Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, 5 Apr 2013  Defence Matters
Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh

Intelligence agencies are the eyes and ears of a nation. They have to ensure that the Nation is not surprised; diplomatically or militarily. They are responsible for collection of information plus carrying out analysis and building a comprehensive picture of the thinking, intentions, capabilities (military, economic, industrial, political will etc) and plans of adversaries.

Technical and Signal intelligence have become major source of intelligence. Collecting and analyzing technical parameters of adversary’s electronic systems (ELINT) ie communications, computers, radars, satellites, missiles is critical, so that these can be intercepted and interfered with. Snooping devices can be ground/sea/air/space based. Breaking codes of other nations ie crypto analysis is another key function which pays handsome dividends.

National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) handles Technical Intelligence. It should continuously update/upgrade its capabilities due to fast changes in technology. We need to exploit potential of cyber warfare, for which involvement of IT (Information Technology) companies and important electronics users is essential.
Human intelligence (HUMINT) is also an important means of intelligence. Quality of information depends on training and commitment of spies. The intelligence agencies should pay higher remuneration to attract better talent and services rendered by spies need to be recognized by the Nation. The families of those captured must be looked after.

Strategic intelligence covers areas like political, diplomatic and military assessments of other nations. This requires penetration of higher echelons of their government and organisations. We should aim at getting to know speedily major decisions being taken in Beijing and Islamabad which affect our security. The political leadership should get more involved and critically examine intelligence assessments.

Military Intelligence tries to obtain timely information about the adversary’s plans, strengths, deployment, weapons, reserves of men, material, communications, morale etc. so that our own plans and deployments are optimised.  "To lack military intelligence is like being in a boxing ring, blindfolded."

Military Forces are deployed/positioned based on threat analysis. Factors like adversary’s political and military objectives, force levels, axis of maintenance examined and initial deployments worked out to defend key areas. As intelligence is received, threatened areas are reinforced.

Operations against Chinese and to some extent Pakistanis will be in high mountainous terrain. Ammunition, mines, defense stores, rations and water have to be carried to mountain tops. The soldiers have also to acclimatize to fight in such areas. Preparing strong defenses in high mountains with overhead cover, mines etc requires minimum three to four weeks. Rushing troops to threatened points at short notice can be problematic. In 1962, hastily sent reinforcements to Bomdila (Arunachal Pradesh) for example could hardly offer any resistance, as they had no prepared defenses and suffered heavy casualties instead!

China can deploy much large forces in Tibet. Unless Indian commanders get timely and accurate intelligence, it will not be possible to deploy own forces optimally, to successfully fight a two front war.

Intelligence is the most potent Force Multiplier!! But operational side receives greater attention in the Armed Forces. The commanders need to get more involved in intelligence planning and assessment. Also, higher grade officers should be assigned to Intelligence work.

Sadly, in all the wars since Independence, “Poor Intelligence” has persisted as a glaring weakness. The weakest part has been the leadership of External Intelligence agencies, mostly by officers from the police. As a result the Nation has paid very heavy price. Strategic/military intelligence is not a policeman’s forte!

Dealing with Strategic and Military intelligence requires national security and military back ground. There is only one stream of officers which is dedicated to national security ie the Armed Forces. They are also trained in electronics and successfully man the Signal Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Branches. We have to just look across the Border. Pakistan’s ISI has proved to be a world class Intelligence agency. The reason is not difficult to fathom; it has had Army officers at its helm and in key appointments.

Our area of interest and influence has enlarged from the Indian Ocean Rim countries to the Western Pacific. As a result, the task of External Intelligence agencies has increased manifold, including against terrorists and nuclear aspects. They need to modernize and expand without delay. We should have intelligence sharing agreements with countries like Taiwan, Japan, Russia, USA, Australia and ASEAN countries.
There can be no better example of positives of good Strategic and Military intelligence than Israel. It has held its own for over six decades in a very hostile neighborhood.

Intelligence is the mother of all diplomatic and military initiatives and actions. It can enable us to remain a few steps ahead of the adversary and retain the initiative!! If we upgrade our intelligence including bringing in leadership from the armed forces, it would be possible to reduce accretions to our military. It is the best investment the Nation can make for preserving its security.
                                                                                           The writer is a former Signal Officer-in-Chief                          
                                                                                            The Views expressed are his personal

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