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Putting aside turf wars, India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and internal agency Intelligence Bureau will forge a common front against terrorism. Their operational wings will work from the same office so that in case of an alert or an attack, time is not wasted in bureaucratic communication.
This move, cleared at the highest levels of the UPA government, is on the lines of the CIA-FBI joint task force in the US, MI-5 and MI-6 joint action in the UK, and Mossad-Shin Bet joint operations in Israel.
Two top intelligence sources told HT the infrastructure to house the joint RA&W and IB team would be ready in two months at the IB headquarters in Lutyens’ Delhi.
“The two units will not be merged. Instead, the joint secretary (Ops) of RA&W will sit with joint director (Ops) of IB and monitor actionable intelligence and technical inputs. Any action outside the country will be handled by RA&W, and within India by the IB along with the state police,” said a senior intelligence official requesting anonymity. “We decided to bring the two under one roof so that there is minimum time lag in counter-terror operations. Rapid action is the essence given that terrorists use the latest technologies and continue to spring surprises.”
The two teams are already informally sharing intelligence closely, and results were evident in the arrests of two key Indian Mujahideen terrorists — Pakistani Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas, and Bihar resident Tehseem Akhtar alias Monu on March 23. This was followed by the arrest of two Pakistani terrorists by the UP police. Footprints of joint ops by R&AW and IB have also been seen in arrests in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Although the two agencies’ operatives have a history of fierce rivalry, the new joint initiative has worked because of camaraderie between R&AW chief Alok Joshi and IB chief Asif Ibrahim, both JNU students. Outgoing national security advisor Shivshankar Menon encouraged this teamwork.