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Definite clues to identities of the mole(s)

Definite clues to identities of the mole(s)

Author: Ashok Malik
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 1, 2006

The Prime Minister's Office argues that Jaswant Singh's communication reveals no names of "moles" or "informants" in the PV Narasimha Rao PMO.

The BJP leader argues that the papers he has forwarded to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are authoritative enough.

Who's right? Is the former foreign minister throwing up red herrings - or is the PMO being disingenuous?

Copies of the documents forwarded by Jaswant Singh to the Prime Minister are available with The Pioneer. They don't indicate any "mole" - in the sense of a long-cultivated agent - in the Indian Government, but do point to two individuals who can be accused of loose talk, deliberate or otherwise.

While The Pioneer obviously cannot testify to the authenticity of these documents, they offer clues that are such that identifying the two people should actually be very easy for the Government.

In early 1996, Jaswant Singh received not one but two letters, it now appears. His sources expected him to use these to "embarrass the Rao Government in Parliament".

The first was a position paper written by strategic affairs scholar Stephen Cohen to Senator Dianne Feinstein on the feasibility of a "Camp David" for south Asia. This was purely a theoretical exercise and made only a passing reference to the nuclear issue.

Appended with it was another letter - from Thomas W Graham, then head of the International Security Programme at the Rockefeller Foundation, to Harry G Barnes, former American ambassador to India (1981-85) and, by the mid-1990s, at the Jimmy Carter Centre.

This second letter is the one that has been quoted in Jaswant Singh's book, A Call to Honour. An edited version was published in India Today this past week.

In his letter, Graham, an arms control specialist with impeccable academic credentials, writes to Barnes about two recent meetings he has had.

No dates are mentioned but the letter seems to have been written in 1995, and makes reference to the upcoming Thanksgiving vacation. In 1995, this fell between November 23 and 26.

Siddhartha Shankar Ray was the Indian ambassador in Washington in this period. He was succeeded about three months later by Naresh Chandra. Graham writes of his conversation with two individuals - identified as "senior person" and "junior official". His is a non-official intelligence input and he seeks Barnes' advice on how to deliver it to relevant quarters in the US administration - "people like [Strobe] Talbott" - because dependence on the formal intelligence mechanism will "almost guarantee a leak".

The "senior person" - who appears to be based in Washington or to have met Graham there - warns his American interlocutor that the Indian Government is close to testing a nuclear weapon. He talks of a "super secret meeting" in Bangalore where he will be present. The source appears to know the positions participants will take - including the likely pro-test stance of scientists R Chidambaram, APJ Abdul Kalam and Raja Rammana.

The source says that if Chidambaram and Kalam are allowed to retire, the danger could pass, as "younger scientists ... were not as hawkish".

Graham's "senior" source is particularly well informed about the soon-to-become Indian ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra. Chandra, the letter says, "is trying to provide the PM with informed views counter to those being advocated by the ministries". The source also reveals Chandra's travel plans, and that he will be visiting London and Frankfurt before getting to Bangalore.

Graham's second conversation takes place with a "junior official" who participated in a Bangalore meeting "where he had been an advocate of incremental steps including placing some Indian reactors under safeguards". It is not immediately clear if this is the same Bangalore meeting that the Prime Minister called to discuss a possible test.

The "junior official" appears to be a Foreign Service officer and particularly garrulous. He interacts with Graham at a meeting, apparently in Washington, where others are present. Graham "assumed" the "junior official" had "been sent to the US" to assist the "senior official" and make an assessment of the diplomatic fallout of a possible test.

The relatively pro-test "junior official" tells Graham that, "The Canadian prime minister had been invited to attend the Republic Day parade January 26, 1996, but when the government of Canada had pressed India not to test ... the invitation had been withdrawn."

Graham's conclusion in his letter to Barnes is that "even if Rao does not approve resumed nuclear testing", there is a chance that his successors will resort to it. He refers to the BJP's pre-election promises.

In Jaswant Singh's book, this is the key issue. It "establishes", he says, that the Americans had an idea that the NDA Government would test and were not "taken by surprise" or "betrayed" as they claimed.

Who are "senior person" and "junior official"? Travel dates from the winter of 1995 should be enough for the PMO to find out.

Jaswant's decoy:

# Not once in A Call to Honour does Jaswant Singh use the word "mole". Even so, on pages 125-126, he does quote a letter and says it "had been sent that very year (1995) to a United States senator". It now appears that the letter was written not to a member of the US Senate but to a former ambassador, then working in the Carter Centre. As such, did the former foreign minister mislead his readers?

# Jaswant Singh says he had his reasons for obfuscation: "Perhaps it was an error. But I used it as a deliberate diversion to protect the identity of the Indian official referred to in the letter."

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