... for openness and credibility....

Monthly digest of official Indian statements on the Middle East g


a. Egypt

1. Visit of H. E. Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State of India for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, to Egypt (10-13 January 2010), 8 January 2010

H. E. Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State of India for Personnel,  Public Grievances and Pensions, will be paying an official visit to Egypt on 10-13 January 2010 at the invitation of H. E. Mr. Ahmed Darwish, Minister of State for Administrative Development of the Arab Republic of Egypt. H. E. Mr. Chavan will be accompanied by a delegation comprising senior officials of the Government of India.

H. E. Mr. Chavan will hold discussions with H. E. Mr. Ahmed Darwish, focussing on sharing of perspectives and experiences as well as the means to activate cooperation between India and Egypt in the field of Public Service delivery, capacity building and skill up-gradation and e-Governance. During his stay in Cairo, H. E. Mr. Chavan is also expected to call on H.E. Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and H.E. Dr. Yousef Boutros Ghali, Minister of Finance.

The visit of H. E. Mr. Chavan sustains the momentum of bilateral Ministerial-level exchanges between India and Egypt while at the same time widening the scope of the bilateral relationship. 

Source: Indian Embassy, Cairo, Egypt

2. Visit of a Goodwill Delegation of Indian Parliamentarians to Egypt (15-18 January 2010), 14 January 2010

As a part of the Parliamentary exchanges between India and Egypt, a Goodwill Delegation of Indian Parliamentarians will be visiting Egypt from 15-18 January 2010. The Indian delegation would be led by H.E. Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Hon’ble Minister of Parliamentary Affairs & Water Resources of India. The delegation would also include H.E. Mr. V. Narayanasamy, Hon’ble Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs & Planning of India and seven Members of Parliament. The Hon’ble Members of Parliament will represent both the Houses of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) as well as a wide cross-section of political parties of India. 

During their stay in Egypt, the Indian Goodwill Delegation of Parliamentarians are scheduled to have meeting with H.E. Dr. Ahmed Fathi Sorour, Hon’ble Speaker of the People’s Assembly, H.E.  Mr. Mohamed Safwat El Sherif, Hon’ble Speaker of Shura Council and H.E. Dr. Moufeed Shehab, Hon’ble Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. Apart from Parliamentary matters, the bilateral issues as well as the international developments of mutual concern will be discussed during the meetings.

Egypt and India have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations. This has resulted in many high level exchanges between the two countries.  Egypt and India also have a long tradition of democracy, in which the Parliaments of the respective countries have played crucial roles. Consequently, both countries lay great emphasis on strengthening the cooperation at the Parliamentary level. Many exchanges of Parliamentary delegations have taken place as a part of this cooperation.

Source: Indian Embassy, Cairo, Egypt

b. Israel

3. India-Israel discuss bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture, 11 January 2010

The Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour called on Agriculture Minister, Shri Sharad Pawar along with a business delegation. The Israeli Minister appreciated Agriculture Minister’s contribution to Indian agriculture and strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture between Israel and India. 

The two sides reviewed bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture and expressed satisfaction and were of the view that there was significant room for further improvement for bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture particularly in the field of recycling of waste water, efficient use of water in agriculture and high value agriculture. 

Both sides agreed that Israel will field some experts to interact with Indian experts to study the feasibility of recycling of waste water in a cost effective manner for use of Indian agriculture. 

The visiting Minister invited Shri Pawar to visit Israel to have an idea about the latest developments in technology relating to agriculture and water use efficiency

Source: Ministry of Agriculture Press Release, PIB, New Delhi

c. Oman

4. Visit of Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. Shashi Tharoor, 8 January 2010     

India’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Shashi Tharoor visited Muscat, Sultanate of Oman from 04 - 07 January 2010 to touch upon various issues of mutual interest. The visit came within the framework of strengthening the already friendly bilateral relations between the two countries, India and Oman. The Minister had held a series of meetings with Omani Ministers, businessmen, dignitaries and also addressed Indian community residing in Oman. 

Dr. Tharoor was accompanied by a 14-member Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) delegation, thus, giving priority to the bilateral commercial engagements between India and Oman. He held discussions with His Excellency Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan, Omani Minister of Commerce & Industry on ways to enhance bilateral trade and explore new opportunities for two way investments. The two leaders commended the growth in bilateral trade which has touched US$ 2 billion mark in 2009 despite the global recessionary phase. It was conveyed to Dr. Tharoor that the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund, the first of its kind between India and any other country had been finalized, and the Minister of National Economy of Oman His Excellency Abdul Nabi Macki will travel to India soon to sign the agreement.

In his meeting with His Excellency Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he discussed a gamut of issues that covered regional, and International issues, including the issue of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). During discussions with His Excellency Dr. Omar bin Abdul Munim al Zawawi, Advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said cooperation between the two countries in new areas and non conventional energy recourses were discussed. Dr. Zawawi was invited to visit India at his earliest convenience.

In a high level discussions with His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for Council of Ministers, Dr. Tharoor was briefed on a number of international issues and the Omani stand on these issues. Combating terrorism, cooperation in new areas and close cooperation between the two countries in order to reinvigorate their strategic partnership were focused in the discussion.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor also addressed an Indo-Oman business gathering at Oman Chambers of Commerce & Industries. Highlighting the growth achieved by India, in his speech, he underlined the business and investment opportunities which spurt in India and urged Omani business houses to take part in Indian projects and invest in Indian infrastructure. 

The Minister also met the Omani Minister of Defence Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Hareb al Busaidi. Both sides reviewed the ongoing projects and cooperation in the defence sector and discussed security cooperation. In his meeting with Minister of Manpower Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri, a number of problems faced by illegal Indian workers in Oman were taken up and solutions were discussed. The Indian Ambassador to Oman Anil Wadhwa, who is already in close touch with the Omani Minister on these issues, will follow-up on these solutions over the next few months.

Dr. Tharoor’s visit began with an interaction with the children of Indian School Muscat. He applauded the way Indian students are being taught in Oman. While giving his message to the students to excel in their field of interest, he said that he was assured that Indian students would offer their best to the motherland and to the country they would reside. He also had an interaction with the students at Sultan School, a premier school in the Sultanate. Earlier in October last year, Dr. A P J Abul Kalam addressed the same school during his visit to Oman.  He also delivered a lecture on “Indian Foreign Policy Imperative in the 21st Century” at Diplomatic Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sultanate of Oman. 

Dr. Tharoor addressed NRIs at the Indian Embassy and painted a hopeful picture of an India on the move and stated that Indians have vast opportunity to invest in their motherland. He assured them of better care of their property and dignity if they come back and contribute to India.  Commenting on the outcome of the visit, the Indian Ambassador to Oman Anil Wadhwa termed the results as “spectacular” and stated that the visit is bound to open new vistas of cooperation between the two strategic partners, and will go a long way in enhancing the flow of investments and trade between the two countries.

Source: Indian Embassy, Sultanate of Oman

d. Saudi Arabia

5. Indian Ambassador Posted to Saudi Arabia, 2 January2010

The Ambassador of India to the UAE, Mr. Talmiz Ahmad, has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He will succeed Mr. M. O. H. Farooq, who has just completed his five-year term. 

This will be Mr. Ahmad’s second stint as the Indian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia; he had served there earlier between 2000-2003.

Mr. Ahmad joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1974. During the last 35 years, he has acquired a special interest in the countries of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, having been posted early in his career in Kuwait, Baghdad and Sana’a, and later as Consul General in Jeddah (1987-90). He has also served in the Indian diplomatic Missions in New York, London and Pretoria.

After having been the head for the Gulf and Hajj Divisions in the Ministry of External Affairs in 1998-2000, Mr. Ahmad was appointed Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia in January 2000, after which he became the Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman in July 2003. Mr. Ahmad headed the Indian team that negotiated the release of seven Indian and other hostages in Iraq in August 2004.

He joined the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas as Additional Secretary for International Cooperation in April 2005. He then served as Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs, Indian premier foreign affairs think-tank, between April 2006-July 2007. He assumed charge as the Ambassador of India to the UAE in August 2007. On his departure from the UAE in late-January 2010, he will complete two-and-a-half-years as the Indian Ambassador in the UAE.

Mr. Talmiz Ahmad writes and lectures regularly on Political Islam, the politics of West Asia and energy security. His papers on energy have appeared in several books and journals. His book titled: Reform in the Arab World: External Influences and Regional Debates, was published in July 2005.

Source: Indian Embassy, Abu Dhabi, UAE 

e. United Arab Emirates

6. Dr. Farooq Abdullah leaves for Abu Dhabi to attend 3rd World Future Energy Summit, 17 January 2010 

An Indian delegation headed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, is leaving for UAE tonight to attend the 3rd World Future Energy Summit at Abu Dhabi. 

The Summit is the world’s platform for sustainable future energy solutions where industry leaders, investors, scientists, specialists, policymakers and researchers from about a hundred countries are gathering to discuss the challenges of rising energy demand and actions to achieve a cleaner and more sustainable future for the world. The theme this year is 'Turning Energy Challenges into Business Opportunities' emphasizing that renewable energy is not a threat to oil producing economies but a business opportunity. 

Dr. Abdullah will participate in the Energy Minister’s Round Table at the Plenary Forum on the opening day tomorrow. He will also address the Inaugural Session of the “Conclave on Green Buildings” being organized by The Energy Research Institute (TERI) on the sidelines of the summit. 

Source: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Press Release, PIB, New Delhi

7. Dr. Farooq Abdullah calls for co-operation amongst countries to achieve technological advancement and cost reduction in renewable energy, 19 January 2010 

Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy participated in the discussions at the Energy Minister’s Round Table during the plenary session of the 3rd World Future Energy Summit at Abu Dhabi, UAE. In his remarks, he highlighted India’s energy strategy aiming at efficiency and security, and the achievement of an optimum, environmentally friendly mix of primary resources for energy generation. 


Source: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Press Release, PIB, New Delhi


8. Address on the Gulf by Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs, 9 January 2010 

I am indeed privileged to address this session of the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas (PBD) 2010 on the “Gulf”. At the outset I would like to complement MOIA for their initiative in scheduling a discussion forum on the Gulf. I am confident that this will permit a broader and deeper reflection into not only one of India’s most important and enduring relationships but one with tremendous potential for development, diversification and enrichment.

2. A few years ago the notion of a “Look East” policy was all the rage. Of course we must look East, but we must look West too, and I don’t mean at the western hemisphere but closer to home, at the Gulf. In keeping with our desire to strengthen our relations with the countries of the Gulf we are putting in place a structure of multifaceted cooperation covering all sectors. It is a matter of satisfaction that our efforts are being matched with enthusiasm by the countries of the Gulf. During my short tenure I have interacted with several members of the leadership of the Gulf countries and our own Diaspora. These interactions enhance my confidence that we will realize the potential of our relationship. 

3. The Gulf region has historical, political, economic, strategic and cultural significance for India and offers tremendous potential for cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, energy and manpower. Our engagement with the Gulf countries predates our and their emergence as modern nation states; our forefathers have been dealing with each other much before our countries even had Foreign Ministries! So what we are doing these days is carrying this timeless relationship forward. The Gulf region is part of our extended neighbourhood; it is home to 4.5 million Indians and is the source of some $22 billion in remittances and 70% of our energy imports. No wonder it is an area of special focus for India’s foreign policy. 

4. It is not at all surprising to see that the Gulf region has emerged as a major trading partner for India with annual two-way trade nearing US$ 100 billion. But our engagement needs to go beyond trade pure and simple. Our attempt is to create institutional linkages in the areas of investment, energy cooperation, and security cooperation. We are also seeking bilateral arrangements to look after the welfare of the large Indian community and those working in the Gulf. We are striving to enhance cultural, scientific and educational contacts and bridge the information gap through the projection of India in the Gulf and vice-versa. We wish to multiply such arrangements and projects. Negotiations to conclude a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the GCC are already under way and there is a strong desire on both sides to conclude this and make it an “FTA++” by including both services and investment in its ambit. 

5. Nearly 75% of our crude oil requirement is met from this region. In 2008-09 India has imported more than 92 million metric tonnes of crude from the Gulf against our total requirement of about 128 million metric tonnes. As the Gulf region provides India with an overwhelming share of our oil and gas requirements, the region by implication plays a crucial role in our energy security and fuels the Indian growth story. In India we are very conscious of this critical relationship and we are investing more energy in strengthening our energy diplomacy. India has successfully bid for oil blocks in Yemen, Qatar and Oman. Efforts are ongoing to setup joint ventures in downstream petrochemicals, fertilizer and energy intensive industries in the Gulf countries and with the participation of the Gulf countries in India as well. The OMIFCO fertilizer plant in Oman and the Essar steel plant in Qatar are good examples. We are working to replicate OMIFCO models or its variants with some other countries. 

6. India itself has invested its capital and labour in the Gulf and is sharing its considerable strengths in IT, education, health and other sectors with it. India welcomes Gulf countries’ participation and investment in our vigorous growth process. New avenues for enhancing such cooperation are being explored through the exchange of visits of high-level investment and business delegations and the holding of seminars and business summits. Foreign Office consultations and Joint Commission Meetings are being regularly held with all the countries of the region to identify areas of cooperation and put in place institutional arrangements to promote it, such as Agreements on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA). These arrangements create greater confidence for investment promotion and today Indian investment in the Gulf perhaps exceeds Gulf investment in India! To give an example, Indian investment in Saudi Arabia alone is of the order of US$ 2 billion. However, when I saw the figures for investment from the Gulf in India up to October 2009, I saw a figure of about US$1.59 billion, representing only 1.58% of the total FDI in India. This is contrary to expectations as one would imagine greater investments might come to India from the resource-rich Gulf region, particularly at a time when rewards elsewhere in the world are not very great. However, I am happy to note we are working on changing this scenario. Recently in November 2009 India and Qatar have signed an investment agreement to the tune of US$ 5 Billion and we are working on developing more such understandings. 

7. As I have mentioned, the Gulf countries collectively host the largest expatriate Indian community in the world, exceeding 4.5 million. Given the large Indian population in the region, a number of issues come up in our relations with these countries, which relate to our people-to-people contacts. We don’t treat these as routine consular matters. Active steps are being taken in cooperation with the countries of the region to promote the welfare of the Indian community, especially expatriate workers. MOIA has been proactive in concluding MOUs with most Gulf countries and today we have MOUs with all the countries in the Gulf except with Saudi Arabia. These and similar arrangements will enable us to jointly deal with issues relating to the welfare of the expatriate Indian communities in the region. Both the Ministry of External Affairs and MOIA are working closely and will work together for the benefit and welfare of our diaspora abroad. 

8. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction that over the last few years there has been significantly enhanced high level contacts and other exchanges between India and the Gulf. Our relations are getting revitalized with the realization on both sides that the need of the hour in the rapidly globalizing world of today is to leverage each other’s strengths in order to maximize the shared benefits for our economies and our peoples. On our side our Hon’ble PM’s visit in 2008 to Qatar and Oman and that of our Hon’ble Vice-President to Kuwait in 2009 further underscored the strength of our relationship with this vital region. Ministerial level visits have maintained the momentum, and it is no accident that my own first visit abroad as Minister was to the Gulf. 

9. The first-ever GCC-India Industrial Conference that was held in Mumbai in February 2004 with the participation of Ministers from all the six GCC countries was another important milestone. We have maintained and developed this forum and the fourth GCC-India Industrial Conference is scheduled to be held in Jeddah soon in 2010. 

10. From the strategic point of view, India and the GCC share a need for continued political stability and security in the region. Our common political and security concerns of should translate into compatible efforts for peace, security and stability in the region. Emerging threat perceptions in today’s world create fresh challenges and opportunities for enhancing GCC-India cooperation. This could involve joint efforts to meet emerging domestic and regional challenges, foremost among them being the common threat of terrorism. In this framework, the India-GCC Political Dialogue being held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly constitutes a clear political commitment by the two sides to engage pro-actively with each other, on a regular basis, through an institutional mechanism, to exchange views and address issues of mutual concern. (In September 2009 we have held the 5th such dialogue.) In addition to policy-makers and practitioners, I also value exchanges amongst scholars and academics studying our two regions, and was pleased to welcome an impressive group from the Gulf Research Centre last week for a stimulating discussion. There is a great deal here that we can build upon. 

11. I have spoken for longer than I intended to and would like to leave time for further discussion. Let me just underline that precisely because there are no major problems between us, we are anxious that the relationship should not slip into complacency. India will not take the Gulf countries for granted. We have very consciously built up a framework for cooperation, which is constantly deepening and widening. While the pace of growth could indeed be faster, nevertheless a critical mass is being created that will take us into a qualitatively upgraded relationship. I am sure that the elements and the initiatives I have described would not only enlarge the scope of our relationship but also provide more diverse and durable opportunities for our diaspora in the Gulf. 

Thank You and Jai Hind! 

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi


9. Address of the Hon'ble Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari at the Fourth R. N. Kao Memorial Lecture on 19 January 2010 at CGO Complex, New Delhi

Intelligence for the World of Tomorrow

I am honoured to be invited today to deliver this lecture to commemorate an iconic personality who dedicated his life to the service of the Republic and created structures deemed essential for the security of the state and the promotion of its essential interests. In another age or another system of governance, he would be honoured suitably in a pantheon of Immortals. We as a people, however, are diffident in matters relating to some aspects of the functioning of the State and prefer a discreet veil to a public acclaim. It tantalises imagination but does not add to the compendium of knowledge for succeeding generations. 

We remember Rameshwar Nath Kao today for his work and for his engaging personality. In regard to the former, I cannot help recalling a couplet by an Arab poet of the 10th century:

These are our works, these works our souls display

Behold our works when we have passed away.

I personally cannot claim to have known Kao saheb well but do recall an occasion, in early 1980, when I happened to sit next to him on a journey from Bombay to Delhi. He spoke in chaste Urdu, discussed the happening in Iran, and was candid enough to acknowledge that like most other people he had not anticipated the revolutionary changes. 

Ramjee Kao created an organisation, negotiated rather than confronted inter-agency contentions and achieved a historic success. He could also be indulgent to a fault. Those who worked closely with him have described Kao as a complex mix of objectivity and subjectivity in matters concerning human relationships. A peer in a position to assess from a distance described him as a fascinating mix of physical and mental elegance, and one who was shy to talk about his accomplishments. 

Kao's business in life was intelligence, more specifically external intelligence. Its relevance is in no need of commentary. We can go as far back as Kautilya, or even earlier, to perceive its importance. In fact, the methodological sophistication exhibited in Kautilya's chapters on the secret service and internal security can be read with benefit even today. The same holds good for Sun Tzu's chapter on secret agents. He highlights the relevance of 'foreknowledge' and concludes with the interesting observation that 'there is no place where espionage is not used.' Over centuries the ambit of intelligence, and the craft itself, expanded and enriched itself in response to requirements. Techniques were refined and technology opened up qualitatively different vistas. In the 20th century individual agents on specific assignments gave way to regular agencies. Fascination with the unknown also brought forth a vast amount of literary output that combined fact and fiction, working powerfully on public imagination and even lending respectability to questionable acts. There is merit in C.P. Snow's observation that "the euphoria of secrecy does go to the head." 

Intelligence, by definition, is primarily directed at anticipating happenings. Intelligence information, by its very nature, is a glimpse of reality. It is often inconclusive because the methods of acquisition are at times surreptitious. On the other hand, the probabilities of reality that can be established by intelligence information are necessary and sufficient to enable national decision-makers to make reasonable judgments about courses of action. While intelligence information is at times incomplete, good intelligence often has made the difference between victory and defeat, life and death. By the same token, faulty intelligence leads to failures of varying degrees. Over time, reasons for failure are analysed and classified. These range from overestimation to underestimation, lack of communication, unavailability of information, received opinion, mirror-imaging, over-confidence, complacency, failure to connect dots and subordination of intelligence to policy. Case studies on each of these abound; they are a sobering reminder of Karl Popper's observation that "the more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know." 

The qualities that go to make a good intelligence operative have been defined in all systems of governance. A medieval classic called it "delicate business involving some unpleasantness" to be "entrusted to the hands and tongues and pens of men who are completely above suspicion and without self-interest, for the weal or woe of the country depends on them." In an interesting passage in his book, the formidable Mr. Allen Dulles observed that "a good intelligence officer must have an understanding of other points of view, other ways of thinking and behaving, even if they are quite foreign to his own." Record shows that this is easier said than done even in normal times. The ability to assess what Trotsky called "changes in mass consciousness in a revolutionary epoch" is rarely acquired by those who collect and analyze intelligence. The reason for this would seem to lie in insufficient comprehension of the nuances of a changing situation, inadequacy of coverage and inability to challenge working assumptions.

Other problems emerge as occupational hazards. Compulsive secrecy tends to become obsessive and impacts the personality of the individual. An intelligence organization, one observer has noted, tends to be a self-sufficient society to which "the outside world becomes more and more remote and its realities less and less important." Rob Johnston, who conducted an ethnographic study of the U.S. intelligence community in 2005, observed that "within the intelligence community, more organizational emphasis is placed on secrecy than on effectiveness." Making a judgment about open source versus secret information, a professional concluded that ninety percent information comes from the former and only ten percent from the latter. "The real intelligence hero", he wrote, 'is Sherlock Holmes, not James Bond." 

The need to strike a balance between secrecy, openness and efficacy on a continuous basis is thus essential. Much greater coordination is required to maximize results in complex situations. The time-honoured formula of "need to know" has to be modified by the requirement of the "need to share". The point was driven home by an eminent leader very recently: "I'll never fault anybody for not having full intelligence, what I will fault is when we have full intelligence that's not shared." 


Beyond the confines of professional competence, the question of intelligence is intrinsically linked to the nature of challenge perceived by a society. It tends to be based on past experience and on assumptions that seem logical. This is essential but not sufficient and its relevance now is increasingly open to question. The resulting dilemma was aptly expressed a few years back by the historian and jurist Philip Bobbitt:

"Now it happens that we are living in one of those relatively rare periods in which the future is unlikely to be very much like the past. Indeed the three certainties …about national security - that it is national (not international), that it is public (not private), and that it seeks victory (not stalemate) - these three lessons of the past are all about to be turned upside down by the new age of indeterminacy into which we are plunging."

Bobbitt went on to assert the need to appreciate "the essential ambiguity" of attacks to which societies may be subjected to and as a result of which strategies of retaliation and deterrence may become less useful. In such a world, he added: 

"We must move our thinking from threat-based strategies that rely on knowing precisely who our enemy is and where he lives, to vulnerability-based strategies that try to make our infrastructure more slippery, more redundant, more versatile, more difficult to attack."

This conceptual shift, from threat-based to vulnerability-based strategies, would necessitate a comprehensive reorientation of the work of the State and therefore of its intelligence apparatus, its objectives and its work methods. Some of this is already underway in the light of the experience of the first decade of the 21st century; this, however, have been pragmatic and halting since the requisite paradigm shift in thinking is yet to be put in place. The extent and speed with which it is done may well determine success or failure in the foreseeable future.

To develop the argument further, I would like to borrow the definition of the term vulnerability from the meaning given to it in the terminology of computer security. There it is referred to as a weakness which allows an attacker to reduce a system's Information Assurance. This happens at the intersection of three elements: a system susceptibility or flaw, an attacker's access to the flaw, and an attacker's capability to exploit the flaw. In societal terms, this would read as (1) flaw or susceptibility (2) existence of an enemy or a threat (3) ability of the threat to exploit the flaw. Such a framework would necessitate going beyond the traditional approach to a comprehensive assessment of both the susceptibility of the target and the capability of the opposing force. 

A complicating factor of increasing relevance is the changing nature of the actors on the global stage. In addition to nation-states, it now includes a mix of non-state entities, benign and malignant. In the absence of effective multilateralism, the relative power of these non-state actors has increased to reflect the fragmentation of interests.

The conclusion is inescapable that in the world of tomorrow, the nature of intelligence required for comprehensive security would be qualitatively different. This would have implications for the methodology of acquiring and analysing it. As a first step, it would necessitate a wider understanding of target areas. Much too often, governmental intelligence efforts have focused on politico-military and economic intelligence. While its relevance cannot be questioned, its sufficiency can be. The reason is obvious. Most often, the standard check list does not go beyond or behind the super-structure, does not look at societal realities, pays inadequate attention to other people's ways of thinking and behaving. Intelligence services, as David Kay of the Iraq Survey Group put it, "don't do a very good job of trying to understand the soft side of societies." 

Nor does the check list takes a good look at the national security implications of non-traditional threats including cyber-attacks, attacks on food and water security, bio-terrorism, pandemics or worst case apocalyptic visions of the future. It has, for instance, been assessed that in a post-pandemic world dangerous patterns of inter-state behaviour may emerge and seriously endanger security of states. 

The ambit of intelligence, consequently, has to be comprehensive. It is to be assessed simultaneously on three planes: state-centric, society-centric and environment-centric. The dynamics of these may be different and may require different tools of analysis. The resulting conclusions may be fluid, complex and contradictory and thereby challenge the analytical skills of the operative to bring forth options that can be comprehended and acted upon. Access to these skills, if not available in-house, would necessitate review of security rules that generally govern the functioning of intelligence organisations. 


A particularly serious problem relates to the misuse of intelligence. The classic instance in recent times is the process leading to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The July 2004 Report of the US Senate Select Committee on Pre-War Intelligence Assessment of Iraq revealed that "group think dynamics" led the intelligence community to interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusive and ignore in the process established mechanisms to challenge assumptions and group think. Closer to the mark was the secret Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002 in which the head of British intelligence reported after discussions in Washington that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around policy" of regime change. The Iraq Enquiry now in progress in London is shedding more light on this. 

These instances can be multiplied. They are not the monopoly of one nation or set of nations. They are revealed earlier in open societies and less so in closed ones. They have led to follies and catastrophes. Failures propel thinking in the direction of correctives and reforms. They focus analysis on the political or economic pressures at work in individual societies. These, together, propel thinking in the direction of accountability and necessitate oversight. Both are considered unwanted and bothersome by intelligence communities for reasons that range from secrecy and operational efficiency to downright contempt for any individual, body or arrangement that endeavours to assess their functioning. The problem nevertheless exists and was posed by an expert in precise terms:

How shall a democracy insure its secret intelligence apparatus becomes neither a vehicle for conspiracy nor a suppressor of the traditional liberties of democratic self-government?

It is hardly necessary to remind an Indian audience that ministerial responsibility to the legislature, and eventually to the electorate, is an essential element of democratic governance to which we are committed by the Constitution. The methodology of this is in place for most aspects of governmental activity; the exceptions to it pertain to the intelligence and security structure of the state. 

How then is oversight and accountability ensured? 

The traditional answer and prevailing practice, of oversight by the concerned minister and Prime Minister and general accountability of the latter to parliament, was accepted as adequate in an earlier period but is now considered amorphous and does not meet the requirements of good governance in an open society. Concerns in the matter have primarily arisen on two counts: (a) the nature and extent of supervision over intelligence services exercised by the political executive and (b) the possibility and scope of misuse of these services by the political executive. Both concerns emanate from the absence of specific accountability, on these matters, to the legislature. 

The problem is not a new one and has been faced by other democratic societies. In late 1970s opinion in the United States reached the conclusion that "oversight of the Intelligence Community is essential because of the critical importance of ensuring the nation's security, as well as checking the potential for abuse of power." As a result, two congressional committees were established in 1976 and 1977. Despite this, the 9/11 Commission Report of 2004 found the congressional oversight of intelligence "dysfunctional" and recommended structural changes. A similar exercise was conducted in the United Kingdom through the Intelligence Services Act 1994 that established the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the intelligence services. Other countries like Canada, Australia, South Africa, Norway, Germany, Argentina, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania have also put in place similar mechanisms of public accountability. 

It has been argued that the scope of the mandate of the parliamentary intelligence oversight committee is crucial for its success. Three models of the mandate can be identified: (a) comprehensive to include both policy and operations, as in the U.S. and Germany (b) limited to matters of policy and finance, as in UK (c) focused on human rights and rule of law, as in Norway. The basic purpose of all three is to ensure that government policy in a given field is carried out effectively within the boundaries of the law. For this reason, it is felt that without access to some operational detail, an oversight body can have or give no assurance about the efficacy or the legality of the intelligence services. 

Given these models of calibrated openness to ensure oversight and accountability, there is no reason why a democratic system like ours should not have a Standing Committee of Parliament on intelligence that could function at least on the pattern of other Standing Committees. Since internal and external intelligence do not in our system report to the same minister, the possibility of entrusting this work to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs may not meet the requirement. 

In the same spirit, and keeping with the practice of other democracies such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the concerned agencies should make public their mission statement outlining periodically their strategic intent, vision, mission, core values and their goals. Existing models range from periodic executive review of the mission statement to statutory definition of the function of these agencies. Furthermore, and in step with the globalised information architecture, there is a case for greater openness with regard to the history of intelligence institutions. We need to study initiatives taken elsewhere and determine the extent to which we can proceed in the matter.

The shortcomings of the traditional argument, of leaving intelligence to the oversight of the executive, became evident in the Report of the Kargil Review Committee and its sections on Intelligence in its Findings and Recommendations. It identified flaws, acknowledged the absence of coordination and of "checks and balances", and noted the absence of governmental correctives. The Report referred to relevant systems in major countries but did not include in it their systems of oversight and accountability. 

Some correctives were introduced pursuant to the establishment of the National Security System and the report of the Group of Ministers on the reform of the national security system in its entirety. These improvements enhanced internal accountability and coordination but did not go far enough and did not put in place a more open system of public accountability. In the discussions that followed the publication of the Kargil Review Committee Report, and apart from inter-agency spats and the blame game, one informed commentator described it as a "substantive contribution in educating our Parliament and public opinion" aimed at "introducing transparency in this sensitive sector."

Arguments of this nature tend to be condescending. They ignore the time-honoured formula which is the bedrock of democracy: that "instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action." They belittle the capacity of elected representatives to be responsible in matters of national security. Also overlooked is the fact that depending on the fall of the electoral dice, these same representatives are transformed into the political executive entrusted with the responsibility of supervising the work of intelligence agencies. 

The contention that openness and public discussion would compromise the secrecy essential for intelligence needs to be examined carefully. Operational secrecy is one aspect of the matter and has to be maintained. The legislature, nevertheless, is the organ of the state that allocates funds and is therefore entitled to insist on financial and performance accountability. The practice of subsuming allocations is not conducive to transparency; it may even encourage misuse. The proposed Standing Committee could fill this void; it could also function as a surrogate for public opinion and thus facilitate wider acceptance of the imperatives of a situation. Given the nature of emerging threats to human security, a wider sampling of opinion would in fact facilitate better comprehension of the issues and of possible remedies to attain total national power and comprehensive defence. 


Let me conclude by saying that in a fast changing world, the challenges facing intelligence practitioners are enormous. Can they adapt their organizations, policies and practices to a world in which there is a qualitative change in the notion of security and in the nature of threats? Both compel a paradigm shift in procedures and objectives; so does the imperative of accountability in terms of democratic norms of good governance. Each of these needs to be factored into the work patterns of the intelligence operative of tomorrow. A timely synthesis would pave the way for success.

I thank Shri K. C. Verma and the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat for inviting me today. 

Source: Office of the Vice-President, New Delhi

Note: The Exact web links for the questions in the Indian Parliament are non-functional due to technical reasons. They can be searched through the question number or the name of the Member of Parliament concerned at the Website of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha  

Mustaq Hussain is a Doctoral candidate in the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND. 

Editor, MEI India Speaks: P R Kumaraswamy