Revamping of Intelligence Apparatus

21 Feb, 2000    ·   328

S. Ramkumar analyses the lacunae in the present intelligence set-up in the country

The hijacking of IC 814, and the earlier Kargil intrusions once again highlighted the pathetic state of our national security apparatus, particularly the ineptness of civilian intelligence agencies like the IB and RAW. Hopefully, the review committee report on Kargil, which has reportedly pointed towards an intelligence failure,  is now with the government, would  be placed before the next parliament session along with the ATR( Action taken Report),  if possible. The Committee (KRC) claims that in spite of its non-statutory nature, it has been give access to all classified as well as unclassified documents. The head of the review panel, also further stated that the committee had excised the classified portions in the report submitted to the Prime Minister. 



Apart from Kargil and Kandahar, other events in the past, like the start of insurgency in J & K in 1989, the Purulia arms drop of 1995, the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto govt., the recent coup in Pakistan and intense attacks on security installations in the J & K in the post-Kargil phase, are the recent instances where the agencies have been found wanting. This list is embarrassing enough even if one does not include counter-intelligence failure like the Rattan Sehgal episode. Each of the above instances have raised serious doubts about the extent of covert capabilities of an organisation like RAW in our neighbouring countries and the porousness of security architecture within the country. In the aftermath of such failures, there hardly have been any attempt to fix responsibility.  Similar happenings in other countries for e.g., in the USA result in appointment of enquiry commission by both houses of the US Congress, fixing of responsibilities and corrective measures in the agencies concerned. Examples abound like the Iran-Contra Scandal and the overthrow of Shah of Iran. In the age of internet and cyberwars, archaic laws like the 1923 Official Secrets act are instruments at the hand of  the  political elite and their bureaucratic cohorts to brush national security issues under the carpet  and  coerce the public debate.



At present, RAW exists through an executive fiat, and absence of a charter provides an excuse to declaim responsibility. It is unclear whether RAW is responsible for tactical intelligence or strategic intelligence. Is the agency's role limited to supporting the other arms of the govt. like the armed forces or does it have a broader national objective. The "limited border war" in Kargil has clearly demonstrated in ample measure that RAW lacks high quality sources on the ground as far as Pakistan is concerned. Covert sources do not appear out of the blue. They are raised, cultivated and positioned after a sufficient period of time to conduct clandestine warfare. On the other hand, the covert operations have also gone hi-tech with use of satellite phone and the internet by the terrorists. The agency has to evolve a new paradigm to maintain its position with the times. The analytical ability of any intelligence agency is crucial in perceiving national security threats. 



The nuclearisation of the subcontinent in 1998 had increased chances for conventional wars. The agency should have been alive to a new situation instead of being caught napping. Simply packing the analytical divisions with a motley group of generalist bureaucrats who can collect taxes or run essential services is a sure recipe for disaster. The hijacking drama of IC 814 has exposed the fact that even as the ISI had opened a new theatre of operations in the  Nepal in the 90s, RAW's assets in the friendly Himalayan kingdom were close to zero. The apologists for intelligence failures claim that hi-quality technical equipment were denied to them or that operations in neighboring countries were affected from 1996 due to the Gujaral doctrine. In absence of transparency or proper oversight mechanisms such arguments are difficult to verify. At the same time, it would be not out of place to mention that in the pre-Kargil phase, a war on the net through e-mail was launched by both serving and retired officers, after the govt. brought in a career IPS officer from the IB as OSD in RAW.



Instead of spending their collective energies to look at their own competence and effectiveness, intelligence operators did disservice to not only the organisation, but also to the nation. The govt. needs to have a hard, objective and professional look at the agency and consider areas for restructuring it, so that it serves the purpose for which it was set up- to serve truly as a national security asset and not a  white elephant to be continuously  fed.