The evolution of the Indian intelligence community since 1947 has been on the basis of periodic reviews of our enquiries into perceived intelligence failures. After the Sino-Indian war of 1962, a review of the performance of the IB led to the creation of the Directorate-General of Security (DGS).
After the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 and the Mizo revolt of 1966, a review of the performance of the IB led to the decision to divest the IB of the responsibility for the collection of external intelligence and to create the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) by bifurcating the IB for this purpose. The DGS, which was previously under the charge of the Director, Intelligence Bureau (DIB), was transferred to the charge of Secretary (R), as the head of the R&AW is known.
A crisis-driven review is retrospective in nature. It looks into the past””what went wrong, why, and how can its recurrence be prevented? A need-driven review is prospective in nature.
A review of the performance of the intelligence community before and during the 1999 Kargil conflict by a Special Task Force, headed by Shri G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, led to the creation of the Defence Intelligence Agency as a nodal point for the analysis of all military intelligence, whether collected by the civilian or military intelligence agencies. The idea was that it would work under the supervision of the proposed Chief of the Defence Staff. Since the re-commendation by another Task Force for the creation of this post has not yet been implemented, one understands that the DIA now functions under the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff.
The review by the Task Force headed by Shri Saxena also led to the creation of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), to focus on the collection of technical intelligence (TECHINT). The Task Force was of the view that the NTRO should handle all future investments in manpower and equipment and future collection efforts and that the existing capabilities of the IB, the R&AW, the DGS and the military intelligence agencies should not be affected, since their existing capabilities played an important role in counter-terrorism. The Task Force was also of the view that the new agency should focus on cyber intelligence and cyber counter-intelligence for which at that time (in 2000), there was no significant capability in the existing intelligence agencies.
One understands that this recommendation was modified during implementation. Instead of letting the R&AW and the DGS maintain their existing capabilities, there was a bifurcation of these capabilities in order to transfer some of them to the NTRO. Instead of undertaking a crash programme for the development of a capability for cyber intelligence and cyber counter-intelligence, it started performing some of the tasks, which were already being performed by the R&AW and the DGS. The obvious result: an emaciated DGS and a weakening of our capabilities for the collection of TECHINT regarding China and terrorism. Instead of creating capabilities, which did not exist before 2000, there was a highly disputed partition of the existing intelligence assets.
In the past, the highest priority was to the collection of intelligence about State actors, particularly about State adversaries. Now, enhanced priority is given to the collection of intelligence about non-State adversaries such as terrorist organizations.
These were crisis-driven reviews undertaken after perceived intelligence failures in order to identify deficiencies and act to remove them. Since 1947, India has never had a need-driven review of our intelligence assets and capabilities. A crisis-driven review is retrospective in nature. It looks into the past—what went wrong, why, and how can its recurrence be prevented? A need-driven review is prospective in nature. It looks into the likely needs of the future and creates assets and capabilities to be able to meet those needs as and when they arise.
In other countries such as the US, one has crisis-driven reviews as well as need-driven reviews. A need-driven review is undertaken every time a new President or Prime Minister takes office. Unless one has a clear idea of the likely future intelligence needs in the short, medium and long-terms, one cannot build up human and other resources, which would be in a position to meet those needs. It is high time we have a need-based review of our intelligence assets and capabilities and make such reviews a regular feature whenever a new Prime Minister takes over. Reviews of performance and capabilities should not wait for disasters and crises before they are undertaken.
Intelligence priorities have undergone considerable changes during the last decade. In the past, the highest priority was to the collection of intelligence about State actors, particularly about State adversaries. Now, enhanced priority is given to the collection of intelligence about non-State adversaries such as terrorist organizations, trans-national crime mafias, narcotics smugglers, money-launderers etc. Intelligence agencies all over the world have been facing difficulty in upgrading their capabilities for the collection of intelligence about non-State adversaries.