Deputy High Commissioner Rohith Rathish is not well-known by the public. He is often overshadowed by his better-known superior, Sanjay Sudhir, who has become the face of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives. Yet, Rathish is well-known by Maldivian journalists and political activists due to his multiple dealings with them.
Who is Rohith?
An Indian national informed Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal, that Rathish is "very intelligent", and one of the most "promising" employees who had joined the Indian Foreign Service in the past 15 years. The selection process for the Indian Foreign Service requires passing the reputedly difficult Indian Civil Services Examination in 2005, ranking 3rd place among the 433 candidates who had passed.
Rathish had served the Indian government in many positions in the Indian government, such as the Assistant Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, as well as the Ministry's Deputy Chief Protocol Officer. He had also served as Deputy Consul of the Indian Consulate General in San Francisco.
Rathish is reputedly a secret homosexual man who had been known to engage in sexual encounters in San Francisco's gay bath-houses. However, at the time, homosexual acts were a crime under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Rathish had been accused of having attempted to sexually abuse a 12-year-old boy during his time in San Francisco. People close to the alleged victim had detailed their accusations against Rathish in a blog-post. According to the blog-post, Rathish had forced an Indian woman resident in the United States to send her son to a hotel room where he had allegedly been holding a Sanskrit class. He had threatened to impound the woman's passport if she were to refuse.
Rathish had attempted to sexually molest the child in the hotel room. The child managed to escape.
When Rathish was confronted by the child's mother, he had once again threatened to impound her passport. Rathish had claimed to her that the child would have "enjoyed" the abuse that he had intended to inflict on him.
According to a reliable source, the Indian Consulate had refused to investigate the matter after the child's family had lodged a complaint. "The family left [San Francisco] not too long after that incident", said the source. "It's not known what became of them. Some have said that they were threatened, or paid large amounts of hush money".
The incident had occurred in 2018. Rathish was transferred to the Maldives soon after.
A Dangerous Man
Rathish is a dangerous man. According to a high-ranking officer of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, who spoke to Dhiyares on the condition of anonymity, Rathish supervises all activity of India's foreign intelligence service, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in the Maldives.
Rathish's involvement ranking within RAW is well-known to the Maldivian government and to Police Intelligence, as well. Often, RAW operatives are stationed under diplomatic cover.
RAW operatives had been present in the Indian High Commission in Maldives before Rathish. However, Rathish's operations as a RAW spymaster are unprecedented in the country.
"We know that he had met with some political figures and had offered very large amounts of money. Several of the police are also on their payroll. Rohith [Rathish] is directly involved", said the officer.
Likewise, Rathish directly meets with Maldivian journalists and media outlets and pays for content that serves Indian interests. Dhiyares had also found out that Rathish is in charge of identifying voices and activists on social media critical of India's policies in the Maldives and blocking their access to Twitter.
"He is a very resourceful man... Silicon Valley is in San Francisco. Rohith had been the second-highest ranking Indian diplomat there. [Tech companies in Silicon Valley] employ many hundreds of Indian nationals. Rohith maintains connections with very capable people there", said the Indian source.
The Problem is the Maldivian Government
Intelligence operatives working in foreign countries under diplomatic cover is nothing unique to India. Several ISI operatives had been working out of the Pakistani Embassy recently. However, Rathish has been able to carry out his operations at the current scale is mainly due to the failings of the Maldivian government.
"He's able to do this because he knows the [Maldivian] government will do nothing to stop him", said the high-ranking official from the MNDF.
India has a history of covert operations in its neighboring countries. The political crises of Bangladesh and the annexation of Sikkim are but few cautionary tales for any neighbor to the aspiring superpower. It does not take much to understand that Rathish's activities as a spymaster in the Maldives pose a threat to national sovereignty.