“India has a mindset that, where it hits, it punches below its weight. We have to increase our weight and punch proportionately.”
Meet India’s fifth National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with his usual blunt and fearless style.
Doval – The James Bond of India
In his more than 50 years of career, Ajit Doval successfully carried out many dangerous missions. This is why, he is often called the “James Bond of India.”
Apart from Doval’s illustrious career, what is interesting about him is that there is no information related to his life on any government website. It was only during a lecture in Mumbai in August 2015, brief information about his life was given. According to it, Doval was born in 1945 in Ghiri Banelsyun village in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal district and he graduated in master’s degree in Economics from Agra University in 1967.
Career as an IAS Officer
Doval joined the Indian Police Services in Kerala Cadre in 1968. Within six years of his role as an IPS officer, he was awarded with prestigious Police Medal for his outstanding services. To earn this medal, an officer must have at least an experience of 17 years. But, Doval became an exception by receiving this honour as the youngest police officer ever. Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself honoured him with this medal.
Intelligence Officer With IB
Doval entered the world of espionage with joining Intelligence Bureau (IB) in 1972. He spent 30 years of his career as an active Field Intelligence Officer. During this period, he undertook many secret missions, including stints in the restive regions of northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and the UK.
Anti-Insurgency Operations in Northeast
Doval played an important role in anti-insurgency operations in Mizoram and Punjab as a field agent. He was successful in penetrating the underground Mizo National Front. After winning the confidence of six rebel Mizo leaders, he was able to bring the seventh leader Laldenga for talks, which eventually led to Mizoram Peace Accord. Not only this, in order to break the dominance of 20 years old Mizo insurgent group, he secretly entered Myanmar and China. For this, Doval was awarded with Kirti Chakra – India’s second highest peacetime award – in 1988. He is also the first police officer to receive this award. In addition to this he, along with ex-Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, conducted successful military operation against rebel group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland in Myanmar.
Sikkim’s Merger With India
For another assignment in northeast, Doval worked as an undercover agent. It was a highly confidential mission details of which are not available till date. It was his tireless efforts which made the merging of Sikkim with India possible.
Winning the Confidence of Kashmiri Separatists and Militants
Not only an extraordinary spy but Doval is also a great strategist. He is an expert in psychological warfare. This quality of his has been the reason behind the success of his every dangerous mission. He was also instrumental in bringing separatists like Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, Syed Ali Shah Gilani on the talks table. By winning the confidence of Kashmiri Militant Kuka Parray (later the founder of Jammu and Kashmir League) and many of his associates, Doval convinced them to cooperate with the Indian Army in counter-insurgency operations. It was a major step as it paved the way for 1996 general and assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Surrender of Khalistani Militants
When Punjab was reeling under militancy, Doval, under Operation Black Thunder in 1988, disguised as a rickshaw puller and established contact with Khalistani terrorists hiding in Golden Temple. He convinced them of him being a Pakistani agent and gathered all strategic information from them, which he shared with security agencies. Earlier police estimated of 40 Khalistani militants hiding in the temple but Doval revealed the number of militants to be at least 200. The Indian Government had already paid a huge price by launching Operation Blue Star in 1984, so it dropped the idea of raid on Doval’s advice. A different strategy was followed in which the supply of water and electricity was stopped in the temple during peak summers. The plan worked and all Khalistani militants finally surrendered before security forces on ninth day.
Resolving the Highjacking Case of Plane IC-814
Doval also had direct role in the resolution of highjacking case of Indian Airlines’ plane IC-814 in 1999 where he held negotiations with Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan’s Kandahar. From 1971 to 1999, Doval efficiently dealt with 15 incidents of highjacking.
Safe Return of 46 Indian Nurses from Iraq
Doval is also credited with the safe return of 46 Indian nurses who were held hostages in a hospital in Iraq’s Tikrit by ISIS terrorists in June 2014. For this, Doval himself went to Iraq to assess ground realities there. He established high-level contacts in the Iraqi Government, which finally paid off. On 5th July, 2014, all nurses were safely brought back to India.
Living in Pakistan as an Undercover Agent
His stint of living in Pakistan as an undercover agent was extremely dangerous. Posing as a Muslim for seven years, that too in a hostile country, frequenting mosques and befriending people there was not at all child’s play. Even a negligible mistake could have cost him his life. But Doval, not caring about such high risks involved with the mission, successfully provided the Indian agencies with vital information on Pakistan’s nuclear programme. In one incident, he was recognised by a man, who himself was a Hindu. Rest details related to his assignment in Pakistan remained classified. Later, Doval was stationed for some time in the Indian embassy in Pakistan.
Role in Abrogation of section 370 and 35A in J&K
The role of Doval was much talked about when section 370 and 35A were repealed in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. The next month in September 2019, he visited Jammu and Kashmir to take stock of the situation after the withdrawal of its special status.
Similarly, when Delhi witnessed one of its worst communal riots in February 2020, he visited the riots-hit places. However, a big intelligence failure cannot be denied in this matter.
Setting Up of Vivekanand International Foundation
Doval headed IB’s operation wing for 10 years and remained its director from 2004-2005. After his retirement from IB, he set up Vivekanand International Foundation, a think tank which had former spies and diplomats as its members.
PM Modi’s Most Trusted Man
It is said that Prime Minister Modi trusts Doval the most when it comes to national security and foreign policy. This was the reason that once again in 2019 Doval was given the responsibility of national security advisor but this time also with a cabinet rank.
The Doval Doctrine
During his lectures in 2014 and 2015, Doval expressed his views on defense and foreign policy. These views were called “Doval Doctrine.” This doctrine is believed to be the catalyst behind Modi government’s strong stance towards terrorism and hostile nations. As per Doval, the opponent can be engaged at three levels – defensive, defensive-offensive and offensive. Though he favours the defensive-offensive approach. This is evident from surgical strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in recent years in the wake of Uri and Pulwama terror attacks. During a lecture he famously warned Pakistan, “You May Do One Mumbai; You May Lose Balochistan.”
Showing India’s Tough Stand to China
China, too, is well aware of Doval’s tough attitude. The 2017 India-China Doklam standoff was resolved after Doval made it clear to his Chinese counterpart that India would not hesitate a bit in fighting a war for protecting Bhutan’s interest.
Doval – an Asset for India
Doval holds firm grip on national and international security matters. Time and again, he has stressed the need of strengthening Indian security structure and robust relations with international security agencies. Doval, a veteran in the field of internal and external security matters, is undoubtedly an asset for India.