|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
The Rediff Interview/Former IB official MK Dhar
'Indian Muslims believe in their Indianness'
July 20, 2006
While Indian intelligence agencies are second to none in terms of dedication and commitment, they are hamstrung by lack of resources and the whims and fancies of the government in power, feels former joint director, Intelligence Bureau Maloy Krishna Dhar.
In the second part of the interview, Dhar discusses the state of Indian intelligence, the recent spy scandals and his association with the RSS with Deputy Managing Editor Ramananda Sengupta.
On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate our intelligence agencies?
Our agencies, as far as motivation is concerned, as far as knowhow is concerned, as far as expertise is concerned, they are second to none in the world. But I qualify, on a scale of one to 10, if the resource base of the CIA is 10, our resource base is only four. Thus, the people who govern the country have to pay due attention to this.
I have been in the intelligence community for over 30 years, and I know that our people are second to none in terms of motivation, dedication, patriotism.
What changes have taken place in our immediate environment which require pro-active intelligence operations?
One important change that has taken place is that ethnic insurgency has changed its character. They have more sophisticated arms and weapons systems than they had earlier. They have international connectivity and direct foreign assistance. And more importantly, they have developed their roots inside the political system. This was not the case earlier.
As far as ethnic insurgency is concerned, we have a more complicated situation on our hands.
Another thing is that what was earlier perceived as classical intelligence gathering about ethnic insurgence by Pakistan and others has now evolved into a very big dimension.
The international Islamic jihad has also started affecting India, mainly through Pakistan and Bangladesh recently. This is a big challenge for us because Indian Muslims -- I have no hesitation in saying they are Indian Muslims -- believe in the tenets of secularism and maintaining their Indianness at any cost.
However, I will qualify this by adding that the international jihadist movement, whether it is originating from Al Qaeda or from Al Jaamat Salafia or any of the groups operating out of Pakistan and Bangladesh and other nations, have started affecting certain segments of Indian Muslims.
It is not only our duty to insulate them, but it is our duty to fight those forces which are trying to destabilise the Muslim psyche of India by taking advantage of the historical facts of dis-assimilation here and there. This is one of the biggest challenges we face.
So what you are saying is that first we have to track this, monitor this, and then fight this...
Well, whether the government of the country will equip the intelligence agencies to fight this I do not know. In a democratic country, the intelligence agencies are not empowered to fight like that. There are other agencies to fight. But this has to be fought not only through weapons, but through the political, legal and constitutional system. And also through moral, social and economic activities by the people.
All this depends more on the civil government than on the intelligence agencies.
There have some sensational cases of spying unearthed recently. Do you attribute this to lapses in our own system, or is this something that cannot be avoided?
Let us not magnify things beyond proportions. Earlier you have heard about the Larkins case, you have heard about the Unnikrishnan case, the Coomar Narayan case, the ISRO case...they were also sensational. Whenever such a thing is detected it becomes a sensation in our country. We must not forget that in spite of our best relationship with any country, each country keeps spying on the other.
Our best relationship with America does not prevent America from spying on us. Our best relationship with Pakistan does not prevent it from spying on us. Or the other way around.
Your duty is to secure your home so that no one can steal your wife or daughter or your money. If you cannot secure your home, they will make a breach. In all these cases, it must be admitted that we have failed to secure our home.
But this time it is more dangerous because they have breached our information data system. This is very dangerous. It is not as if someone is stealing a piece of paper from someone. It is not only cyber espionage, it is total information dacoity and banditry and hijacking. It is most disturbing.
We have to think very carefully about our information security. Information security is not only computer security. It includes satellite communications, fax communications, cellular phones, everything that communicates through the ethernet or the Internet.
We have to be very careful about how you store, receive and disseminate your data. All these have to be re-examined, and our storing and guarding systems have to be further fortified.
I am worried because if someone breaks into the computer system of a sensitive organisation, the entire nation's secrets may be out. The National Security Council is a very important organ of the government, virtually the storehouse of all the information of our national security system. This was a big breach. We should ensure that such storehouses are not breachable by foreign agencies.
When we talk about security, it includes national security, energy security, strategic security etc. Does the nuclear deal with the US impinge on any of our security interests? For instance, there is talk about safeguards in perpetuity.
All these international agreements are not like the so-called Hindu marriage, sacrosanct, not easily broken. If it suits your interests today, if it serves your national interests, go for it. If you need to learn about rocket technology, go for collaboration.
Who knows what shape international relationships will take tomorrow? Nobody knows. So why give it a permanent seal? If we are benefiting today, let us do so. What is perpetuity in international relationships? Forget about it.
Today it is in our interest to borrow expertise, if it comes from America, that's fine. Tomorrow, suppose we are self sufficient, we need not toe their line. When you are strong, would you like to be dependent on your father's orders?
No international relationship is permanent. Hitler had a meeting with (then British prime minister Neville) Chamberlain, they smiled and took photographs, and the next day the war starts. So international relations should never be judged in terms of permanency and quasi permanency.
At this stage, we have a treaty, we will take advantage of it. The moment we don't need it, we will say okay, get lost. That much of courage we should have. China has said this to Russia. They took everything from Russia, and then told them to get lost.
You are the author of three bestselling books. Would you care to recount any incident was sparked off by these writings, which you found memorable?
I will recount two things. One, when Mission to Pakistan came out, I landed in a pitiable and pathetic situation when a mother of an Indian spy who died in Pakistan contacted me, and said you have written about my son, who was like this. I found it really heart-rending. I had to visit her home, console her, say that I share your pain and all that, but you must understand that your son did everything for the country, and did a good job.
Another occasion I remember is that when my latest book Fulcrum of Evil was published, certain politicians were very unhappy, because they felt I had made certain gestures towards them being Pakistani agents etc. Some of them wanted to browbeat me. I told them look, I am always available, always visible. If somebody fires a bullet at me, that's okay. I will continue to write on these subjects.
There are youngsters who may want to join the intelligence agencies, but don't know where to begin. What advice do you have for them?
I must warn my young friends first that an intelligence job is not a mere government job. It is a job which requires total commitment. Unless he can commit himself totally to the country and to the trade he is practising, and the department he is working for, this is not for him.
It is not a 10 to five government job. It requires total dedication and identification. This psychological orientation must be there. There are certain systems through which once can get into these organisations. They are very fair systems.
Once someone gets into the service, he can choose how to fashion himself in the organisation. Whether he wants to be an operations man, a babu or an analyst. I have always been a operations man, and I would like each and every intelligence operative to be operations oriented.
The armed forces have been complaining for some time about the lack of officer level material. Do the intelligence agencies face a similar problem?
The social pool from which the manpower comes, whether they go to the police, the intelligence agencies or to the army is more or less the same. Whatever society produces, that is the supply pool for all these services. If society does not supply good material, then the material for the IB, army and police will not be good.
But I must tell you the IB is an organisation which has a lot grinding and milling machines. It can make a good officer out of anyone provided he is willing to dedicate himself to the organisation and the trade. They can motivate a man, make him a better patriot and good practitioner of statecraft. But in each and every organisation there will be a few timepasswallahs.
Given the number of intelligence agencies we have in our country -- the IB, R&AW, Military Intelligence, police intelligence, central and state intelligence agencies -- are there sometimes conflicts of interest?
In a country where we have state jurisdiction and central jurisdiction, everyone has his own turf to protect. Turf protection and small turf wars is not uncommon. Every intelligence organisation is secretive in nature, and normally do not want to share their work with sister agencies.
This tendency is there, but I am happy to say that in the past 10 years, there has been more collaboration, communications and meeting of minds between the central intelligence organisations and between the central and state intelligence organisations.
But at the same time, one a scale of one to 10, we have just achieved five in integrated intelligence production and projection. We have to achieve more. Because what happens is that the police is the hand maiden of the state politicians who want to run the state in their own fashion. They have their own ideological outlook, and instruct intelligence outfits accordingly.
The Centre has a different kind of set-up, though sometimes they too want their intelligence operatives to work like that. But one fortunate thing about the Centre is that there is a permanent bureaucracy in the central intelligence organisations, which keeps guarding the core aspects of national security, regardless of who is in power.
That does not happen in the state, where the core aspects of intelligence gathering sometimes gets affected by the government. Say a particular 'ism' is working in a particular state, the intelligence people re-orient themselves totally according to that philosophy.
For instance, the Bangladeshi migration problem does not exist, that was the belief in Bengal at one time. So West Bengal intelligence was reporting like that. Now the government realises there is a problem, so the agencies too are reporting that there is a problem.
You have never made any attempts to cover your leanings towards the RSS. How relevant is the RSS as an organisation now?
The RSS was a historical necessity. It grew up at a time when the Tableeq Jamaat was growing up, when the Akali Dal was growing up, the Jamaat-e-Islami was taking strident steps, at a time when the theory that the Muslims are a separate nation was haunting the country. I strongly believe that at that point of time, the growth of a Hindu organisation within the nationalist movement was needed.
However, in the present day context, we are witnessing another historical phase in which religious resurgence is taking place everywhere. Under Bush, America is experiencing the rebirth of Christianity. Islam is going through another widespread resurgence.
Unfortunately, in India, the prime Hindu organisation, the RSS, is not giving as much attention as it should towards strengthening the strongest building block of the nation, the Hindus, by unifying them, by removing the curse of caste separation, and bringing equality and unity in the Hindu society.
I cannot imagine today that any Hindu organisation will frenetically work in the direction of promoting Hinduism, vis-�-vis any other religion in India. Those days are gone.
I also believe that we have no reason to be critical of any other religion in India, because everybody has a place. But we have reasons to say that Hindus should rectify themselves, there should be a renaissance and new unity among the Hindus, because only then will Hindus realise how strong they are.
I hope the RSS will understand this, and reorient itself to work towards Hindu reunification.
But wasn't that the initial objective of the RSS? Where did they go wrong?
It got lost because it wanted to have political power. So therefore it promoted Ayodhya, this thing, that thing. In India, the only way to get into politics is through the Constitutional system. There is no religious way to get in. I cannot and do not approve of it.
If you have to fight, there is the technology of elections, there is a democracy, you form a political party, and you fight. But someone who wants to fight on the basis of religion, he is as condemnable as any other organisation which does this.
The RSS should therefore not lay emphasis on a political agenda, but on a social agenda, and on uniting Hindus on one platform, that is that the Hindus are the strongest building block of this nation. They should be like a piece of granite, not sand particles.
But can we really separate the Church and State in India?
Oh yes, why not? Religion cannot be the basis of our State. Particularly a multicultural, multilingual, multiracial, multi-ethnic country like India. We are not a monolithic country. Like the Teutons or Anglo-Saxons. We are not like that. We are Hindus, Christians, Jains, Muslims, and what not.
We have to be a cauldron of multi-culturalism, and in that we have to find unity. We are a complex nation, where each person contributes to his country.
The Rediff Interviews