NEW DELHI - Former R&AW chief AS Dulat is highlighting nothing new when he states that getting actionable intelligence and using it effectively is often held hostage by politicians.
The former intelligence chief, who headed R&AW from 1999 to 2000, was right in pointing out that the release of transcripted conversations to the media (of the then Pakistani army chief General Pervez Musharraf and Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz Khan, his Chief of the General Staff during the 1999 Kargil war) impacted Indian intelligence and the initial war effort.
Though the situation has improved under the Modi regime — there was complete secrecy surrounding the ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan in 2016 — politicians, whether they are in the government or Opposition, must learn to value intelligence and the work of our intelligence agencies more, as they play an active role in deterrence.
The former R&AW chief points out the ideal scenario would be to turn a Pakistani spy into a double agent. However, in the current system, where key military objectives are not understood by legislators, and the pressure from the media to know everything immediately has ensured that not just basic intelligence, national security and people’s lives have also been put at risk.
The media coverage during the Mumbai attack was a case in point where the terrorists could clearly watch the commandos’ movements on television. Political reluctance to frame guidelines during a terror or hostage attack suggests such irresponsible behaviour may be repeated.
Indians have often criticised intelligence agencies like R&AW, claiming that they do not reach the standards of the CBI or Israel’s Mossad. This may be true, but it is also fit to know that intelligence chiefs in other countries can share things freely without worrying about them being leaked. India must follow suit.