ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: Our Intelligence Service

Vol XVII, No 36, SEPTEMBER 4, 1965


Our Intelligence Service

Romesh Thapar

If there were a public opinion poll to locate the most damaging failure of these last few years, I am convinced that millions of fingers would point to our so-called intelligence network. So unreliable has been the information gathered that even on a rare occasion when a good job has been done no one has bothered to take note of it. Indeed, we seem to have lost faith in our capacity to undertake this kind of work—for, we now tend to entrust it to the most lazy and ill-equipped of the personnel at our disposal. It is a state of affairs which persists despite declarations to the contrary. ...

Similarly, when we test the capacity of the intelligence services in terms of the internal threat, we are surprised at the gullibility which prevails. Whether it is in dealing with Congress factionalists, Communist adventurers, Akali fanatics and Hindu incendiaries—or with those who would pull the whole structure down into a sea of chaos—the intelligence arm of the GOI is seldom ahead of events. The recent eruptions in Bihar for instance, are indicative of a massive failure to understand what is afoot. And if Fateh Singh and his Subaists are permitted to rock the Punjab, it will represent another failure to act in time. Political agitations in the States have become highly ramified. It is no longer possible to rely on easy formulations as to who threatens and who does not. In other words, our intelligence services have to develop a sophisticated and perceptive approach.

The knowledge that those hostile to us—Pakistan, for instance—are as badly serviced by their intelligence agencies provided small comfort. These minor powers, despite all their pretensions, do not face the related challenges which an India has to cope with. We need to possess information of a special kind which assists us in assessing the threats to our national interest. This information cannot be picked up cheap at cocktail parties and via the gossips. Nor can it be analysed, when skillfully collected, by dull bureaucratic minds, unable to comprehend the subtle shadings of the changes taking place around us, minds conditioned by the illogical system of promotion and reward which prevails in our administrative system. Professionals are called for—and these are lacking at every level.

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