Cleanse ruthlessly

India’s so-called premier external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), is at war with itself and nobody in government seems to be doing anything to stop this rogue elephant. The manner in which some senior RAW officers proceeded on protest leave earlier this week, because the government had decided to appoint an Intelligence Bureau special director as the next chief of the secret service, is illustrative of the rot that has set in in an organisation that has long been beset with in-house turf wars. The war among a section of officers must be made to stop.

Over the years, RAW’s character has changed with the induction of a cross-section of officers who brought with them their own professional cultures, or the lack of it. Besides, it has had its share of scandals involving moles and defectors, charges of sexual harassment, indiscipline and sheer incompetence. In the midst of this bleak picture, the secret service has remained exposed to partisan misuse by the political leadership, which bred inefficiency and corruption. As RAW drifted rudderless, successive governments chose not to address the issue of accountability which, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, have resolved by putting in place effective systems of parliamentary oversight. For reasons stated above, there is reluctance within the organisation to subject itself to legislative oversight. The issue of who should be appointed RAW chief is the government's prerogative. An IPS officer, the IB special director in question once belonged to RAW but was forced out in a coup by officers who comprise the Research and Analysis Service (RAS). The IPS-RAS endemic factionalism within RAW is legend and has not done any good to national security.

Both RAW and IB must recruit business graduates and economists in increasing numbers in order to build up operations and analysis capabilities. Provision must be made in the respective agency’s rules to induct eminent business executives, if and when required. If the government means business, reforms in the security establishment must be ruthless and begin now. The government’s other more substantive and immediate task should be to stem the drift and sclerosis in the agency and put an end to personal and organisational risk aversion, chop dead wood, promote talent and foresight, stop the misuse of secret service funds and the business of plum postings. Otherwise, the raison d’etre of RAW’s existence will come into question.

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