Flawed intelligence gathering Need to revamp the system

THE Kargil Review Committee headed by Mr K Subrahmanyam had analysed the many shortcomings plaguing India’s intelligence acquisition, analysis and dissemination system. Though most of its recommendations were accepted by the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the Prime Minister to study its report, not all of them have as yet been implemented. 
The Kargil Review Committee had pointed out: “The resources made available to the Defence Services are not commensurate with the responsibility assigned to them. There are distinct advantages in having two lines of intelligence collection and reporting, with a rational division of functions, responsibilities and areas of specialisation… the Indian threat assessment is a single-track process dominated by RAW… The Indian intelligence structure is flawed since there is little back-up or redundancy to rectify failures and shortcomings in intelligence collection and reporting …” 
The task force on intelligence headed by Mr G. C. Saxena, one of the four task forces constituted by the Group of Ministers (GoM) appointed by the Prime Minister to examine the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee, evaluated the essential requirements of military intelligence for dedicated military satellites, airborne optical and electronic surveillance capabilities and independent networks and recommended that these capabilities be established under an integrated Tri-Service Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), if future Kargils are to be avoided. The DIA was established after the GoM’s recommendations were accepted by the Cabinet Committee on Security. 
The scale and sophistication of non-intrusive electronic intelligence gathering capability of the armed forces also need to be upgraded by several orders of magnitude to keep pace with the diverse voice and data communications capability of India’s adversaries and the numerous mercenary terrorist outfits spawned by them.  
The inputs from military intelligence and RAW as also those from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the intelligence agencies of Central para-military and police forces and the state governments must be collated, synthesised and analysed at the national level to arrive at net intelligence assessments for long-term national security decision-making and contingency planning so that the nation is better prepared to meet the emerging threats. 
The responsibility for the collection, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of external intelligence is solely that of RAW. This includes strategic intelligence relating to nuclear weapons and missile development programmes, military deployments and movements, the location of operational and strategic reserves and military plans and intentions of India’s adversaries.  
The Director-General of the DIA is primarily responsible for undertaking integrated tri-service assessment of the intelligence gathered by the intelligence agencies of the armed forces and has only limited intelligence gathering capability. 
The Director-General Military Intelligence (DGMI) and his naval (DNI) and air force counterparts are responsible mainly for tactical-level intelligence. The DGMI’s only real capability for acquiring external intelligence is provided by the unobtrusive electronic eavesdropping efforts of the Signals Intelligence (SI) Directorate.  
The SI people have provided invaluable information about the infiltration plans and routes, hideouts, arms caches, casualties and the state of morale of militants in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states throughout the last decade of militancy and violence. The foresight exhibited in planning the development of this independent capability has stood the Army in good stead.  
However, the SI’s equipment has the fastest obsolescence rate in defence equipment due to the rapid advances being made in communications security and the introduction of digital communications technology. This capability must be frequently upgraded and even replaced with concomitant capital costs having to be incurred. 
The BJP-led NDA government had established several coordination groups for managing intelligence in a more cohesive manner. It established an Intelligence Coordination Group (ICG) for the “tasking” of various intelligence-gathering agencies at the apex level. The Group is chaired by the NSA and has the Cabinet Secretary, the secretaries of the Home, Defence and External Affairs Ministries and the intelligence chiefs as members.  
A Technical Coordination Group was also established for enhancing technical capabilities for intelligence gathering. It is headed by the NSA and includes the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minster, the intelligence chiefs and the proposed CDS. 
The National Technical Reconnaissance Organisation (NTRO) has been set up as a single window for providing all technical intelligence, including satellite imagery. The National Information Board, headed by the NSA, was also established to oversee India’s information security architecture. 
However, “boards” are advisory bodies that meet rarely and are not equipped to do justice to day-to-day analyses and assessments. What is really lacking is a comprehensive intelligence assessment centre at the apex level at the Centre. It could possibly be called the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and should take a holistic view of all the bits of intelligence that come in from different sources, evaluate the accuracy of each, synthesise all to obtain a cohesive picture, analyse the whole dispassionately to arrive at an assessment and then disseminate the end-product to the concerned agencies for action, including the armed forces. 
Had such an apex-level body been in existence at the time of the Mumbai terror attacks, the various bits of intelligence that had been available with different intelligence agencies could have been synthesised to arrive at an accurate assessment of the impending attack, the likely mode of attack and, possibly, even the time-frame. 
The NIC should also be responsible for long-term intelligence assessments on all aspects of national security, including those pertaining to defence acquisitions, research and development and industrial capabilities of India’s present and future adversaries. In certain cases, the nuclear weapons and missile development programme also need to be tracked carefully. Comprehensive intelligence assessments must be disseminated to all concerned to enhance the quality of defence planning. As the old saying goes: forewarned is forearmed. 
As the threat of terrorism is increasing day by day, it is also necessary for the NIC to initiate and then maintain a comprehensive data-base on terrorist organisations and groups operating against India --- their ideology, weapons, catchment areas for recruitment and their sources of funding. 
The operational and ideological linkages between various groups must be explored and monitored constantly. Such a data-base must be shared with the intelligence agencies of strategic partners and other friendly foreign powers on a reciprocal basis so as to enhance the quality of intelligence available to India. 
In the prevailing “proxy war” scenario, where the line between conventional military operations and the sub-conventional conflict, including terrorism, is blurred, accurate intelligence assessments are necessary for policy-making, governance and military operations along the nation’s borders as well as to counter dangerous situations created by the mercenary terrorists of inimical foreign powers. Such a capability can be provided only by an apex-level National Intelligence Council (NIC). 
The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.