Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ajit Doval, ex-IB chief on intelligence failure

Interview with Shri Ajit Doval on IBN channel on Sept. 15, 2008- in Evening at 6 PM

Ajit Doval, ex-IB chief on intelligence failure
Sept. 15, 2008, IBN channel

Anand: Good Evening Mr. Ajit! The Delhi blasts have once again proved beyond doubt that terrorists are miles ahead of the IB when it comes to planning and execution. What’s also becoming clear is that increasingly they are getting the erudite & tech savvy lot to join their bastions to disrupt the peace in this country by choosing locations at will and with an intention to cause maximum harm. These are ominous signs that we need to nip the evil in the bud or be prepared to witness bloodshed in front of our eyes. No doubt, society at large has a role to play. The simple tenet 'Know thy neighbor' needs to be practised to be aware of one's surroundings. As someone who has been part of the counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations, where do you think the lacunae lie and how can we prevent such mindless acts of terror from becoming a routine affair?
Ajit Doval: Firstly, let me assure you that India's intelligence capabilities are not as low as rated by you. Of course, any major blast is a failure and accountability must be fixed. But more important is the intelligence agencies initiating pre-emptive actions to degrade the capabilities of subversive and terrorist organisations. In a large country with democratic freedom 24 x 7 security cannot be ensured and some desperate persons, if they have got the training equipment and motivation to cause explosions, they can't always be prevented. But what is more important is that they are neutralised before they acquire and position these capabilities to bleed the nation. I think covert offensive operations duly empowered and legalised by the state will help a lot provided the nation can muster political will for that.
Shridhar:After major blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Jaipur; Now in Delhi. It is really a shame on Indian intelligence. Are you still waiting for the same to happen in all other Indian cities? Better to implement POTA, to nab terrorism. What do you say about this, sir....!
Ajit Doval: I think in today's conditions even POTA is not sufficient. We need to go for laws tougher than that with the provision that any misuse will also be a punishable offence within the Act.
Chandan Sharma: Does India need to become more aggressive when dealing with issues related to Pakistan and do we need an organization like CIA which are not only meant for intelligence gathering but which can eliminate prospective threats within and outside the country through unofficial means.
Ajit Doval: I think we need to bring all central intelligence agencies under one umbrella to ensure seamless integration in their operations, assessments and response. We also need to take a re-look about how to deal with Pakistan from an intelligence perspective. Indian intelligence overall needs to show greater aggressiveness in its approach towards safeguarding vital national interests.
Chenna Padmati: Dear Ajit Doval Sir, though we are seeing the bomb blasts occurring in USA, UK and India, but the frequency at which these are occurring in India is very high. After the London blasts the UK police have thwarted all other attempts by terrorists. What are the reasons in India for having so many Blasts? I would like to know how Indian intelligence differs from US and UK. Please give your answer in detail.
Ajit Doval: I think the first difference is the mere size of the problem that is faced by them and by us. They do not have 15,000 kms of land border of which nearly 9,000 is with Pakistan and Bangladesh which account for infiltration of terrorists, smuggling of arms and explosives and the terrorists finding easy sanctuaries across the borders. Pakistan has been waging a proxy war against India and hence the terrorist and subversive groups have received major support from Pakistan to bleed India which is not the case with the UK. Unfortunately, in India the fight against terror has been politicised and there is no national political consensus on the issue which exists in most of the Western countries. India has also not been able to bring in tough anti-terror laws like the UK and other Western countries despite the fact that it has been the world's largest victim of terrorism.
Rohit Kundra: Hello Mr Doval, You obviously have a very healthy and wise experience in Regards to Intelligence, can you tell the Failures of RAW,IB can be attributed to Red Tape , bureaucracy which I am very sure is one of the causes of our failure to prevent any incident. Look at Israel, probably 1/10 size of India, and 100 times better Intelligence Operations compared to our own, better than the US I would assume, Do we need Government Interference at all, since Govt. is anyways hopeless and hapless in most cases.
Ajit Doval: Red tape is definitely a big stumbling block in a country's performance in various areas of governance. Security and intelligence are no exceptions. I think there is an urgent need for de-bureaucratising India's intelligence agencies both form outside and within.
SRIRAM: Does it demotivate you, as a person fighting terror that SIMI was once banned only to be allowed to function once the Govt. changed and so did the affiliations and vote bank?
Ajit Doval: I think the overall approach towards radical extremist groups including SIMI has been rather soft. The Govt. should have been more firm in dealing with SIMI.
Abhishek: As a common citizen, how can we contribute to improve the situation?
Ajit Doval: Maintaining a high degree of alert and informing the police if anything suspicious comes to your notice.
Nagarajan: Don't you think it's impossible for the intelligence agencies to locate the various spots in a particular city where the terrorist group are planning to strike unless the network is smashed beforehand. It's therefore important to strengthen ground level policing at crowded who become police informer for intelligence agencies.
Ajit Doval: It is not impossible for the intelligence agencies to strike at their hideouts but they can do it only with the full involvement of police authorities. Intelligence operatives do not have powers of the law to strike on their own, arrest, seize, or raid terrorist premises. These powers are only with the police.
Malay Ray: Why can't we have tougher laws to punish all close relatives of terrorists? It is understandable that some innocent people will suffer; but aren't the people suffering from these explosions innocent too? That's one way to build social and emotional pressure on terrorists.
Ajit Doval: The basic jurisprudence of our criminal law is opposed to the idea of sharing responsibility for criminal actions by those who are not co-conspirators or part of a criminal act. Unless we can prove that the family members had connived, no action can be taken against them. I don't think that in today's world, it will be possible to make laws holding innocent persons, even if they are family members, accountable for the acts of a particular terrorist.
Aditya Sanghi:Hi, When we got to know about operation BAD, the next target was to be Delhi, isn’t it a total failure of our intelligence that even after getting the code word, we were not able to avoid these blasts? It brings up a big question mark on the competence level of the intelligence if they are at all keeping pace with technology. Such attacks can never be avoided by police, it needs to be owned by the intelligence. Thanks, Aditya Sanghi Informatica Business Solutions
Ajit Doval: Intelligence working is not confined only to intelligence agencies. The local police has to know their area, the movement and activities of people operating there and ground level sources of information at police station level. Once the intelligence about likely terrorist strikes in Delhi were known, the organisation which is likely to strike, identity of some of its operators etc had been obtained particularly after detailed interrogations of arrested SIMI activists. The police apparatus should have been more vigilant and pro-active.
RK: Sir, I don't blame the Intelligence Agencies. Don't do feel that without strong anti-terror laws, its too much to ask from Intelligence Agencies?
Ajit Doval: I totally agree that intelligence by itself is not the complete answer to terrorist threat. Even if one knows many things but is unable to take any action for want of suitable laws and other empowerments, the problem can't be tackled. India needs very strong anti-terror laws to make use of the knowledge available about the terrorists and their over ground support base.
Nitin Mjh: Hello Sir...I wish to know how was terrorism countered and curbed in Punjab and can't we adopt similar kind of strategies and policies to curb this Islamic terror as well?? Thanks Nitin.
Ajit Doval: I think there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from Punjab as also successes in north-eastern states like Mizoram. At the same time, it is important to understand that all conflicts have their own special characteristics and one model cannot be automatically supplanted in another theatre. Actually, we can learn more from our Kashmir experience in dealing with radical Islamist extremist threat.
ANIL SHETTY: After 9/11 - attack on USA. There is no attack on USA more than 7 years. If they can maintain their security, Why we cannot maintain at least 50% of them.
Ajit Doval: All security systems operate in a certain environment and setting. Our internal and external environment as also availability of resources are quite different than what is obtaining in the US. They have taken a doctrinal decision to take the war from where terror threat emanates. That is in their defensive-offence mode. So the theatre of conflict is say in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or other countries. For various reasons, we are operating in a defensive mode. There is a need to have a re-look at overall strategy to tackle terrorism.
Armoredfish: What do the intelligence agencies normally do? That has to be told to the public now. It is time. It is mostly political intelligence for the ruling party. We do not have any covert agency like the MI6 or the U.K or elsewhere. What is your take on this?
Ajit Doval: Intelligence agencies provide knowledge component at policy formulation, policy execution and operational levels. We do have an elaborate intelligence network covering all the areas of internal and external intelligence. The Indian intelligence agencies are as covert but at the same time accountable to the government as MI-5 & MI-6. However, their activities can't be disclosed to the public and large number of misgivings about their poor performance are because of ignorance about their role and activities. There are large number of successes to their creidt of intelligence agencies which unfortunately can't be shared with teh public. Nevertheless, there is need for considerable improvement.
Vivek: Good Evening Mr. Doval, Is our security apparatus so weak that these attacks just can't be stopped or it merely shows the lack of political will on the part of current government to deal with it.
Ajit Doval: Security apparatus is not weak but obviously in recent years has not been able to cope with the challenges faced by it. There is an urgent need to strengthen and reorgnaise it. Political will is of course the most important component of response mechanism. It detremines the response, capability, in various other allied areas, including efficiency of police forces. Of late, we find poor political will in fighting terrorism.
Aditya Sanghi: Hi, Me as a lay man gets a feeling that there isn’t any coordination between states which is one of the major reasons for the failure of intelligence. What one state says seems to be ignored by the other state or centre. How true is this? Is there a scope for improvement and if yes then what are the top three things that come to your mind to improve this? Thanks and regards, Aditya Sanghi Informatica Business Solutions
Ajit Doval: It is not true that there is no coordination amongst the states though there is nothing so good which cannot be improved. The problem lies at times in legal; formalities which have to be completed before action or info provided by one state to the other is complied with. For example, Gujarat Police could not arrest Abu Basheer from Azamgarh though they had info about his activities. UP Police also could not hand over Basheer after arresting him till he was produced in the court of law and orders obtained. In this interim, lots of useful clues were lost and many conspirators got alerted and fled. In some of the states there is no sensitivity to terrorism and their police forces do not take follow-up action as fast as possible. However, gradually more and more states are coming forward to extend their cooperation.
aathrey:Do you think there is a need for special central Intelligence agency with quick hassle free communication from the top to bottom and vice-versa and from one corner to the other with no politician poking their nose.
Ajit Doval: As far as intelligence agencies are concerned they do have fast and dependable channels of communication. However, what is needed is a nationwide security communication grid which can integrate communication between intelligence agencies, police forces, paramilitarty organsiations and defence forces where they are involved in internal security duties. Such a grid should also be connected to national data bank on terrorists so that any information regarding the terrorists, their plans, movements which are known in one part of the country are automatically transmitted and accessed by other agencies.
Vinay: Our intelligence seems to lag in terms of technology and I.T. Also some hidden traffic cameras would have been helpful. Does our intelligence department spend enough money to upgrade itself from time to time?
Ajit Doval: Technology is an important component of modern day intelligence. All Indian agencies do have high tech capabilities besides having a separate organization known as National Technical Facilities organization which is dedicated to development of new tech and integration. Some highly eminent scientists are involved in tech development for intelligence services. As far as hidden cameras are concerned, it is a good preventive and detective measure that can be used for policing purposes. It is being used in some areas. However, it does not come within the domain of intelligence technical gadgetry.

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