That Raman the globally acknowledged counter terrorism expert and our own R&AW man is no more is very sad news that is hard to digest. The death which came on 16th evening,unfortunately was again the handiwork of the most dreaded decease, Cancer with which he waged two battles. The first time, he was successful and was jubilant that he had overcome the challenges of a prostate cancer with the aid of modern medicine and some innovative methods. He wrote and blogged extensively about the hard fought campaign against cancer at that time. His continuous writing about the way he was being treated and the way his body was responding provides very useful inputs about the treatment and after effects. He appeared to enjoy the fight with Cancer and did not mind sharing all personal medical details with the readers of his blogs. Many readers well known to him had told him that he was boasting about his cancer! He was also very relieved after the treatment, that he could resume his two tots of whiskey in the evening. The second time when it resurfaced, it came back with vengeance and Raman did not have the same fight left in him with successive chemo therapies and radiation treatment. It played merry hell with his persona and even affected the frequency of his writings. The rapid spread of cancer affected his vital organs and even his brain. He preferred not to meet any one during the last days of his life to the extent possible. The last days were spent under the care of his elder brother Mr BS Raghavan (who he called papa fondly), the well-known former bureaucrat.
He had made Chennai as his home and was a significant contributor to the think tanks in Chennai. In addition to the Institute of Topical Studies of which he was the President, he was part of Observer Research Foundation and the Chennai Center for China Studies which was his baby. He left the ORF due to differences with the management of ORF in New Delhi. I personally am indebted to Mr Raman for bringing me in to the think tank fraternity. I have learnt a lot from him to shape my own second innings in the academic circle. I consider him to be my mentor and guide in so many ways. Soon after my retirement, I used to participate in conference and presented papers. He asked me to join ORF way back in 2004 after a major conference in which I presented a paper in New Delhi. However, I took some time in responding due to my own commitments and finally joined ORF in June 2005. He remained much focused in what he wanted out of me and tasked me to lead the Future Terrorism project with the assistance of three researchers in Chennai and two researchers in New Delhi. The task was gigantic and we were able to finish it on schedule. However, by that time Raman had left ORF and the document did not see the light of the day. Also with in a fortnight of my joining ORF, he wanted me to bring out a fortnightly edition Maritime Terrorism News Monitor. This was again accomplished and the team was able to keep up the tempo for over six months. Again due to change of policies, these two projects were shelved.
As a professional, Raman was par excellence and was a perfectionist. He had the memory of an elephant and was able to quote dates, events and people with authority to support his arguments. The talk on China which was delivered ex tempore at a joint conference of Center for Asia Studies, Chennai Center for China Studies and Institute of South Asian Studies a few years ago stands out for the sheer brilliance of erudite analysis and crystal gazing about the prospects for the two Asian powers. The thousands of articles which are available on many websites on wide ranging subjects gives an idea of the depth of knowledge and the analytical ability of an incisive mind. Having personally involved in many covert operations, he maintained that the Nation must retain the ability to pay back our adversaries in the same coin. He did say that perhaps, Gujral made a mistake in dismantling all the cross border covert capability of India which was painstakingly built for decades prior to Gujral becoming the Prime Minister.
On many occasions we used to say that as the explosions are taking place in some corner or the other, his article would take shape between explosions to provide the most authentic analysis with authoritative references from much writings/discourses. Till cancer came in the way, he traveled extensively around the globe and was the most sought after strategic analyst. All the national and regional TVs made bee line to seek his participation on the panels on wide ranging subjects affecting national security. Even after the first attack of cancer when he recovered, he traveled mostly to New Delhi and contributed significantly to the task force headed by Mr Naresh Chandra .Having been a member of the National Security Advisory Board and also having been closely involved with nuances of national security, he was passionately involved in this project and doubtlessly, his inputs would have ensured that the right prescriptions are contained in the document of immense significance to national security.
At a personal level he was great human being and enjoyed laughing heartily while narrating some of the humourous episodes. He remained concerned about the people who he worked with and never lost an opportunity to check on the welfare and health of his acquaintances. He made it a habit to update himself about people and organisations whenever he had a chance. There was a child like exuberance when it came to discussions and interactions with those he knew well.
He remained a nationalist and fiercely patriotic till the last breath. With his vision and contribution to the National Security Apparatus and strategic thinking, the nation would remain ever grateful for his contribution both while he was in service during sensitive times and also post retirement when he pursued academic and strategic work. With his loss, India has lost a great strategist, a genious and counter terrorism expert whose work is acknowledged globally and will continue to be quoted for many decades to come. Many friends and associates will miss a great friend a wonderful human being of rare qualities. His professionalism, patriotism, great personal virtues and infectious zeal for hard work are worthy of emulation. He has left an indelible mark in defining national security objectives and in providing options for enhanced preparedness of India in the 21st century.
(The writer, Mr RS Vasan is an Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies as well as Head (Strategy), Center for Asia Studies.Email:email@example.com)