The Zero-Cost Mission/The Wily Agent by Amar Bhushan: Review

Title: The Zero Cost Mission/The Wily Agent

Author: Amar Bhushan

Publisher: Harper Collins India

Pages: 204

Price: Rs. 250

A controversial spymaster blamed for the biggest bungle in RAW’s history — the defection of Rabinder Singh to the US — has written a novel to set the record straight. Amar Bhushan’s Escape to Nowhere is the first work of fiction to be penned by an Indian intelligence officer – a book which everyone looked forward to. The thinly disguised novel served as a foundation stone for Amar Bhushan to establish himself as a spy writer.

His latest works, The Zero-Cost Mission and The Wily Agent, arrived in flip book format. They, however, are more about government organisation stories than spy stories. The prevailing circumstances in Dhaka that are the background of these stories are not described in the book. But for those who are interested, here is some essential information:ac

Months after Begum Khaleda Zia swept Bangladesh election in February 1991, India’s external spy agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) was alarmed over increased harassment of pro-India politicians, large-scale radicalisation and planned infiltration of trained jihadis into Indian territory by Jamaat-e-Islami, that was operating as a semi-autonomous political force under the newly elected government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The RAW, which serves as ears and eyes of the government across the globe, was shocked about the brutal challenge posed by Jamaat, which was in the process of setting up a safe haven for terrorists at the India-Bangladesh border with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), instrumental in arranging finances and ammunition. The intelligence inputs had suggested that Jamaat was also running a large-scale recruitment and training program at tactical locations. So here’s the story about how RAW covert ops dismantled Jamaat-e-Islami terror camps. First story of this flipbook is The Zero Cost Mission. The title is catchy and give out the notion of a top secret and highly thrilling mission. The story, however, turns out to be that of how the Indian organisation put their assets at risk for few lakhs rupees. In the end, the story idea can be summed up in one line. But, I better not say it and spoil the story for the readers.

With no proper justification given, the actions of Rath, the main character in the Zero Cost Mission, turn out to be no less than that of flying a car in the air. Though the events may be true, the lack of a solid premise and essential background information make them hard to swallow.

The Wily Agent is a story about how an intelligence officer handles his source. Again, there is no details of operations and importance of the mentioned spy activities. So, most of the time, reader just ends up reading about boring drills of information gathering. It just becomes a prudent game of chess being played between the wily agent and his handler. With the current advancements in technology, the modus operandi that they adopted may leave the reader craving for more substance.

The plus point of both these stories is the lucid language in which they are written. Though the brevity of language is an essential attribute for a short story, in this novella it turned out to be counter-productive. The omission of certain necessary details about the political situations (like the ones that are mentioned earlier in this review) leaves the reader groping in the dark. The book is a one-off read for fans for spy stories, but in the light of espionage novelists like John le Carre, this book turns out to be a RAW deal for an ordinary reader.

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