NEW DELHI | 20th May
Home Minister P. Chidambaram shakes hands with J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at the meeting of Chief Ministers on NCTC, in New Delhi earlier this month. PTI
week ago, Indian security agencies issued an alert warning of terror strikes by Pakistani individuals whose names and photographs were made available to the media. Even while congratulations were pouring in on the sleuthing done by the IB and RAW, the supposed terrorists turned out to be petty businesspersons in Pakistan. Thus far, there has been no sign of any effort at fixing responsibility on just why the Counter-terrorism Group at the Home Ministry failed to check its facts before releasing information.
Because of the avoidance of public accountability that characterises security agencies in India the public has remained in the dark about the sequence of events that led to the goof-up. What is the reason for the cover-up, why even the Pakistan desk of RAW was kept out of the loop when innocent names got outed as terrorists planning an imminent strike?
Those following developments say that the reason lies in the closeness of several key IB and RAW officers with the politically influential, and using the latter as sources for information, much of which turns out to be misleading. The Pakistani names in question were, according to sources in the UAE, "revealed by a source in Dubai who was introduced to Indian intelligence personnel by an individual with strong political connections". Because of the influence wielded by this person, the information given by the newfound source was uncritically accepted. Although a check on the persons named by the source was carried out by the Lahore station of intelligence agencies, having been informed of the high-level Indian contacts of the Dubai source, the officer doing the fact check merely rubber-stamped the report sans any enquiry. Those dealing with the penetration of agencies by hostile aliens say that the likelihood is high that the source was himself an ISI plant, whose task it was to give wrong information that would, when released, show up the incompetence of Indian security agencies. These sources say that all too often, "influential individuals from India come in contact with undercover ISI operatives in Dubai and London, thereby compromising national security".
Is it to protect the influential individual who — sources claim — introduced the renegade source to the Dubai station that the entire matter has been hushed up, with orders given to cover up the sequence of events that led to the fiasco?
Last week's fiasco over the Pakistani names and photographs underlines the need for a clean-up of Indian security agencies.
Officers say that Home Minister P. Chidambaram has "politicised the security agencies, in contrast to Shivraj Patil, who never sought to carry forward a political agenda via the IB". This accusation is denied by those close to the Home Minister, who claim that he has been responsible for a "massive improvement in the functioning of the agencies under him". A source claims that "an offer of a governorship has been made to the present IB director, so as to motivate him to carry out his duties in a manner that is politically advantageous to his patrons". However, those close to DIB Nehchal Sandhu say that such a charge is unfair, and that the IB has remained "100% apolitical" during his watch.
Another organisation where several reports of alleged misfeasance have been cropping up is the Aviation Research Service (ARC). Those within the organisation say that its chief till recently, A.B. Mathur, wanted to launch a comprehensive enquiry into at least three deals, the first involving the purchase and fitting of aircraft for special purposes, the next involving the purchase of parachutes from an obscure supplier at inflated prices, and the third involving the purchase of technical systems. They claim that "higher levels dissuaded Mathur from pursuing his demand for a full enquiry, as they know that political protectees (i.e. officers enjoying high-level patronage) are involved in these scams". Mathur is due to leave on a UN mission for Kosovo by the month-end, his objective of cleaning up ARC (where a particular officer is even known to his colleagues as "Mr Ten Per Cent") unfulfilled. Even the NTRO, which deals in activities that are wholly technical, has been subjected to allegations of graft and impropriety, and once again, there has been very little effort at fixing responsibility via an enquiry.
Officers pushing for accountability are hoping that the PMO will take the initiative in conducting a comprehensive in-house enquiry, especially into ARC transactions that don't pass the smell test. "The bad apples in IB, NTRO, ARC and RAW need to be removed. However, their political patrons are blocking action," an officer concluded.
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