The Crisis of Indian Intelligence

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he operational incompetence of the Indian intelligence has now become legendary as it failed to defend the country during the Kargil, Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. They even get away from violence infected regions such as Kashmir and Assam. This way of intelligence mechanism raised many questions including the waste of money and resources.

by Musa Khan Jalalzai

( September 9, 2016, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) During the last three decades, there have been tenacious efforts in India to introduce security sector reforms in order to bring intelligence agencies under democratic control, but notwithstanding the last reform proposals of the Naresh Chandra Committee report (2012), democratic governments in the country could not succeed to bill the cat. Since the end of the cold war and the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1990s, internal conflicts in the country deeply impacted the performance of its intelligence mechanism, where terrorist groups introduced new tactics. The emergence of sectarian mafia groups, and new terrorist organizations like Daesh and Taliban, further embroiled Indian intelligence agencies in an unending domestic violence.

The three decades fight of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the IB with domestic separatism and international terrorism brought about many changes in the attitude of its stakeholders and policy makers to control their self designed operational strategies that caused misunderstanding between India and its neighbours. In states, like Kashmir, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Assam, several separatist and terrorist groups emerged with new tactics, while the recent Patankot terrorist attacks generated a new debate about the failed strategies, weak security approach, and power politics within the intelligence infrastructure. These and other incidents showed that intelligence review committees, reports and political parties were right in their criticism against the operational flaws of the agencies.

The Mumbai attacks unveiled a number of terrorist tactics, which were prevailed in the country. These tactics, and the way terrorist targeted civilians and the police were new to R&AW and the IB. In Delhi, intellectual circles and policy makers started debates with the assumption that counterterrorism operations have influenced by weak intelligence analysis in the country. They also raised the question of check and balance, while the bureaucratic and political involvement further added to their pain. The exponentially growing politicization, radicalization, and sectarian divide within all intelligence agencies ranks including R&AW and IB, and violence across the country painted a negative picture of professional intelligence approach to the national security of India. The perception that the agencies decide whatever they want without restricting themselves to the advisory role caused deep misunderstanding between the citizens and the state. Political rivalries, poor coordination, sectarian and political affiliations, uncorroborated reports, and the lack of motivation are issues that need the immediate attention of Indian policy makers.

Moreover, numerous intelligence committees like Henderson-Brook-Committee on Indo-China war defeat in 1962, B.S Raghavan IAS Committee on the failure of intelligence failure during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, L.P Singh Committee, K.S Nair Committee, the 1999 Kargil Review Committee, and the Ram Pradham Committee on the intelligence failure during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (2008), have taken place after every big perceived intelligence failure. In addition to these committees, several investigative reports were prepared to spotlight the failure of R&AW, MI, IB and other civilian and military agencies in responding to major terrorist attacks against India. The lack of legal and parliamentary oversight has been a very complicated issue since the Kargil war as several stakeholders refused to allow judiciary and parliamentary committees to investigate the ooze. More than 70% of Indians don’t know about the basic function of their country’s secret agencies, because the cover of secrecy is often serving as a blanket of immunity from legal action, accountability, and misuse of taxpayers’ money.

The operational incompetence of the Indian intelligence has now become legendary as it failed to defend the country during the Kargil, Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. They even get away from violence infected regions such as Kashmir and Assam. This way of intelligence mechanism raised many questions including the waste of money and resources. The involvement of intelligence agencies in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, generated controversial stories in print and electronic media. In Afghanistan, there are speculations that Indian intelligence use the country against Pakistan, recruit Afghans and Pakistanis to carryout terrorist attacks in Baluchistan. Afghan military and political leadership has also expressed the same concern in their private meetings that their country serves the interests of India in the region.

Terror attacks, whether in Assam or Kashmir have exacerbated by the day, which lead policy maker to the conclusion that the involvement of intelligence agencies in a proxy wars across borders causes major terror incident in the country. Amidst all these failures and incomplete intelligence stories, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to bring his own team of experts, in order to introduce security sector reforms and bring intelligence under democratic control, but he also needs to understand the difficulties faced by his precursors. He also needs to find out why R&AW and the IB lack cryptanalysts who break enemy codes and ciphers despite India’s aggrandisement in the field of computer technologies. This deficit is in stark contrast to the regional trends, where state agencies have been hiring ever-greater number of experts. In his Indian Express article (2014) Praveen Swami noted: “India’s over five-year efforts to monitor encrypted traffic-run by the mainly military-staffed National Technical Research Organization-has failed to make progress in decrypting even chat programmes used by terrorists, like Viber and Skype”.

The Kargil Review Committee found that human intelligence aspect of Indian intelligence agencies was weak. During the Kargil war, R&AW succeeded in intercepting the telephone conversation between General Pervez Musharaf and his Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Aziz, which provided crucial evidence to international media that terrorist operation was being controlled from military headquarters in Rawalpindi. Experts perceive it a major intelligence success. Moreover, the Kargil Review Committee also criticized military intelligence for its failure related to the absence of update and accurate intelligence information on the induction and de-induction of military battalions, and the lack of expertise to spotlight military battalions in the Kargil area in 1998. The committee further criticized the lack of fresh information, which make impossible for an intelligence agency to make accurate judgement of the looming threat. According to Indian intellectual circles, rivalry among the intelligence agencies, the issue of appointment in war zones or violence infected areas have badly affected the counterterrorism efforts across the country. In a country like India, where credit snatching influences intelligence analysis, there is no way to judge the accuracy of collected intelligence information.

The writer is author of “Fixing the EU Intel Crisis” can be reached at,

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.

1 comment

This is very interesting article I read, and I sincerely congratulate the Sri Lankan Guardian for the publication of this article. Moreover, in view of the failing organization of RAW, India needs security and intelligence reforms.

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