Ever since Indian Army conducted surgical strikes beyond LoC in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) in response to the Uri attack at a military base in J&K, people have lauded the Indian Army and Modi government for their proactive action against the terrorist.
However, in all the chest-thumping and people lining up to grab the limelight, one man continued his work seamlessly. The man behind the curtain who stage-managed the entire operation and ensured its success not only at the operational level but also at political and diplomatic level. We are talking about India’s top spymaster and apex strategist, National Security Advisor Mr. Ajit Doval.
As far as credentials go, Doval has an illustrious resume that has earned him repute of being India’s James Bond meet Jason Borne meets Ethun Hunt. Or if you are into Bollywood Agent Vinod meets Sallu Bhai’s Ek Tha Tiger! It is often said that the true success of a spy is when his secrets die with him and this has also been true for Ajit Doval. Despite being in the limelight for so many years, not much is known about his personal and professional life. But, from whatever little information is available, we have built a basic caricature of Mr Doval’s personality and life.
1. Personal Background
Born in 1945, Mr Ajit Doval belongs to Ghiri Banelsyun in Pauri Garhwal which falls in Uttrakhand. His father served in the Indian Army and therefore, he had military upbringing.
2. Academic Background
As mentioned above, Mr Doval enjoyed military background, owing to that he completed his early school level education from Ajmer Military School (formerly King George's Royal Indian Military School) in Ajmer, Rajasthan. For higher education, he joined the University of Agra in 1967 and completed his master's degree in Economics with 1st Rank.
3. Professional Background
After completing his education, Mr Doval appeared for the civil services examination and cleared it easily. He opted to serve the country through IPS. In 1968, Mr Doval was inducted in the Kerala cadre as an IPS officer.
4. Police Medal for meritorious service
Due to his exemplary service record and holistic efforts in ensuring that law and order situation is maintained and followed in the area under his jurisdiction; Mr Doval was awarded Police Medal for meritorious service. Although the norm for awarding his medal is at least 17 years' service, Mr Doval was conferred this honour only after 6 years of service, which made him the youngest IPS officer ever to receive this medal.
5. North East Insurgency
The first major achievement in the career of Ajit Doval came during the 1980s when he was appointed as a mid-level Intelligence Burea officer and an undercover agent in the North-East India. In 1986, the north-east India, especially Mizoram was suffering from secessionist insurgency problem. The Mizo National Front was waging insurgency operations against India. During this time, Mr Doval had infiltrated the organization and defected 6 of Laldenga’s top 7 commanders to the Indian cause. This compelling the outfit to appeal for peace and broke the back of secessionist MNF movement. Many in the government machinery also attribute the Mizo Accord of July 1986 to the credit of Mr Doval’s initiative.
6. Operation Black Thunder
After proving his worth in the counter-insurgency operations in the north-east; he was also made the party of anti-militancy operations in Punjab. During 1988, when the Khalistan movement was at its peak in Punjab, Mr Doval was again appointed as an undercover agent. He disguised himself as a rickshaw puller and approached the Khalistani militants as an agent of Pakistan’s Intelligence agency ISI. He convinced them of support from Pakistan for their cause, which allowed him to gain access to critical parts of the Golden Temple which was under siege.
From thereon, he gathered critical information and intelligence inputs regarding the number, strengths and location of militants, type and power of the arms they were carrying and other critical information. This information proved to be the turning point in Operation Black Thunder which was executed on 30th April 1986. With help of the information provided by Doval, 300 NSG commandos and 700 BSF troops stormed the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, and captured about 300 Sikh militants.
7. Kirti Chakra
His exploits in the north- eastern states that helped break the back of insurgency in the region and his contribution in the defeat of Khalistan militancy earned his name and fame among the government babus, intelligence community and even in the military circles. In 1988, Ajit Doval as awarded the Kirti Chakra one of the highest gallantry awards in India. The most interesting fact about his award was that earlier it was only given out as a military honour but Doval changed it with his passion and commitment to serve the country. So, Ajit Doval also became the first police officer to receive the Kirti Chakra.
8. Undercover agent in Pakistan
Although no clear information is available on this front, but as per official government sources, Ajit Doval has also served as an undercover agent in Pakistan. During his 7-year undercover stint in Pakistan, he was involved in high-risk operation that led to gathering of crucial intelligence inputs for the Indian government. Being from Rajasthan, he was easily able to pick up the appearance and dialect to disguise himself among the localities while on operation in Pakistan.
9. Counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir
During the mid 90’s the militancy movement in Kashmir picked up drastically and the government needed a steady hand to change the tide in their favour. Keeping in mind the sensitive situation they turned to their chief trouble shooter Mr Ajit Doval. The biggest feather in his cap during the Kashmir operation came in the form of surrender of the dreaded Kashmiri militant Kuka Parray. Doval convinced Parray and top commanders in his group Ikhwan-e-Muslimoon to sway in support of the Indian government. Top military commanders were converted into counter insurgents and they helped Indian Army and security agencies to break the back of militancy in Kashmir.
Apart from ensuring law and order situation in Kashmir, the operation was also a political success as it allowed the government to conduct state elections in 1996 in a peaceful manner. His Kashmir stint gave Doval the nickname of master strategist apart from the top spymaster of India.
10. Air India Plane Hijacking
We all are aware of the 1999 hijack of the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 to Kandahar. However, only a few would know that Ajit Doval played a crucial role in it as part of the negotiating team in bringing back the passengers safely. In addition to this, it is also believed that Doval was also involved in the termination of over 15 hijacking of Air India aircrafts during 1971 to 1999. It may sound like an over exaggerated and chest thumping statement in the context of someone else, but with his proven credentials it surely sounds like the truth in case of Mr Ajit Doval.
11. Breaking “Babu” Culture at Intelligence Bureau
During this long and illustrious career with the Intelligence Bureau, he ensured he mastered all the challenges thrown at him. In fact, he is known in the RAW and IB as someone who broke down the ‘Babu’ culture by promoting work over red-tapism. Intelligence officers and agents working under him were given a considerable amount of freedom to operate with the prime focus on achieving their targets. He personally trained and supervised his key assets for important operations and even inspired them to evolve the character they were playing by coming to work in their disguise and following their dialect and lifestyle during normal office hours as well. Being a field agent himself, he understood the sacrifices and hardships faced by the other agents and he ensured that their life was made a little more simple and convenient by granting them a few concessions.
12. Spymaster hangs his boots
It was in 2005 that Ajit Doval officially hung up his boots as the top spymaster of India. He served the Intelligence Bureau as the head of its operations wing for over a decade. In 2004-05, he opted for the Director of the Intelligence Bureau finally retiring in 2005.
13. Fails to nab Dawood Ibrahim
Even after retiring from active service as a spymaster, it is believed that Ajit Doval was involved in a number of covert operations for the country. One such operation that he is believed to be a part of was launched to nab India’s most wanted man Dawood Ibrahim. However, as per unconfirmed reports a mole in Mumbai police informed Pakistani authorities about the operation and the underworld don was moved to a safehouse before the operation began. If you are a Bollywood fan, you must remember D-day film starring Arjun Rampal, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor as the underworld don; it was inspired on the basis of this failed operation.
14. Founder of Vivekananda International Foundation
After his retirement from Intelligence Bureau in 2005, he founded Vivekananda International Foundation – a public policy think tank under the Vivekananda Kendra. Ajit Doval was appointed the director of Vivekananda International Foundation which conducts research on different topics related to public policy including:
- Governance and Political Studies
- Neighbourhood Studies
- National Security and Strategic Studies
- Historical and Civilisational Studies
- Economic Studies
- International Relations and Diplomacy
- Technological and Scientific Studies
- Media Studies
15. Appointed as the 5th National Security Advisor
After 2014 election, Ajit Doval was appointed as the 5th National Security Advisor by the Modi government on 30 May 2014. Since then he has been working toward strengthening the security infrastructure of the country. Talking about his security strategy as the NSA, he has listed out a few key points as below:
- Strengthening and improving co-ordination among security agencies and intelligence apparatus of the country
- Do away with bureaucratic setup and maximum authority enjoyed by security agencies in regions facing the threat of cross-border terrorism
- Formulate tough policy to deal with Pakistan and other neighbours exporting terrorism to India
- Strengthen human intelligence (HUMINT) at district and local levels
- Build and launch National Intelligence Grid
- Evolve a uniform anti-Naxal policy
16. Return of Indian Nurses from ISIS grip in Iraq
The first major challenge that Ajit Doval faced as the 5th NSA of the country came just after a month of his appointment as the National Security Advisor. In June 2014, Mr Doval played a pivotal role in bringing back 45 nurses from war torn Iraq. These nurses were stationed there under a special programme for humanitarian aid and were trapped in a hospital in Tikrit after ISIS captured Mosul. Being an operations man, Mr Doval personally flew on a secret mission to Iraq and ensured the safe return of the nurses to India.
These are just a few of the accomplishments of Ajit Doval for which information is available in public domain. If you know any others that we might have missed out, feel free to point them out in the comments section below.