In late 60’s RAW Chief R.N. Kao established a clandestine relationship with Mossad. Full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel were discouraged because India supported the Palestinian cause; having an Israeli embassy in New Delhi, various governments believed, would rupture its relations with the Arab world.
This was where the RAW-Mossad liaison came in. Among the threats the two external intelligence agencies identified were the military relationship between Pakistan and China and North Korea, especially after then Pakistan foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Pyongyang in 1971 to establish a military relationship with North Korea.
Again, Israel was worried by reports that Pakistani army officers were training Libyans and Iranians to handle Chinese and North Korean military equipment.
RAW-Mossad relations were a secret till Morarji Desai became prime minister in 1977. RAW officials had alerted him about the Zia-ulHaq regime’s plans to acquire nuclear capability. While French assistance to Pakistan for a plutonium reprocessing plant was well known, the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta was a secret. After the French stopped helping Islamabad under pressure from the Jimmi Carter (USA president) administration, Pakistan was determined to keep the Kahuta plant a secret. Islamabad did not want Washington to prevent its commissioning.
RAW launched the ambitious ‘Operation Kahuta’ in 1977 to infiltrate into Pakistan’s Atomic energy installations. Operation Kahuta is regarded by many as one of the most daring operations ever conducted by RAW.
Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging center for long-range missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium (necessary for nuclear weapons).
How did RAW get the evidence???
RAW infiltrated multiple agents around the Nuclear Research Facility. RAW observed the daily activities of Nuclear Scientists for Months.
Finally they got the evidence. A RAW agent who was keeping an eye on a Pakistani Nuclear Scientist got the ‘Hair Sample’ of that Scientist from a Barber Shop near the Nuclear Laboratory. That Hair Sample was analyzed and RAW found the traces of Weapon Grade Uranium from that sample. It was confirmed that Pakistan had developed the ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade quality.
Indian Prime Minister’s blunder failed this amazing Covert Operation. How?
RAW agents knew of Kahuta Research Laboratories from at least early 1978, when the then Indian Prime Minister, Morarji Desai stopped RAW’s operations on Pakistan’s covert nuclear weapons program. RAW agents claim that in early 1978,they were on the verge of obtaining the plans and blueprint for Kahuta Research Laboratories that was built to counter the Pokhran atomic blast,but the then Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai not only refused to sanction the $ 10,000 demanded by the R&AW agent, but informed Pakistan of the offer.
In an indiscreet moment in a telephone conversation one day, Morarji Desai called Zia and told the Pakistani military dictator: ‘General, I know what you are up to in Kahuta. RAW has got me all the details.’ The prime minister’s indiscretion threatened to expose RAW sources.
According to later reports, acting on this “tip-off”, Pakistani intelligence agency ISI eliminated RAW’s agents in Kahuta, leaving India in the dark about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program from then onwards. As per the several sources, this event has destroyed RAW’s long standing spy network in Pakistan and it took decades to build it from the scratch.
The unfortunate revelation came about the same time that General Moshe Dayan, hero of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, was secretly visiting Kathmandu for a meeting with Indian representatives. Islamabad believed Dayan’s visit was connected with a joint operation by Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies to end Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Apprehensive about an Indo-Israeli air strike on Kahuta, surface-to-air missiles were mounted around the uranium enrichment plant. These fears grew after the Israeli bombardment of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.