Friday, August 18, 2006

Changes in the pattern of intelligence targetting of India

A number of spy cases have recently come to light in the media. Most of these are American spies working in the government. For reference I am listing the prominent ones below:

1) Rabindra Singh, an RAW officer was recruited by the CIA and subsequently fled the country.
2) S. S. Paul, an NSCS officer was recuited by the CIA and is now in police custody.
3) Ujjwal Dasgupta, a retired RAW officer was also allegedly recruited by the CIA and is now under arrest.
4) Francis Aranha, an IB officer is alleged wanted for spying for the CIA and has since absconded.

We have also been treated to a molehunt in the PMO and thanks to Jaswant Singh, allegations have been flying fast and thick in the media. A number of waspish spy stories are also being published in western media about the penetration of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, at least some of these appear to stem from the recently declassified material from the National Security Archive. A few years ago a part of the Mitrokhin Archive was selectively released to the public. The Mitrokhin archive information suggested that the KGB had infiltrated the highest levels of government and several major political parties were on their payroll.

To date no American spies have been uncovered in media, but a number of books have emerged in the US and UK cataloging the activities of a group of US foundations that attempted to conduct psywar on India's populations using locally hired help. A number of Pakistani penetrations in the media have been identified and some LeT penetrations have been identified in the Armed Forces. Reports in the media also suggest that communal organizations also have been the subject of LeT infiltration.

The sudden burst of news about these penetrations could easily lead one to conclude that the national security is being severely breached. Such a view is an oversimplification.

As long as national interests exist, there will always be espionage.

In the past India has been repeatedly targetted by foreign intelligence organizations, for example:

1) Prior to colonization, a number of european powers sent their spies to study the Indian political system and see if it could be subverted to serve European interests.

2) After 1947, both the US and USSR were keen to India become a part of their international block. This ensured that any high value import from these countries became the target of an aggressive counteractions campaign by these powers. Everything from rice to Mig-29s was subject to a psyops campaign aimed at furthering a particular power's agenda. Due to the poor culture of oversight in the US and the USSR, the intelligence services of these countries were ruthlessly used by private interest groups to further their private agenda.

3) After the fall of the USSR, US intelligence operations gained dominance in India. The culture of oversight that had seeped into the US polity after the Iran-Contra affair ensured that most of the private firms were kept out of the intelligence cycles in the US and their needs were served by a growing community of CIA retirees. One of the first acts by this community of India surveillance experts was to assist in pushing through the Enron Dabhol deal. A group of people in the US were very keen on getting a head start in accessing the Indian market.

4) The 90s saw a growing exchange of ideas and people between the US and India. The software sector and other forms of outsourcing grew. An important aspect of this outsourcing was the gradual export of research and development in some sectors to India. By this time the research and development community in India which had grown steadily since Independence had reached critical mass. This created the posibility of India emerging as a peer-competitor to the US in certain technology sectors.

Today US business interest in India growing, and though the Govt. of India is no longer the major player in the economic sector, it is still in a position to make several influential decisions regarding the economy. After 1998 there appears to be an unstated belief in the US intelligence community that India is somehow secretly enhancing its ability to build nuclear weapons and deploy them in sizable numbers. This could in theory alter the escalation situation with Pakistan. In the India US nuclear deal, a great emphasis was placed on verification of India's nuclear pronouncements. Also the vast Indian adminstration is gradually becoming extensively computerized.

All this puts an unusually large burden the US intelligence community and the apparently shoddy tradecraft that has led to the uncovering of these penetrations reflects the mad rush to gather intelligence on India. The US intelligence community and its private contractors have to come up with ways of providing information support to the US business community keen on investing in India. The US also has to keep itself open to the possibility that India is making more nuclear weapons or other forms of defence technology. They have to evaluate what the impact of this is on an India-Pakistan confrontation. Even though the nuclear deal is yet to go through, the US intelligence community has to prepare itself for the possibility of having extended verification mechanisms in place in India. The computerization of India's administration also offers the US a window to peep into the hitherto closed world of the bureaucrat, and while it may be possible to generate a vast number of intelligence intercepts by electronic means, the US will still need human sources i.e. moles, to help them sort through a mass of data. As before the bulk of this effort will continue to be coordinated through their embassy and all those innocuously named organizations parked discreetly in various major cities in India.

I am not trying to make it seem that what the US is doing is okay, nor am I saying that people who spy for them should be given a free pass. I am merely emphasizing that the US now percieves India and China as potential peer-competitor states and is gearing its intelligence machinery to evaluate these countries in a far more aggressive fashion then ever before. This will reflect as a major shift in intelligence activity directed at India and while in the past only the elements of the political spectrum (who controlled major economic enterprises) were targetted, the net is likely to be cast a lot wider now and several government departments will be in the cross-hairs.

B. Raman and others have spoken about these things in the past, but when people watch the latest spy story headline on NDTV or Times Now or CNN-IBN, they forget what was said by people who know quite a bit more.

I am just trying to remind you all, don't be scared this happens all the time, it is the business of nations.

Be Aware NOT Alarmed!


At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, turn word verification on.

These bastard spammers will kill it otherwise.


At 1:43 PM, Blogger Soothsayer said...

Hi Maverick,

Been visiting your blog for some time now and enjoy reading your posts, although this is the first time I'm leaving a comment.
The increased instances of espionage could be countries stepping up their activities in India due to its emerging status, it could be that our agenices are getting better or a combination of both. What is troubling is whether the information is shared with parties that are not too favorable to India.

At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

abe madarchoth, behenkado spammers, tum sab ki maa kaa..

bloody ba$tards ruining a good blog


Post a Comment

<< Home