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What R. N. Kao Thought of the US, China & Pakistan

With President Barack Obama in our midst, I thought it would be interesting to recall what R. N. Kao, the founding father of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), thought of the US, China and Pakistan in his retirement before he died in January 2002. Extracts from some of his letters to me are given below:

The USA ‘Many years ago, after meeting some of the top functionaries in the USA, I formed the opinion that they are not necessarily anti-Indian. Their priorities are different and are determined by their perception of national interests. They follow their chosen line of action with a stubborn determination. If, in the process, we get hurt, it is just too bad.’ (7-10-97)

American Cultural Influence on the Indian Elite ‘Pan-American culture is making our so-called elite rootless. Indeed, it is very true that in the southern hemisphere, the young upwardly mobile affluent people find themselves more at ease with West Europeans and Americans than with their own poorer nationals. For a country like India, this could lead to dangerous tensions..’ (23-1-98)

Information Revolution ‘The question in my mind is whether, with the fast developing information technology, it would at all be feasible for any government agency to filter the avalanche of information, which is beamed towards us from different angles of the azimuth.’ (4-8-97)

‘ The recent advances in information technology are quite dazzling, but one doubts whether an overwhelming data bank is synonymous with wisdom. Indeed, I have always felt a little uneasy at the thought that the world would become a mirror image of the US. What a dull prospect it would be, and how disastrous for the natural resources of this planet.! It has been truly said that man is   the only creature of this earth who destroys the environment in which it survives.’ (12-1- 98)

Sino-US Relations

‘China and USA have some kind of a love-hate relationship. The Chinese will feel they have arrived only if they can show to the world that they are in the same league as the USA. The latter, on their part, have, to my mind, a long-standing guilt complex so far as China is concerned. Perhaps, it flows from the long history of American Methodist missionary activity in China.’ (25-11-97)

China ‘As a people, we sometimes get carried away by euphoria or sink into gloom. It is quite clear that, so far as China is concerned, it would be a long haul for us. I remember that, in the mid fifties, while addressing an annual conference of the intelligence chiefs of the States, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said that while our problems with Pakistan were acute and demanded urgent solution, our    problems with China would prove more intractable and continue for a long long time.’ (14-12-96)

‘The Chinese, too, are busy playing games, as every one else does. In 1984, when I was leaving for Beijing, my then boss (My comment: Mrs Indira Gandhi) asked me what I hoped to achieve. In reply, I had said I expected very little, but that I saw no reason why we should leave the field to Pakistan unchallenged and not make even an effort.’ (23-12-96)

‘I think that with economic prosperity being more evenly spread out in China, the liberalisation of the political system would be inevitable. Once the people have enough to eat and a roof over their head, all kinds of explosive ideas of individual liberties, human rights and freedom of expression begin to take shape. One only hopes that the Chinese would be able to manage this better than,    apparently, the Russians have been able to handle the economic problems following their attempts at political liberalisation.’ (30-1-97)

‘This morning, over the AIR there was a brief commentary about the increase in China’s armed might and its modernisation over the last few years. One cannot but view this with some uneasiness.’ (3-3-97)

‘In spite of the publicity, a large part of the functioning of the Chinese apparatus remains opaque. Therefore, one has to be very cautious in making any forecasts about that country.’ (12-5-98)


‘Pakistan deserves to be declared a rogue state. How I wish that geography could be changed and we should leave Pakistan alone to stew in her own juice!’ (9-8-96)

‘My gnawing fear is that, so long as there is an oligarchy in Pakistan of the armed forces and the senior bureaucrats, the government there would continue to maintain a posture of some hostility to us. Perhaps, they need it for their survival.’ (23-5-97)

‘It may sound somewhat impulsive, but I do often feel that we should leave Pakistan alone to stew in its own juice. The only thing we need to make certain is that if they start any adventurist course of action, we are able to give them a bloody nose.’ (7-10-97)

”There is little doubt that China and North Korea have helped Pakistan in developing her missile capability, even if they have not handed over to them finished products. It is of extreme importance that we should know what Pakistan is doing so that we are able to maintain a posture of strength, based on our defensive and offensive capacities.’ (25-4-98)

“We should not allow ourselves to be driven into a position where we have to fight simultaneously on two fronts.’ (19-5-98)

The Indian Scene ‘Irrespective of whatever else happens, there is no doubt that now the so-called backward and Dalit classes will wield a great deal of influence by virtue of their numbers, and it is significant that they are now acutely conscious of their strength. Therefore, one should expect major changes in politics, economics and social equity. It is a fascinating prospect.’ (8-5-96)

‘I suspect that though we are catching up on globalisation, the bulk of our industrialists and business tycoons are still out of date in their thinking.’ (2-8-97)

‘Unfortunately, the political scene in our country is presently so confused that it is difficult to say in which direction we are going. Of course, every one avows that the process of liberalisation of government controls would continue. One, however, wonders whether with megascams discovered every other day, how long we would be able to go on like this.’ (12-1-98)

(Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group.  The writer Mr B Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

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