At the outset it was a clear case of Khalistani fundamentalists avenging operation blue-star, but there were many characters at the periphery and many events preceding it which raised many an eyebrow in the intelligence communities of the world. This was also that one colossal event that catapulted the young Mr Rajiv Gandhi, a novice in politics, to the highest seat of power in South Asia and Mrs Sonia Gandhi was now the next in the line of succession by the virtue of being his wife.
It is a historically well known fact that the Khalistan movement was nurtured by ISI and certain elements in Pakistan. Also well recorded are the initial reactions of some western countries like Canada who almost directly hobnobbed with the Sikh separatist leaders only to abandon them when the movement became increasingly violent. Tacit support of US and British intelligence agencies to the Khalistan intelligentsia was also much speculated upon those days. But what was a lesser known fact in the media and a matter of puzzling debates in the intelligence circles was the interest shown by the Vatican in the Khalistan movement. In 1980-81 Vatican had an open channel of discussions with certain groups of the so called “intellectuals” who were known sympathisers of the Sikh separatist movements. This interest and interactions continued well into the early 80’s and were explained as the “right of Vatican to have an interest in other religious organizations”. At the height of Khalistan movement just after operation Blue Star, many reliable Indian intelligence sources had given “definitive” information about Opus Dei funding parts of operations of Sikh separatists outside India!
After operation Blue Star there were many intelligence inputs about the threat to Mrs Gandhi’s life including some specific inputs about people in the core inner circle of Mrs Gandhi’s security system being vulnerable. Yet no action was taken, why? The assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi was a massive intelligence failure to say the least and yet no major enquiry was ordered to decipher the conspiracy theory, why? Sections of KGB and other Russian intelligence agencies had given a specific timeframe regarding “action” and yet their advice went unheeded, why? Soviet sources, in informal briefings had warned about certain western intelligence agencies being in cahoots with Sikh separatists and yet those warnings were disregarded, why?
A part of the answer to those questions can be explained as plain incompetence as usual. May be one can also argue that we now have the power of hindsight which we lacked then. But definitely there is a part of the answer to that question which is more complex and only takes my theory forward to its logical conclusion. It is not as if we did nothing, security experts and Intelligence aficionados gave at least 2 formal specific presentations to Mrs Gandhi on 2 different occasions about the need to re-haul the entire security apparatus around her. But on both these occasions apart from Mrs Gandhi’s nonchalance we met with the biggest resistance from one particular member of her core team. He was a very powerful member of what was then known to the media as “kitchen cabinet” and had also been described as a “power broker of the highest degree” by many media houses and visiting dignitaries. There was no reason to suspect any mal-intentions in him, as he was also known to be very close to Mr Rajiv Gandhi (unlike some members of the “kitchen cabinet” who had a turf war with the junior Gandhi).
Post assassination there was a bit of a stir in the media about the same gentleman followed by hush-hush events. We in the intelligence were also surprised to know about his strong linkages with certain Western intelligence agencies. Nothing really happened after that for quite some time and Mr Rajiv Gandhi only restored the same gentleman back in his team with full honours and the whole episode was laid to rest. But the biggest revelation to the intelligence wings came a little later (and was not accorded much importance at that time). Unlike media perceptions that the said gentleman belonged to the Rajiv Gandhi coterie and to the “kitchen cabinet”, he actually owed both his positions and his re-instatement into the inner circles of power after the assassination of Mrs Gandhi to a certain Mrs Sonia Gandhi.