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Race for next RAW chief still wide open

Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: With less than a fortnight left for the retirement of Sanjeev Tripathi — widely tipped to take over as the next Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief — and the government refraining from making any announcement, the race for the next head of India's internal intelligence agency has become wide open.

Mr Tripathi, who heads the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) of the RAW and is a senior officer of the RAW Allied Services (RAS) cadre, is scheduled to retire on December 31. The present RAW chief, K.C. Verma, is due to retire on January 31 next, and is expected to be shifted to the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) as its chief. However, the government has still not made any announcement on Mr. Verma's successor and is learnt to be toying with the idea of entrusting the job of managing the RAW to an outsider.

Mr. Tripathi originally belongs to the Uttar Pradesh cadre of the 1973 batch of the IPS, but was absorbed in the RAW. He is considered to be a protégé of Ashok Chaturvedi, who served as RAW chief before Mr. Verma became the head of the agency in the early 2009. Informed government sources say Avadhesh Mathur, Special Director in the RAW, and Ajit Lal, Special Director with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), are both in the reckoning for the top spy slot. Both officers are widely respected. While Mr. Mathur has had a long stint in the IB before being shifted to the RAW, Mr. Lal, a 1974 batch IPS officer of the Himachal Pradesh cadre, has served in the IB, handling a number of sensitive areas, including the insurgency in the northeast.

Nehchal Sandhu, Special Director with the IB, has already been named successor to the present Director of Intelligence Bureau, Rajiv Mathur, from January 1, 2011 and the new CBI Director, A.P. Singh, took over earlier this month. For some reason, however, the government has been dragging its feet on the next RAW chief.

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