Putting together the intelligence jigsaw to thwart sinister terror plots requires a group effort by different agencies, but do they have team spirit? Or are they functioning like John Godfrey Saxe’s “six blind men of Hindostan”, who go about making incorrect assessments: "though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong”.
The Kargil Review Committee, which recommended measures necessary to safeguard national security after the 1999 Kargil war, had delivered a blistering indictment of the country’s intelligence apparatus and its critical failures. The twin blasts that rocked Hyderabad last week and have been attributed to “external forces” serve to illustrate that little has changed.
The terror plot endorses the committee’s finding that “there are no checks and balances in the Indian intelligence system to ensure the consumer gets all the intelligence that is available and is his due."
Security experts and army officials say intelligence agencies are still under the grip of the fiefdom syndrome and their guarding-the-turf tactics can be detrimental to security objectives. Lieutenant General JS Dhillon, a former director general of military intelligence, told HT it would be foolish to assume agencies like R&AW and IB are not involved in a game of one-upmanship. "There is a tendency not to share inputs. Everyone wants to take credit," he said.
In his hardback on the Kargil war, former army chief General VP Malik highlights the strong tendency to hoard information to gain the upper hand in turf competition. Intelligence officials argue that intelligence reports often do not receive adequate attention at the political and bureaucratic levels
But it is also a fact that overload of background and unconfirmed intelligence adds to the chaos. An army official said, “Only standard alerts are given. There’s no hard int. Most inputs are not actionable. How then do you pre-empt a terrorist’s designs?”
The army depends heavily on R&AW and IB to plan its operations as military intelligence (MI) has limited capabilities and resources. But can MI be leveraged more effectively to foil Hyderabad-like attacks, considering that terror outfits attacking the hinterland have clear linkages with groups based across Indian borders? Plus, the army’s deployment is concentrated in areas that have become the epicentre of terror.
An officer who has served extensively in J&K said: "If we chance upon some specific inputs, we pass it on to the authorities concerned. But MI is overstretched and its resources are inadequate.” The setting up of the Defence Intelligence Agency has fine-tuned intelligence coordination among the three services.