National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval: The Spymaster of India
Want both James Bond and Henry Kissinger in an Indian? Well that’s undoubtedly Mr. Ajit Kumar Doval for you.
The former Indian intelligence and law enforcement officer Mr.Ajit Doval (popularly known as “The Spy Master”) is the current National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since 30 May 2014. He had previously served as the Director of India’s prestigious Intelligence Bureau (IB) in 2004-05, after spending a decade as the head of its operations wing.
The ‘Master’ as a field agent, Mr.Doval had successfully broken the back of the North-East insurgency in 1986 in an undercover operation that gave him lasting fame—the defection of 6 out of 7 commanders of Laldenga’s outfit to the Indian cause, forcing the secessionist leader to sign the peace accord. In addition, he was undercover in Pakistan for 7 years posing as a Pakistani Muslim in Lahore. In Kashmir, he infiltrated the militant outfits and was able to turn militants into peacemakers. The transforming of rabid anti-India militant Kuka Parray into a pro-India peacemaker was a notable triumph of Doval.
In the late 1980s, when militancy was at its peak in Punjab, Mr Doval walked into the besieged Golden Temple in Amritsar posing as a Pakistani agent months before the 1988 Operation Black Thunder and obtained vital intelligence on the militants holed up inside. “His piercing gaze and mysterious smile is etched in my memory forever,” says an intelligence officer who met Doval after Operation Black Thunder. “The risk was high but our security forces got the blueprint for the attack from Doval. Maps, details like strength, weapons and the location where militants was hiding were given by him. The IB passed over the information to NSG (National Security Guard), saving countless lives and preventing further damage to the temple,” he recollects.
In 1999, after 5 Pakistan-based terrorists hijacked the Indian Airlines Flight No. IC-814 which had taken off from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999 and was on its way to Delhi, Doval was India’s main negotiator with the hijackers. Uniquely, Doval has the experience of being involved in the termination of all 15 hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft from 1971-1999.
To sum up, truly no spymaster before him is so fabled for running meticulously conceived anti-terror operations deep inside enemy territory. He has personally trained agents in the dangerous art of exhaustive exploration of insurgent hideouts in troubled Kashmir, at great risk to life and liberty. He is the only police officer to be awarded the Kirti Chakra, India’s second highest peacetime gallantry award.
Unlike the past NSAs who preferred to look at external issues, Doval is likely to concentrate on building India’s internal capacities, border infrastructure, modernizing the intelligence community and defence in a practical manner. Being a staunch believer in a strong state and stronger counter-terrorism measures, Doval’s focus will be more on the internal security situation, improving India’s covert operations capability in the neighborhood even while they put in place an equally robust foreign and defense doctrine.