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Chilling and thrilling spy stories

Life&More October 12, 2018
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Rajkumari Sharma Tankha

The book, The Zero Cost Mission/ The Wily Agent (Harper Collins India; pages 189; price Rs 250) by Amar Bhushan is a two-story fictional work based on the exploits of the Indian intelligence and it is so racy that I had to finish it at one go. I just couldn’t put it down. I love thrillers, especially spy stories that talk about patriotism.

Why this book assumes an added importance for me is because as per the author it has been inspired by true stories. I have no reason to doubt the author as Bhushan is an IPS officer who initially worked with MP Police and later with Intelligence (BSF, State Special Branch, Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing, in that order). Further, authors who write a book considering readers to be an intelligent tribe deserve my special respect. Bhushan is one among them.

The first story, The Zero Cost Mission, is an account of a daredevil RAW operative who requests Kolkata-based, politically well-connected Bangladeshi to finance an operation (RAW has refused to give him the money for this!) that will involve targeting the anti-India Jamaat-e-Islami and its patron, the Pakistani intelligence, ISI. Both Jamaat and the ISI are using madrasas located along the Indo-Bangladesh border to sneak terrorists into India.

What follows is chilling — bomb attacks on ISI safe house in Dhaka and Jamaat offices and madrasas (used as launching pads to infiltrate terrorists). The aftermath: Awami League comes to power, the Jamaat leader is hanged to death while those who helped the RAW operative get rehabilitated.

The Wily Agent is about the exploits of a Bangladeshi diplomat, Rehman, who is on the payroll of RAW in New Zealand. Rehman’s espionage skills come under acute test when he is transferred back to Dhaka, thanks to Jeevanthan, the head of Dhaka unit of India’s external intelligence agency, who want to find out if Rehman can be a long-term asset for India.

Rehman proves his efficiency to his Indian bosses by giving them sensitive classified information and even as he later gets caught and is tortured by the Bangladeshi counter-intelligence, he remains tight-lipped about who is works for. A much-relieved Indian intelligence secretly funds his family so that it can fight the legal battle against his arrest.

But The Zero Cost Mission/ The Wily Agent is not just about Indian operations in Bangladesh, it also talks about the rot that has seeped in RAW wherein competent and efficient junior officers are subjugated and harassed by less efficient seniors out of sheer jealousy. It talks about professional rivalry gone wrong that often makes seniors turn vindictive toward their juniors — stopping promotions and even ruining careers.

While such a thing exists in all professions, in RAW it could be pretty dangerous as the consequences could compromise the security and safety of the country — you never know what a harassed and ‘ignored’ intelligence officer can do!

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