Alien interests dictate Intelligence Bureau agenda (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT NEW DELHI | 8th Apr
Soldiers perform a demonstration drill during an Army fair at Khasa, Amritsar earlier this year. AFP
he high-level involvement of officials (including at the senior ministerial level) in the planting of a 4 April report in a daily about what it insinuated was a coup attempt by the Army has uncovered the grip that the intelligence agencies of key countries have over policy in India. In particular, a small group of European countries led by Italy and France "operate a seamless web of diplomat-agents, businessperson-agents, NGO-agents and scholar-agents not just to collect information, but to ensure that a policy matrix gets chosen that would ensure that India or its entities never pose a commercial challenge to them," a senior official within one of the infiltrated agencies claimed. As an example of their reach, he claimed that "information on Sonia Gandhi and her children by the Italian, French and Spanish missions in Delhi is far more comprehensive than the sketchy details available with the Intelligence Bureau" about the family that controls policy within the Manmohan Singh government. Such depth and accuracy can be attributed to "the easy access that diplomats and other nationals of these countries have to Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family" i.e., children and sisters, "access that is far superior to that of even Cabinet ministers in the Manmohan Singh government", the source ended.
Another key official pointed to the past controversy over the cryogenic engines, where false charges by the IB led to the removal of key scientists from the labs and consequent slowdown of a critical programme. "These charges were manufactured by the CIA to sabotage the cryogenic engine programme, yet not a single IB officer responsible for the damage has been held to account." Alluding to a more recent case, he pointed out that "none of the senior intelligence officials who supervised CIA agent Robinder Singh (of RAW) have had their careers blighted by their negligence in allowing him to operate for so long and finally escape in 2004". Instead, "many of those directly responsible for this fiasco have been rewarded with promotions". Clearly, the IB and other agencies are unwilling to turn the spotlight on possible black sheep within their own ranks, "even though detection of foreign agents within the system is needed for the security of the country to be safeguarded", a retired official directly aware of the Robinder Singh escape claimed, adding that "the partiality to France in particular began when Brajesh Mishra was the National Security Advisor (1998-2004) and has continued to the present, only Italy has been added to the list".
If these officials are correct, there is a concerted effort to ensure that India does not repeat the trajectory of China in emerging as a viable competitor to European hi-tech companies. "Look at the absurd laws governing the internet in India. These rules seem designed to ensure that the flexibility and freedom needed for India to generate its own Yahoo! or Google got snuffed out." These sources claim that the Intelligence Bureau "had substantial influence in the initial drafting of the restrictive laws on internet dissemination and content in India" and that the IB "relied on information provided by agents of countries eager to ensure that India not emerge as a global knowledge industry destination". Unless there is a permissive atmosphere in the internet domain in India, followed by a massive expansion in coverage and bandwidth, India will miss the bus in this key sector. Instead, "there is excessive regulation that is designed to ensure that the sector does not grow to anywhere near its full potential," claimed an official, adding that "this suits foreign entities perfectly".
According to former officials aware of the way in which the agency relies on outside advice formally and informally, "the extent of reliance of the IB on input provided by intelligence agencies of countries that have a commercial interest in hobbling innovation in India needs to be investigated, and business expertise injected into the IB", so that the agency does not unwittingly serve the commercial interests of foreign countries. The US, the UK, France and other countries that are collectively linked to NATO ensure that their intelligence agencies serve the interests of domestic business and other constituencies, "whereas the IB does the reverse, often serving external interests over domestic". In the case of Kudankulam, for instance, this newspaper was the first (6 November 2011) to detect the massive involvement of foreign agencies in the agitation against the plant, well before there was any official acknowledgement of this fact. "That the NGOs were funded from countries close to the highest levels of the UPA may explain why the IB was asleep," a former official claimed.
According to several officials, much of the "information" and "advice" provided by selected foreign agencies to their contacts in the IB are designed to "gain a commercial advantage for their companies, often by tarring domestic and other rivals with vague charges, so as to blacklist them". Because of its ignorance of the world of commerce and international markets, the IB "has become an effective instrument for selected countries to advance their agenda in India".
The episode of the leak of the so-called coup attempt has shown the reach within the highest levels of the government of those eager to mislead Indian agencies into giving information that degrades the military's capabilities and tarnishes those seeking to reduce the influence of middlemen in arms purchases. "If the IB investigated the lifestyles of the top six former military and civilian officials connected with procurement decisions during 2005-2011, much will tumble out. But those from the countries that have benefited from the six will ensure that such a probe never be carried out," a former official lamented.