Saturday, June 26, 2010



Mr.P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, has exhibited refreshing firmness during his talks with Mr.Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, in Islamabad on June 25 and 26,2010. He had gone to Islamabad to attend the SAARC Home Ministers' meeting, which was held after a gap of more than two years and availed of this opportunity to hold detailed bilateral discussions with Mr.Malik on terrorism-related issues.The focus of the discussions between the two and of their media briefings was on terrorism in general and Pakistani action against the Pakistan-based perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai in particular. He had gone to Islamabad determined to show that the willingness of the Government of India to resume the bilateral dialogue on various contentious issues would not mean a dilution of the focus on terrorism.

2. In his remarks in Islamabad, Mr.Chidambaram took care not to directly blame the State of Pakistan for the acts of terrorism in Indian territory committed by the Pakistani organisations, which are now collectively referred to even by Pakistani analysts as the Punjabi Taliban. However, he did not hesitate to highlight directly or indirectly the inaction or unsatisfactory action of the State of Pakistan against the anti-India terrorists in general and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in particular.

3. While keeping up an unrelenting pressure on Pakistan for action against the LET and its perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, including Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JED), the political wing of the LET, he saw to it that his observations and pressure did not spoil the current cordial atmosphere in the bilateral relations and would not come in the way of meaningful , forward-looking discussions during the visit of Mr.S.M.Krishna, our Minister for External Affairs, to Islamabad next month.

4. Keep up the pressure on Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, but at the same time don't allow justified concerns over terrorism stunt fresh thinking on other issues. That seems to be the new motto of the Government of India. It is apparent Mr.Chidambaram shares this motto despite his ill-concealed disappointment with Pakistan for failing to do all that it can and should to bring to book the Pakistan-based perpetrators of 26/11.

5. However, despite the refreshing firmness of Mr.Chidambaram, one felt disappointed to notice an apparent lack of adequate attention to questions of importance like the establishment of a networking relationship between India's Intelligence Bureau and its Pakistani counterpart, which comes under Mr.Malik, between the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan both of which are the central investigation agencies for terrorism-related cases and frequent interactions between senior police officers of the two countries. Mr.Malik did speak of the FIA and India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which already interact with each other during INTERPOL meetings, jointly investigating the 26/11 case. No elucidation on this was forthcoming from Mr.Chidambaram, who appeared to be over-focussed on the 26/11 case --- rightly so--- but under-focussed on the need for a web of institutional relationships between the intelligence collection and investigating agencies of our Home Ministry and Pakistan's Interior Ministry.

6.Mr.Malik suffers from professional and political handicaps as compared to Mr.Chidambaram. de jure, Mr.Chidambaram is the political head of only the IB and the NIA, but de facto, in counter-terrorism matters, all agencies of the Indian intelligence community----whether civilian or military---- report to him, keep him informed and carry out his instructions , even if they come under the control of the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister. Mr.Malik, an ex-police officer, is the political head of only Pakistan's FIA and IB, which has only limited powers and resources as compared to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other military intelligence agencies.

7. In India, the military intelligence agencies play a role in counter-terrorism and in counter-insurgency only in the border areas. In the rest of the country, it is Mr.Chidambaram as the Home Minister, who is the czar of counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. In Pakistan, the ISI and other military intelligence agencies, which have more powers and resources than the institutions of the Interior Ministry, do not recognise the overlordship of Mr.Malik in counter-terrorism. They do not always keep him informed of all the intelligence coming to their notice and carry out his instructions. The heads of the military intelligence agencies avoid attending meetings convened by him.

8. Additional problems arise in Pakistan because the Army and the ISI do not look upon the LET as a terrorist organisation. The LET is the virtual covert action division of the ISI and its operations in India and Afghanistan against India are viewed as covert actions in Pakistan's national interests. If Mr.Malik wants to take effective action against the LET, he cannot do so due to the perception of the LET as the covert action wing of the ISI.

9. Despite these limitations of Mr.Malik and his Interior Ministry, we must build up our contacts with them and the Pakistani police and encourage other countries such as the US and those of the European Union to do so in order to contribute in the medium and long-term to building up the status and powers of the Interior Ministry in Pakistan's internal security management. In the years after Pakistan's independence, the Internal Security Ministry used to be the overlord of internal security management. After losing control of East Pakistan in 1971, the Army and the ISI have taken over this responsibility, reducing the Internal Security Ministry to a virtual non-entity.

10.The present civilian Government in Pakistan is trying to re-empower the Internal Security Ministry. This is a process which all democratic Governments should encourage. China has been doing so. It has given the Ministry over US $ 300 million for capacity-building. It had invited Mr.Malik twice to China to discuss counter-terrorism co-operation. It has two programmes for counter-terrorism co-operation with Pakistan---one between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Pakistan Army and the other between China’s Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for internal security and intelligence, and Pakistan’s Interior Ministry.

10. It is hoped that Mr.Chidambaram would adopt this objective and work for it in the months to come.(27-6-2010)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )



(Written for the “Times of India” at their request. A slightly edited version of this has been carried by them at )

Indian intelligence agencies are good in crisis management after a threat to national security has materialized, but inadequate in preventing a crisis.

Their often-demonstrated failure to prevent a national security crisis can be attributed to a lack of quality control in their internal management. This poor quality control is evident in their outdated recruitment procedures, which tend to presume mistakenly that police officers naturally make good intelligence officers and their poor man management which often leads to internal frictions.

Poor team work which affects their ability to co-ordinate and the tendency to treat the intelligence profession like any other government job where seniority prevails over merit are also an outcome of this. So too is their failure to keep pace with developments in science and technology which are adding to the threats and the over-focus on short-term tactics and the under-focus on a long-term strategy to foresee, forestall and control a national security crisis.

Unlike other countries, techniques of national security and intelligence management have not received in India the attention they deserve either in the agencies themselves, or at the senior levels of the general bureaucracy or in the political leadership. The result: The agencies tend to drift from crisis to crisis, from failure to failure and from surprise to surprise. The poor techniques are reflected in the low standards of our intelligence training schools and in the poor quality of research on national security and intelligence management in our think-tanks and academic institutions.

National security and intelligence management is not treated as a science to be constantly developed, but as an esoteric subject beyond the understanding of the generalists and hence better left to the intelligence careerists.

Intelligence careerism stands in the way of our agencies coming up to national requirements and expectations. It also thwarts professionalism. We have many intelligence careerists, but not that many intelligence professionals. One finds professionals in increasing numbers in foreign agencies, but not in India.

Our political class, which sees intelligence as an exploitable instrument of political survival and not as an indispensable instrument of national survival, has also contributed to this state of affairs.

Our agencies are not without good points. Our intelligence officers may be poor collectors of preventive intelligence, but make good analysts of the limited intelligence they collect. Foreign intelligence officers are good collectors, but poor analysts.

The John Major Commission of Canada, which enquired into the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India by the Babbar Khalsa in 1985, has highlighted how the Canadian officers failed to analyse adequately the flood of intelligence reports available.

Crisis management comes to us instinctively. Despite being taken by surprise initially, we manage to prevail at the end. We saw this during the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and the Kargil conflict of 1999, and in the way we prevailed over the Mizo National Front, the Khalistani terrorists in Punjab and Al Ummah in Tamil Nadu. Even in Kashmir, though taken by surprise in 1989, we have retrieved lost ground after what appeared to be a hopeless situation in the 1990s.

Despite these good points, our agencies have failed to come up to expectations because there has been no continuous, independent and transparent evaluation of their performance. Our agencies continue to be evaluators of their own performance whereas in foreign countries, particularly in the West, their performance is regularly subject to external evaluation by the parliament as well as other bodies of experts not necessarily from the profession.

Detailed enquiries like those into the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, the London blasts of July 2005 in the UK and the recent Kanishka enquiry in Canada are more an exception than the rule in India. Our Parliament does not even know how much it is voting for the intelligence budgets and how that money is being spent. The intelligence allocations are concealed in the general budgets of other Ministries and Departments and are voted without independent scrutiny.

Intelligence agencies and chiefs can do no wrong. They are manned by honourable men who will not transgress laws and rules of propriety. So it used to be assumed before the Second World War, but no longer so. The post-Watergate enquiries in the US brought out that there are as many incompetents, opportunists and even law-breakers in the intelligence profession as in any other public service. The result: The opening-up of intelligence agencies to the extent possible due to security considerations to external evaluation. India is one of the very few democratic countries where the agencies continue to be closed houses not open to an external performance audit. Unless this changes, our intelligence management will not change for the better.

Past threats came more from state than non-state actors. Post-Second World War threats come as much from non-state as state actors. Before the World War, the intelligence profession was admired. It was seen as a profession of anonymous patriots of the highest order. The public considered it their duty and privilege to co-operate with them.

The intelligence profession is now tolerated as necessary, but it is no longer admired because of its seeming helplessness against the plethora of non-state actors. Public co-operation has consequently decreased. This has had a negative impact on the flow of human intelligence. Our ability to collect intelligence through gadgets has been improving, but not our ability to use human resources for intelligence collection.

How to deal with the new situation we are facing, which is marked more by threats to internal than external security? This is a question which needs attention. (25-6-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: )