguard India’s security interests, all of RAW’s sub departments convene and address threats to the country’s issues. [source].

2.2  Ranks 

There are many types of ranks in RAW, and each rank has its own importance. According to the post, the officer has many responsibilities.

2.2.1 Class I/Group A Officer

  • 1. Secretary/Additional Secretary (R)
  • 2. Joint Secretary
  • 3. Director/Deputy Secretary/Attach

2.2.3 Group A Officer

  • 1. Senior Field Officer
  • 2. Field Officer
  • 3. Sub Area Officer
  • 4. Assistant Field Officer 

2.3  Job Profile of RAW Agent

A RAW agent’s duties include keeping tabs on military and political developments in the nations surrounding India. In essence, RAW agents in India have the principal duties and roles outlined below:

  • 1. Gathering foreign intelligence
  • 2. Conducting anti-terrorism operations
  • 3. Advising policymakers in the country
  • 4. Counter-propagation
  • 5. Securing the country’s nuclear program [source].

2.4 Recruiting

In India, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) hires personnel from a variety of government agencies, armed forces, intelligence services, police departments, and administrative services, among others. However, this does not imply that these services are the only ones available for choosing in RAW. 

It takes a significant amount of professional experience, besides strong educational credentials to become a RAW agent. Joining India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is an extremely tough task. Candidates aspiring to join this esteemed organisation must maintain good physical and mental health to qualify. Additionally, they need to possess a graduating degree from a recognized institution or organisation to be eligible for job opportunities at RAW. The candidate must be proficient in at least one foreign language.

Indeed, applicants should be proficient communicators with a keen recall. In addition, the candidates must be younger than 56 years old. In addition, the applicant ought to have over 20 years of service experience, a citizen of India and no criminal history or an active court case. Otherwise, they will not be qualified to work as a RAW agent

2.4.1 RAW Selection

RAW frequently selects talented applicants who have passed the UPSC Civil Services Test and opted to become IPS and IFS officials to serve as RAW officers. Only after completing the foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration does a government servant become eligible for selection in RAW.

The instructors administer a psychological exam and conduct a raw interview at the end of the course. Those that make the shortlist begin a one-year internship at RAW. Appropriate people are recruited by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for the Indian civil services, which include the IAS, IPS, IFS, and other related services. Given that, the UPSC Civil Services Test is divided into three phases. UPSC Mains and Personality Test, UPSC Interview, and UPSC Preliminary Examination [source].

3.0  RAW Operational Information

3.1 Foreign Intelligence

RAW supports numerous significant operations on foreign land with intelligence. It collaborates closely with intelligence agencies in India, including the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Through both overt and covert missions, the agency gathers military, economic, scientific, and political intelligence. Additionally, it keeps an eye on gangs involved in importing weapons and ammunition into India and terrorist groups. The primary focus of RAW is India’s neighbors. Additionally, RAW also provides Indian officials with gathered information, which they then utilize to modify the country’s foreign and national security policies. [source].

3.2  Achievements of RAW 

Over the years, the leading foreign intelligence agency in India, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has been instrumental in numerous noteworthy accomplishments. Among its notable accomplishments are:

  • Role in the creation of Bangladesh: Early in the 1970s, RAW played a significant role in supporting the Bangladeshi independence movement against Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh. [source].
  • Strategic Intelligence in Kargil War: RAW gave crucial intelligence regarding the opponent’s military coordinates, position, force size, etc. during the 1999 Kargil conflict. This aided the Indian Army in organizing and hitting the military locations of the adversary. [source].
  • Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme: In the 1980s, Pakistan was developing a nuclear program that posed a major threat to the Indian government. RAW was instrumental in providing intelligence about this program, which finally led to Pakistan’s arrest. Other nations put pressure on them to cease their nuclear activities. [source].
  • Surgical Strike: Numerous Indian troops were killed when Pakistan assaulted India’s Uri military camp in 2016. The counterattack was skillfully orchestrated and executed by the Indian Army. The RAW agency supplied details regarding the enemy’s personnel, positions, and other aspects [source].
  • Balakot Airstrike: 2019 saw attacks on Indian Army soldiers in Pulwama. RAW assisted in organizing and carrying out the 2019 Balakot Airstrike as a counterattack. The bombing resulted in the destruction of a terrorist training facility in Pakistan, causing significant damage and deaths. [source].
  • RAW has been instrumental in a number of noteworthy achievements that have significantly impacted India’s national security. It made significant contributions to the Kargil War, the Bangladeshi independence movement, and the discovery of Pakistan’s nuclear program, to name a few. RAW is still needed to conduct clandestine operations, get outside intelligence, and counsel the government on matters pertaining to national security.

4.0 Recent Operations

4.1  ‘The Print’ Article on RAW 


The Delhi High Court denied a request asking the Central Government to order the publication of an article on Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) by the digital news site “The Print” to be blocked. In essence, it stated that publication encompasses both the right to know and elements of press freedom. 

The appeal of lawyer Raghav Awasthi to establish norms prohibiting media outlets from publishing any source-based speculation regarding the whereabouts of government officials or diplomats sent overseas was denied by a division bench consisting of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora. employed by an Indian spy agency.

The Print released the contentious piece on 30 November of last year. The article is titled “Nijjar-Pannun effect: RAW closes doors in North America for the first time since founding in 1968.” According to Awasthi, the report jeopardises the careers of the officers it mentions because they are now stigmatised as intelligence officers and therefore cannot serve for any other Indian mission [source].

The Government of India keeps the right, under applicable law, to take action against any magazine or to remove any article which, in its opinion, compromises national security. “In the prima facie opinion of this Court, the impugned article does not compromise the career of the officers, or cause any physical harm to the lives of their family members.” It stated that intelligence matters and the relationship between the Indian government and foreign governments should be handled extremely cautiously and that the Central Government does not need any advisory support from Awasthi. [source].

4.2  Canadian Sikh Leader’s Killing Sparks Diplomatic Tensions

In the midst of the escalating diplomatic crisis between India and Canada after New Delhi accused him of assassination, the death of a Sikh leader with Canadian citizenship on 18 J2023, close to Vancouver, western Canada, where a large number of Sikhs reside, highlights the growing work of the Indian intelligence agency and its reliance on expanding its network in the West under the rule of Narendra Modi.

The Canadian government announced the expulsion of an Indian diplomat it claimed was engaged in the assassination, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being involved in the death of Hardeep Singh Nigar.

Rejecting these charges, New Delhi stated that terrorists and extremists who it said threatened India’s security are given sanctuary in Canada.

According to R. said K. Yadav’s memoirs, India’s foreign intelligence agency “transformed into a bold organization, capable of carrying out its operations across the globe to protect the interests of Indian citizens.” Yadav was an officer in the agency for nearly forty years [source].

Canada-India diplomatic tensions worsen over accusations about Sikh  leader's murder | South China Morning Post
Canadian PM says authorities investigating ‘credible’ links to India on Sikh leader’s murder [source]

4.3 Terrorist Attacks in Pakistan

There has been a notable increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The most recent incident was a suicide bombing on 29 September 2022, which targeted a religious gathering in the Mastung area of Balochistan province, southwest Pakistan, during the Prophet’s Mohamed Birthday celebration. The attack claimed the lives of sixty people. Numerous people suffered injuries.

A few hours later, another explosion rocked a mosque during Friday prayers in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, northwest Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of at least five people and injuries to twelve others.

Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for the two most recent attacks, Pakistan’s Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti alleges Indian involvement in the Balochistani attack. In Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, he briefed reporters, implicating the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the Indian Intelligence Agency in the recent terrorist attacks in the Karachi region, located in the south of the country. [source].

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) stands as a crucial pillar in India’s intelligence infrastructure, dedicated to providing strategic intelligence crucial for national security decision-making. Moreover, its structured organisational setup, comprising various departments and operational units, underscores its multifaceted approach towards gathering external intelligence and executing covert operations. Notably, RAW’s achievements, spanning from its pivotal role in the creation of Bangladesh to its contributions during conflicts like the Kargil War and operations against terrorism, highlight its significant impact on India’s security landscape.

Recruitment into RAW demands stringent criteria, including educational qualifications, experience, and expertise in foreign languages, thereby ensuring a highly skilled and capable workforce. Furthermore, collaboration with other intelligence agencies and governmental bodies, coupled with its proactive stance in gathering intelligence, serves to strengthen India’s defence and policy-making capabilities.

However, recent events, such as the diplomatic tensions following accusations of RAW involvement in incidents abroad and the escalating terrorist attacks in neighbouring Pakistan, underscore the ongoing challenges and complexities faced by intelligence agencies in maintaining regional stability and safeguarding national interests.

As the geopolitical landscape evolves, RAW’s adaptability and effectiveness in addressing emerging threats while upholding principles of transparency and accountability will remain paramount. Moreover, collaborative efforts, both domestically and internationally, are essential to counteract evolving security challenges effectively. Therefore, RAW’s continued commitment to excellence and innovation will be instrumental in shaping India’s security paradigm in the years to come.

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