NEW DELHI, India – In the early morning of January 2nd, a strategically important Indian Air Force base in the town of Pathankot in Punjab was attacked by suspected Pakistani insurgents. An ad-hoc Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was set up to deliberate on the reasons why an attack of such magnitude was allowed to happen, and the subsequent actions that should be taken.
–Mihir Chaturvedi, Syrian Arab News Agency
The JPC’s debates revolved around the inefficiencies in the Indian Intelligence Agencies and the solutions to them. The various reasons that were established as the key factors to the gross dysfunctionalities of these Agencies were the lack of accountability, transparency and misuse of autonomy. Though these points may look decently accurate, there have been factors the committee has overlooked.
The committee sought for transparency in the Intelligence agencies. The main priorities of the Agencies must be to uphold national security. To carry out functions to fulfil such an aim requires secrecy. Secrecy is of paramount importance to these Agencies as their whole purpose is to covertly perform operations in interest of national security. As it is an acknowledged fact all around the world, Intelligence Agencies do perform certain activities that may be counted as illegal in international law. To prevent uncomfortable situations, it is in the best interests of the government to disallow sharing of vulnerable material to public domain. Had been there transparency in Intelligence Agencies of the world, the purpose of the establishing such institutions would have been lost. There would have been stagnancy and all countries would have been paranoid with insecurity.
Accountability is certainly a factor that is lacking. The Indian Intelligence Agencies, like many others in the world, should be made accountable to either the Parliament of India, or a specialised institution created for such inspection. Though such accountability cannot ensure complete obliteration of corruption and such malpractices, it will certainly, to a great extent, increase efficiency. Intelligence Agencies are not like any other political establishment where the proceedings can be publicly broadcasted. Audits of such agencies are not wholly possible.
Although we can say that accountability must be upheld, the statement must not imply that autonomy must be sacrificed. Autonomy is a completely different aspect and the two must be looked after separately. The Agencies should not be continuously policed to ensure ‘checks and balances’. They must not be constrained by stringent rules and regulations. At the same time, to ensure that such autonomy is not misused and exploited, the people employed must be of such maturity to understand that national interests are primary.
A grave crisis emerged in during the committee proceedings. According to the crisis, some files from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were leaked. The files, deliberately hidden from public domain, pointed to the direct involvement of representatives of the Ministry of Finance and prominent leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in a Ponzi scheme that was run in the mid-2014 right before the General Elections. This development points to many factors of concern. First, who were these representatives and leaders? How were they related to the scheme? But probably the most significant question and point of concern would be how easily one of the most important intelligence agencies in India was manipulated to work in accordance to the personal and political interests of a few people indulging in malpractices. So, how can it be dealt with? As stated before, comprehensive auditing of such agencies is not possible due to a need for secrecy. Thus, these exploitations cannot be detected directly, making it all the more difficult. However, if such fraudulent practices and misuse of the Agency comes into light, the penalty should be so harsh and strict, that those who indulge in such activities are deterred from doing so in the first place.
These agencies are the heart and sole of national security. A country, especially a democracy, can function properly only if they are secure from the core. Thus, these Agencies should be protected from all possible influences, whether of political interest or not. There should be no compromise in the security of our country. It should protect India and her people!