NEW DELHI: “Had I been the intelligence chief I would never have wanted Chhota Rajan in India where his utility will be limited,” says Vappala Balachandran in an interview to The Citizen. Balachandran is a national security intelligence specialist and a former Indian police officer[ who served 17 years in the state of Maharashtra and 19 years in the Indian foreign intelligence service.He retired as Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat.

Balachandran, who is well regarded and admired in the profession, raises some serious questions about the decision to bring Chhota Rajan back to India even as the government agencies have been boasting about what is being projected as a major operation to nab him in Indonesia. Rajan was a former aide of Dawood Ibrahim, but has over the years worked closely with Indian intelligence at different levels.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q.How significant is this arrest of Chhota Rajan? Is it as the media has implied, a step closer to getting Dawood Ibrahim?

A. If Rajan is really in the know of Dawood's whereabouts, IB (Intelligence Bureau) should have known that much earlier. D Sivanandan, former joint commissioner of police,Mumbai says that he had sent his Asst.Commissioner of Police to Bangkok to persuade Rajan to come back to India to face trial after he was shot."The response was positive in the beginning. But later he changed his mind, because of various reasons.I am sure lot of people would have also access to him. He changed his mind". This was in 2000.

I don't know whether Siva was referring to our intelligence officers who might have felt that Rajan outside India would be more useful than in India. Mirza Dilshad Beg (MP) of Nepal who was Dawood's agent in Nepal and who was giving shelter to terrorists transiting via Nepal was shot dead in 1998. Rajan had announced at that time as a spokesperson of India that Indian agencies had wanted to eliminate Beg.

If our agencies were in touch with him, where is the need to bring him back to India and expose him to the pending criminal cases against him and also risk an attack on him on Indian soil by Dawood? Could they not have thought of a plan to smuggle him into India under a different identity & keep him here for questioning and send him out so that he did not have to face trials?

Q. Clearly Rajan's 'freedom' till date was negotiated with the Indian authorities? In these kind of cases is this because he has no more real information to offer, or/and he is more valuable to us free?

A.None can assure him of "Freedom", not even the highest in our land when he has 74 cases against him in Mumbai itself. our courts will never allow that.

I have never felt that a criminal who commits his crime while pretending to be helping our intelligence would ever be "valuable".

Q. Media reports suggest he was 'happy" when arrested? Why would he be happy in your informed opinion?

It is the usual media hype. He was seen smiling when he was first detained. Perhaps he might have thought he could bribe the authorities & get out as he did in Bangkok. Later he was seen under terrible strain being in a prison suit & in shackles.

Q. You have suggested in an article that his 'arrest' came as a surprise to Indian intelligence as well. Can you explain what you meant by this?

Q. What I had said was that Rajan might have been arrested "accidentally" in Bali. I did not say that it was a surprise to Indian intelligence who have been leaking that they knew his movements. If they really knew his movements they would have expected him to bluff his way through the immigration under a different identity as he had done in the past.

In another article which was also published on 29th I had wondered why Rajan should have gone to Bali from Australia if his destination was India. These are unanswered questions. If Indian agencies were really tracking his movements, his arrest in Bali would have come as a surprise to them if his destination was India. Now they have to retrieve him(if that story is true) by producing valid and credible papers. Otherwise an Indonesian Court might even discharge him or extradite him to some other country where he is wanted.

Q. Did we really not want him? Is he more of a liability than an asset?

Had I been the intelligence chief I would never have wanted him in India where his utility will be very limited being incarcerated for many years, being under constant media glare and risking his life from D-Gang's activities.

Q. So what happens now? You have suggested that he could be more lethal for us back here, than he was without? Please elaborate

A.What I meant was that his presence in India would encourage others to counter his gang's activities and also cause violent split in his own gang also and in that process ruin the law and order. On the other hand some misguided elements might even consider him as a modern Robinhood who had fought Pakistan. Anything can happen in the present atmosphere.