SpyCast 6.28.22
Ep 545 | 6.28.22

“Intelligence & the World’s Largest Democracy” – Former Indian Intelligence Director Vikram Sood [from the vault]

Show Notes


Vikram Sood (Twitter, Blog) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss intelligence in the world’s largest democracy. He was the chief of India’s Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). 

What You’ll Learn


  • The intelligence landscape in India 
  • China, Pakistan, and the intelligence challenges in the region
  • The founding and evolution of the Research and Analysis Wing 
  • The pressure involved in the top job and being responsible to the Prime Minister


  • The power of narratives 
  • Spies can be sensitive souls too

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

This is the final installment of our month long special on SPY CHIEFS, featuring Vikram Sood. former Director of India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (RA&W). This episode from the vault was recorded during the darkest days of the pandemic when the International Spy Museum was closed, infections and deaths were sky high, and Andrew was at home in his living room with Vikram at his in New Delhi. 

So, is the R&AW similar to the CIA or MI6 or both? Does it have a covert action capability? How focused is it on China and Pakistan? Who does the Director report to? To hear the answers tune in to listen to an Indian Spy Chief who was in office in the critical years 2000-2003. 

Vikram was in the intelligence business for more than thirty years, since leaving as the professional head of India’s foreign intelligence agency he went on to have a successful second career at the think-tank, Observer Research Foundation, which is based in New Delhi. He is the author of two books (see below).


Depending on the source, India has more, a little less, or roughly the same number of Muslims as Pakistan. An incredible fact when you consider that Pakistan is generally in the top five for having the largest population in the world. In fact, India has a larger population than the United States, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria combined

Quote of the Week

"There is immense tension in the job because anything can go wrong any day and you will be held responsible if there is another bomb blast somewhere else. But if the leadership is supportive and it's understanding, and also contributes to helping you decide things, takes decisions for you that need politically clearances. That helps a lot that takes away the anxieties, it keeps the blood pressure down." – Vikram Sood


Headline Resource

  • The Ultimate Goal: R&AW Chief Deconstructs how Nations Construct Narratives (Harper India, 2020)
  • The Unending Game: A Former R&AW Chief’s Insights into Espionage (Penguin, 2018)

Beginner Resources


  • The War that Made R&AW, A. Nandakumar (Westland, 2021)
  • JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War, B. Riedel (BIP, 2015)
  • Intelligence Elsewhere, P. Davies & K. Gustafson (GUP, 2013)
  • The Kaoboys & R&AW, B Raman (Lancer, 2012)
  • India’s External Intelligence, V.K. Singh (ManasPub, 2007)



*Wildcard Resource*