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The Rediff Interview/Lt Gen K Davar

April 15, 2003

Lieutenant General Kamal Davar is the first director general of the Defence Intelligence Agency. Set up after the Kargil war, the measure is regarded as an attempt to integrate the three defence services.

The chief of integrated defence staff, of which the DIA is a key agency, is the predecessor to the chief of defence staff, the single point military advisor to the government.

As DG, DIA, General Davar heads the technical intelligence gathering units of the Indian military, including those based on signal interceptions and satellite imageries. India's defence attaches also report to him.

After a year in office, he believes his agency is right on path in integrating defence intelligence gathering, and is set to achieve a high level of cooperation with its counterparts around the world.

Excerpts from an interview with Chief Correspondent Josy Joseph:

There are a lot of misgivings about the synchronisation of the tri-service agencies that come under you. How successful have you been in dealing with the merger of agencies such as defence attaches and DIPAC [defence image processing and analysis centre], into the defence intelligence agency set up?

I don't think your question is wholly accurate that there are a lot of misgivings. There are no misgivings. There may have been misgivings in the past when the structure was being formed.

The structure was formed, as you know, as an aftermath of the Kargil conflict. A lot of deliberations had taken place between the task force and the group of ministers as well as between the service headquarters. So whatever misgivings -- as you say it, I am not saying it -- were there have all been ironed out.

The tri-service organisation, the integrated defence staff, and more importantly the Defence Intelligence Agency, which I have the privilege to head and raise is on its feet. There are no misgivings; we are slowly gearing up to our tasks. My role and charter has been defined by the government with remarkable clarity and I am quite clear that we are well on the path to achieve our goals.

We coordinate and synergise defence intelligence from the three services, from the technical assets which are placed under my command, the defence attaches, so on and so forth. All I can say is that the DIA has a bright future. We have miles to traverse in the service of our country and the armed forces.

Still there are glitches. Sources say some defence attaches still prefer to report to the DGMI [director general military intelligence]. Also, in certain cases there is still reluctance among the men in reporting to you.

Defence attaches are under me and are doing their job effectively. The services intelligence directorates and the DIA work at different levels even then there is a slight duplication, which is natural, and which is also desirable. There must be some redundancy in various intelligence agencies. I don't think the defence attaches have any misgivings in reporting to me. What all of us must understand that for any new organisation, it takes time to be accepted, and a little time for it to become operational. We are well on our way. I am very optimistic about the future of the DIA and our modest achievements during the last one year bear testimony to this fact.

Agencies like DIPAC, defence attaches have very crucial roles in national security. How do you ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of jobs?

DIPAC and the defence attaches are functionally and operationally under the DIA and it is our endeavour to meet our national security requirements.

Is it from you that the technical information is disseminated?

Yes, the services technical assets are under me and we are meeting the requirements of our armed forces. As a matter of fact, the services intelligence requirements are being met more expeditiously after the raising of the DIA. I cannot tell you more as that becomes privileged information. I can assure you we are working towards synergising the entire effort, because in synergy lies success and cost effectiveness for all concerned.

Where do you see DIA going from here? Will it become a single point source for military intelligence?

DIA has been given its mandate, role and charter with absolute clarity by the government. So we have to accordingly serve the country and meet the requirements of the armed forces and the ministry of defence as a single point agency as far as defence intelligence is concerned, especially in the strategic sphere.

I am very optimistic that things will shape up. Let me also tell you that one year is too short to talk about specific achievements; suffice to say that we are in business, albeit modestly. If you ask me like some others have, "What are your specific achievements?" I am afraid I cannot talk about it because I follow my credo that drum-beating has no place in the business of intelligence.

Will in the future DGMI, chiefs of naval and air intelligence report to you?

I am the coordinator of the service intelligence. I head the Joint Services Intelligence Committee and we have intelligence sharing conferences not only with the three service intelligence directorates but also with the other intelligence agencies on a very regular basis. Presently, the service intelligence directorates are reporting as per their charter. I cannot make any predictions for the future.

Even the DGMI?

The DGMI, the assistant chief of air staff (intelligence), the director naval intelligence, they are all members of a committee known as the joint services intelligence committee of which I am the chairman. We meet very regularly. We also meet with other agencies. We are endeavouring to make ourselves a very closely networked community because we are all working for the same cause.

Are you dealing with new intelligence institutions outside the ministry of defence, like the joint task force under the Intelligence Bureau?

No. However we are in some manner or the other connected being part of the large intelligence fraternity. There are certain areas of expertise specific to an intelligence agency and based on the requirements the concerned agency assumes the task. For example, if some field unit of the military intelligence comes to know that a Pakistani or an ISI module is hiding in one of the small by-lanes in the walled city, they immediately inform the IB and the IB tells the Delhi police.

We must understand we cannot compartmentalise intelligence. Intelligence has to be seamless, there are no copyrights. Intelligence must flow in all directions within the intelligence fraternity.

Are you permitted to have working relations with your counterparts abroad?

Yes, if it is as per the policies of the government. We don't jump into such relationships. Such proposals are considered and vetted at appropriate levels in the concerned ministries of the government and if found mutually acceptable we enter into some sorts of exchange. It is not a one way traffic, it has to be useful to both the countries. We come into play after some sort of arrangement is worked out between the two governments.

You mention one-way traffic, let me ask you something. There is a high level of dissatisfaction among senior intelligence officers about the way India went all out to assist the US and got back almost nothing in return after the 9/11 attacks. Are you cautious of such traps?

We are conscious of such traps in case they exist. But I do not know if they are existing, because we will only share if we get something in return!

Tomorrow: 'The contours of terrorism in Kashmir are different from Iraq'

Design: Dominic Xavier

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