On Intelligence Sharing, Take Pak Gesture With a Pinch of Salt

For reasons of security, New Delhi must exercise caution when Islamabad shares intelligence, writes Amar Bhushan.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read


Was the latest instance of Pakistan sharing intelligence inputs with India a cosmetic measure? (Photo: iStock)

The nationwide alert issued on March 5 by the Home Ministry to thwart possible strikes by a group of 10 LeT and JeM terrorists on vital installations and religious places raises several awkward questions. The inputs for the alert were provided by Nasir Khan Janjua, Pakistan’s NSA, to his Indian counterpart, a move that has no precedence. The information, however, lacked specifics such as terrorists’ names, the approximate time and route of their entry and targets.

It defies belief that Janjua’s agencies, which have such excellent rapport with the LeT and JeM, would not have even a sketchy idea of the terrorists’ precise plans and their movements. It is true that procuring actionable intelligence is not always easy but inputs cannot just be apprehensions. It is obvious that Janjua was sharing what was convenient for the Pakistani establishment.



Security was strengthened  at Hanuman Mandir in New Delhi after the Centre sounded a high alert amid reports that 10 fidayeen militants  entered Gujarat on March 7, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
Security was strengthened at Hanuman Mandir in New Delhi after the Centre sounded a high alert amid reports that 10 fidayeen militants entered Gujarat on March 7, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Is Sharing Intelligence Enough?

Sharing intelligence among services is quite common. To Janjua’s credit, he has at least decided to join the club, albeit too cautiously. Having been in the business for long, he should have known that shared inputs must have some content that can be pursued to their logical end. Where and how the security agencies are going to chase these 10 marauders except for going in circles? That he has made at least a beginning to exchange information on terrorists, operating from Pakistan, is laudable but his motive still seems suspect.

Sceptics would wait to see if he can reign in Hafeez Saeed, known for sheltering terrorists in Kashmir, or give us information in advance about their plans to infiltrate.

One can understand that Janjua would not share information on terrorists because Pakistan is committed to Kashmir’s separation. But how would he make a distinction between inputs concerning the same group of terrorists going to strike in Kashmir and in other parts of India. Terrorist groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Omar, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Laskar-e-Jhangvi etc involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan are not yet India’s problems. The question is whether Janjua will ever be in a position to inform us on India-specific terrorist plans of the LeT and the JeM, which are patronised by the ISI and Pakistan army.

After the recent instance of intelligence sharing, expectations in India will be high and Delhi would expect him to share more inputs with a little more precision next time. Hopefully, his initiative will not be a cosmetic gesture aimed at impressing the international community and telling the world that Islamabad is serious in fighting terrorism along with India and keen on starting a new chapter in bilateral relations.

Snapshot

A New Chapter in Bilateral Relations?

  • Recent intelligence inputs shared by Pakistan’s NSA lacked in specifics and therefore makes one suspect the motive in the first place.
  • Sceptics would wait to see if Pakistan can reign in Hafeez Saeed known for sheltering terrorists.
  • Janjua’s effort was an image-building exercise for the international community.
  • The question is whether Pakistan will be comfortable in informing India about plans of LeT and JeM, patronised by the ISI and its army.
  • Indian agencies jumped the gun in terms of their response to these inputs. They should have cross-checked before going public with it.
Security in New Delhi was markedly strengthened  after the government  sounded a high alert amid reports that 10 fidayeen militants  entered Gujarat on March 7, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
Security in New Delhi was markedly strengthened after the government sounded a high alert amid reports that 10 fidayeen militants entered Gujarat on March 7, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Did MHA Jump The Gun?

The MHA’s reaction to Janjua’s input was a bit uncalled for. It is true that when information of such terrorist attacks is available, no one can afford to sit tight and do nothing. First, his information should have been verified by our agencies, and if there was no time to cross-check, the alerts should have gone secretly, quoting our agency’s sources. Janjua’s name should not have figured anywhere.

The agencies all over the world never disclose their sources or the services that they receive the information from. Gratitude is expressed quietly and that is what makes the relationship between the services last and productive qualitatively. Someone bragged the other day that R&AW provided advance intelligence on the attempted assassination of Pervez Musharraf and the latter was grateful for this.

This reflects immaturity on part of our agencies and the way security experts operate because people might start questioning why you tried saving a man who was the architect of the Kargil war in which hundreds of Indian soldiers were killed and injured.

The central government’s declaration of a high alert after reports that 10 terrorists had entered Gujarat  led the state  police to tighten security in Ahmedabad,  on March 6, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
The central government’s declaration of a high alert after reports that 10 terrorists had entered Gujarat led the state police to tighten security in Ahmedabad, on March 6, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Fear of Alert Turning Into a Hoax Call

Both NSAs have to guard against letting such pre-emptive inputs turn into hoax calls. Once or twice Indian security agencies will react furiously to such generalised information but if it becomes repetitive, it may be addressed routinely. The other worry is that hostile agencies deliberately try to create panic and stretch security forces, too lean to be effective as part of psychological warfare. They also routinely indulge in misinformation campaigns to keep their target country unstable and fragile. 

In the present case, the Gujarat police rounded up dozen of suspects, raided several hideouts and questioned several persons, all Muslims. This selective targeting is bound to alienate them further and deepen their hatred against the state and the majority community, much to the liking of India baiters in Pakistan. So next time when Janjua shares intelligence, accept it with a pinch of salt and react watchfully.

(The writer is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat)

Also read:

No to Intelligence Audit Plea: The Supreme Court’s Dilemma

2015 a Security Breeze-Through, But Caution Light Is On For 2016

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