Meet RN Kao, The Legendary Spymaster Who Created RAW & NSG


One is never actually allowed to reveal their identity when working as a spy, and one is always kept undercover. But some of us are frequently interested in the individuals who run the intelligence apparatus of our nation. If you belong to that group, you have come to the proper place. In this post, we’ll talk about Rameshwar Nath Kao, the first Indian spymaster.

RN Kao Gentleman Spymaster

As the first Indian spymaster, R.N. Kao was the hawk-eyed guy who built the groundwork for R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing). He is a mysterious person and a master of intelligence who oversaw a global network of spies.

Who was R.N. Kao?

R.N. Kao

Rameshwar Nath Kao was born in a Kashmiri Pandit family that migrated from the Srinagar area on May 10, 1918, in Benares (Varanasi). His uncle, Pandit Trilokinath Kao, raised him. He attended the Bombay Presidency for his education. The gentleman spymaster graduated from high school in 1932 and from the intermediate level in 1934.

He graduated from Lucknow University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. At Allahabad University, Kao later pursued a master’s degree in English literature. joined the Indian Police Services in 1939.

A British civil servant established the Directorate of Intelligence Bureau (IB) in the 19th century. Just before India gained independence, Kao joined the Bureau.

1957 saw Ghana’s liberation from British domination. Ghana’s president asked Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to help establish his nation’s spy service. PM Nehru despatched R.N.Kao to Ghana. He spent a year there and established the Foreign Service Research Bureau (FSRB).

A need for a separate intelligence agency in India occurred during the war in 1965 with China & Pakistan

Prior to then, the Intelligence Bureau was solely responsible for India’s intelligence. In 1968, then-prime minister Indira Gandhi decided to split the Intelligence Bureau in two. She chose R. N. Kao to lead it.

After conducting a thorough analysis of the intelligence systems of many nations, Kao developed a plan for India’s new foreign intelligence organisation.

RN Kao Book

Kao picked the name of the agency as Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to make it look like an academic organization

Kao personally selected 250 intelligent individuals from the IB, and R&AW was launched on September 21st, 1968. R&AW quickly began to grow internationally.

The creation of new posts came from all over the world, including the US, the UK, Europe, and South-East Asia. New checkpoints and offices were established in a number of places near India’s borders. Additionally, a new school for linguists was founded. The brilliant minds Kao nurtured referred to themselves as “Kaoboys.”

Rameshwar Nath Kao Death

R.N.Kao’s contribution to Bangladesh’s liberation

Millions of people fled to India in 1971 when the West Pakistani Army started massacring civilians in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Kao learned that Pakistan was preparing to launch a military operation in Bangladesh.

PM Indira Gandhi tasked Kao with developing a plan to aid Bangladesh. Kao prepared plans for covert operations in regions close to Bangladesh and India. Covert activities were conducted to infiltrate the West Pakistani Army’s training facilities. Technical staff were sent to intercept messages between the civil authorities and the armies of East and West Pakistan.

It was Kao’s proposal, according to R.K. Yadav, a former R&AW officer, to forbid flights from West Pakistan to Bangladesh carrying soldiers.

According to reports, Kao convinced one of the R&AW agents to take control of an Indian Airlines flight from Srinagar to Lahore. The hijackers were characterised as rebels from Kashmir. After ensuring that all of the passengers returned to India safely, the hijackers detonated the plane at the Lahore airport.

India responded by forbidding Pakistani planes from flying over its territory, preventing Pakistan from using the air to transport troops to Bangladesh.

RN Kao Web Series

In March 1971, with an influx of people from Bangladesh crossing the boundary, India had begun to face a refugee crisis

Kao started guerrilla warfare training with paramilitary forces on the East Pakistani refugees. Mukti Bahini was the name of the army of 100,000 civilians fighting for Bangladesh’s independence. For eight months, these guerrillas battled alongside the Pakistani Army to undermine their trust.

Bangladesh was proclaimed an independent country when the Indian Army invaded East Pakistan in December 1971 and compelled West Pakistan to hand over its 93,000 soldiers.

By 1975, Kao had the suspicion that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be the target of a military coup. As a betel nut exporter, Kao arrived in Dacca (now Dhaka) to see Rahman and inform him about the impending attack.

Rahman did not trust Kao when he repeatedly begged him to believe that his life was in danger during their hour-long encounter.

A few weeks later, Rahman was murdered by the same military authorities that Kao had forewarned Rahman against, together with his family and personal staff.

RN Kao with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Merging Sikkim into India

In 1975, Sikkim has incorporated into India thanks to Kao. It is claimed that Kao foresaw and recognised the significance of the combination. According to some analysts, Kao also played a big role in arming Tamil militants and was influential in Sri Lankan affairs in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

When Morarji Desai government came to power in 1977, Kao resigned from his position as he has worked closely with Indira Gandhi

When Indira Gandhi won the elections once more in 1980, she chose R.N. Kao to be her security advisor.

Kao always declined to write his autobiography since he had a guarded life and may have known too much. Due to timidity, he also shied away from making public appearances and doing interviews. Kao, the first super spy from India, passed away in 2002 at the age of 84.

Kao’s professionalism was liked by the international intelligence community

RN Kao Indira Gandhi

He was regarded as intelligent, handsome, and charming by Prime Ministers Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Rameshwar was a shy and modest individual.

Count Alexandre de Marenches, the former chief of SDECE (Service For External Documentation And Counter-Intelligence), identified Kao as one of the

‘five great intelligence chiefs of the 1970s’

The Count admired Kao and remarked,

“What a fascinating mix of physical and mental elegance! What accomplishments! What friendships! And, yet so shy of talking about himself, his accomplishments and his friends”


Kao’s transformation of R&AW into a skilled intelligence agency impressed Alexandre. Within three years of R&AW’s creation, the Indian Subcontinent’s strategic landscape underwent a dramatic transformation.

RN Kao developed privileged connections with Mossad, an Israeli intelligence service. It was during a period when the Indian political establishment considered discussing “Israel” to be taboo.

R.N. Kao was also the creator of the National Security Guards (NSG)

National Security Guards

India’s top-tier security force is known as NSG. In order to combat domestic terrorism and meet the needs of the Government of India, Kao founded it during the 1980s Punjab militancy.

He also established the Aviation Research Center and the Joint Intelligence Committee (ARC). This is what Joint Intelligence Committee Chairman K.N. Daruwala once remarked about R.N. Kao:

“His contacts the world over, particularly in Asia—Afghanistan, Iran, China, you name it—were something else. He could move things with just one phone call. He was a team leader who rode out notorious inter-departmental and inter-service rivalries, which is commonplace in India.”

Dealing with hijackings and terrorist attacks was made easier with the help of the National Security Guard. Unknown is also Kao’s 1984 trip to China. In order to prepare for Rajiv Gandhi’s upcoming “historic visit” to China in 1988, he went there.

RN Kao’s book “R.N.Kao Gentleman Spymaster

RN Kao’s book

Bloomsbury India released Nitin A. Gokhale’s biography of him in November 2019. This book’s adaptation will be turned into a movie by Karan Johar. Also being discussed is a web series starring Nana Patekar as Kao.