Operation Kahuta- When RAW Agents Almost Reached The Pakistan Nuclear Reactor

After Independence, India did have a decent intelligence body in Intelligence Bureau (IB). But when Pakitan started playing dirty when they supplied arms and ammunition to the Sikh militants, Indira Gandhi thought it prudent that we have our own foreign intelligence agency.

We didn’t get an agency, though. We got a Research And Analysis Wing, which is not classified as an agency, and hence does not have to declassify any secrets it holds. Founded in 1968 by the legendary RN Kao, RAW’s first focus was Pakistan and second, China.

Why China? Because China was helping Pakistan as a strategic ally, with the common enemy being – India.

After India’s Pokhran test in 1974, an arms race was triggered between India and Pakistan. Being very wary of India’s fledging nuclear capabilities, Pakistan sought any help needed to build nuclear weapons for itself.


What was Operation Kahuta?

Launched by RAW in 1977, the motive of the mission was to locate & confirm the existence of the Pakistan’s secret weapons program. It is said that Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, also helped RAW in its mission.

For around a decade, under the leadership of ‘Kaoboy’ R.N. Kao, RAW had worked to build a network within Pakistan. RAW operatives inside Pakistan picked up on ‘chatter’ on a possible fissile material production facility. Priority of RAW was to pin point the location of the facility.

By the late the 1970s RAW had already established a good network inside Pakistan and had heard rumors about the Kahuta plant. But how would they confirm this intelligence?

Trying to infiltrate the nuclear plant would be foolish and could take years. By then they would get their hands on rich fuel for an atomic bomb.

It was important to remember that Pakistan kept this so close under wraps that even with the extensive network RAW had, they only got rumors.

Then, in a stunning intelligence operation, RAW agents stole hair samples from the barber shops in Kahuta where the nuclear scientists came to get their hair cut.

The RAW agents went into the barber shops and stole samples of hair fallen down after cutting. These samples were analyzed for radiation traces, and boom! India knew that Kahuta plant was a plutonium refining plant to develop an atomic bomb.

India now confirmed that Pakistan was indeed making nuclear weapons. Israel straightaway wanted to bomb the Kahuta plant. But there was a big screwup on the Indian side

Israel’s MOSSAD was also insecure about Pakistan acquiring nuclear arms. It partnered with RAW in gathering everything there was to know about the Pakistani nuclear program. MOSSAD also had concerns because A. Q. Khan, the father of Pakistani Nuclear Program, had visited Pyongyang.



Our then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, who used to be on talking terms with General Zia Ul Haq, let it slip on a phone conversation with him that he knew of Pakistan’s “secret” plan.

Pakistan promptly took all the RAW network down and bargained with the USA to save their asses from an Israel bombing.

Then Came the Political Betrayal

This betrayal came from none other than Prime Minister Morarji Desai. During his regime, there was great distrust between politicians & the IB, RAW.

 One of the first actions he took was to eviscerate RAW’s budget by as much as 30% to 40%. This led to RAW founder R.N. Kao quitting; a sad, unfair end to an exemplary career. Not only this, but Desai also managed to isolate &get rid of K.S. Nair who was handed the RAW mantle when Kao left.

The betrayal to the nation & our intelligence forces didn’t end here. Worse was to come. In an informal conversation with Zia-ul-Haq, Morarji Desai revealed details of the RAW network in Pakistan & also confirmed that India was aware of the enrichment happening at the Kahuta facility.

What happened next was on conceivable lines. Pakistan hunted the brave men across its land, killing many of them brutally. The entire network was neutralised, &it set back our Pakistan specific intelligence by at least a decade.

So, this is how RAW carried out a stunningly dangerous operation, which would have been a smashing success, but for political betrayal. Such betrayals aren’t a rarity. Jawaharlal Nehru deserted the Indian Army during the Indo-China war that resulted in the deaths of many soldiers, who didn’t even have guns in their hands to counter the invading Chinese.


Imagine – getting to know about a country’s nuclear secrets, by going to a barber shop!

A salute!





Source:- Story Pick

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