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Defence News - India's intelligence services need better coordination
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India's intelligence services need better coordination
Friday, April 18, 2014
By : Daily Mail UK

The issue of evolving a mechanism to fix the 'accountability' of our national Intelligence agencies has figured
prominently in the public debate generated in the run-up to the General Election.
The issue of evolving a mechanism to fix the 'accountability'
of our national Intelligence agencies has figured prominently
in the public debate generated in the run-up to the General
Election.
Parliamentary oversight, enactment of law defining the
parameters of their charter, and auditing of the funds
utilised by them, are some of the principal ideas thrown up
in political circles and 'think tank' discussions, as the recipe
for addressing concerns on this count.
Since the matter has strategic importance and also pertains
to a facet of governance that is, by its very nature, outside
of the domain of transparency, it deserves serious
examination.

Knowledge ::
It is appropriate that there is a demand for systemic improvement in how our national security set-up
is organised and handled. Security is not a one-time event but a continuing process, and its tasks are
not static as they correspond to the changing threat scenario.
However, what is unchanged is the matrix of concepts on which security operates.
Security is protection against the hidden threats from an invisible enemy, and information about these
can be accessed only through untiring efforts made in secrecy, by a set of trained professionals who
worked the whole time on this using covert trade craft techniques.
Knowledge is power, and secret knowledge that Intelligence agencies gain remains a powerful weapon
against the enemy. It is therefore essential that all those who are in the supervisory loop understand
the importance of confidentiality.
For decades after Independence, our national Intelligence agencies performed under the trust of and
authorisation from the political executive of the day. However, as the monolithic character of the
political regime gave way to fragmentation there emerged a multiplicity of parties – not necessarily
stable alternatives – with the result that suspicions arose about the ruling dispensation using the
instrumentality of Intelligence agencies for 'spying' on the opponents.
This distrust is overstated on two counts. First, the parties in a democracy conduct their activities in
the transparent public space and have the resource of investigative journalism available as an effective
means of knowing what was going on in political circles.
And secondly, it is not easy for the political executive to get a professional Chief of Intelligence to
divert the time and energy of the agency for anything that did not connect with the goal of national
security.
The answer lies in moving towards a system of stable political alternatives that would create an even

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Defence News - India's intelligence services need better coordination

The answer lies in moving towards a system of stable political alternatives that would create an even
understanding across treasury benches and the opposition, of how national security is handled.

However, there is no gain in saying that it is not enough for the political executive to provide the right
kind of oversight to the national security set-up. It is also equally important for the former to convince
the Parliament (that represents the people at large) that this function is being performed well.
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There should be no difficulty about a representative and appropriately manned Parliamentary
Committee having an interface with a competent professional authority that represented the national
Intelligence agencies, on issues pertaining to their performance.
The Committee should know about the major threats, the direction of the country's response to them,
and the steps being taken to deal with any 'failure' or point of criticism that had attracted attention.
Since there is a multiplicity of agencies spread across several wings of the government, there should
be a National Intelligence Advisor teaming up with the National Security Advisor or a NSA with the
Intelligence background to provide this interface.

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There is no reason why the Parliamentary Committee should not be given all the answers subject to
the 'need to know' principle that applies to operational details and an assurance that the members
understood their obligations under the Official Secrets Act.

Autonomy ::
The cause of oversight would also be strengthened by a suitable law flowing out of legislation, that
validates the existence and functioning of the Intelligence agencies.
This would be an extension of the authorisation hitherto provided by the political executive to the
agencies, to the level of Parliament. The charter and method of working of the agencies would remain
unaltered – the fundamental point about the agencies being free to judge what was an emerging
threat to national security and start covering it without seeking any permission from above will be in
place, and so will be the requirement that authorisation for some specific covert step like telephone
surveillance will come from a level above the agency.
Autonomy to make a judgment call on a threat is in line with the British tradition inherited by India,
and this alone gives adequate guarantee of the non-political mode in which national security must
function.

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The law must steer clear of loading the agencies with bureaucratic burden. In the Indian context it has
to be understood security has two segments generating and handling Intelligence and taking action
against individuals and premises identified by it.
The turf of Intelligence is covert, whereas actions like arrest and search fall in the open and legally
justified domain of the police or an investigating agency.
Action begins where the territory of Intelligence ends. Any infirmity about the information collection
process cannot lead to a presumption of criminality of intent that, normally, can not be attributed to
an Intelligence agency doing its work.
It should first be looked into by the National Intelligence Advisor to identify the misdemeanor and
decide on the course of further action.
The measures to strengthen coordination, oversight and accountability in regard to our Intelligence
agencies must, in short, ensure that the institutional integrity of India's national security setup is kept
up.
The writer is former Director Intelligence Bureau

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