The rise of Intelligence analysis

Security is protection against threats from an ‘invisible’ enemy and is therefore dependent on an accurate information about the same coming in time for preventive action. A ‘covert’ threat has to be neutralized in its tracks before it reaches the point of open manifestation in violence. In the Age of Information, which is a gift of IT revolution that coincided with the end of the Cold War, a lot of information that could possibly throw some light on the clandestine moves of the adversary does appear somewhere in the cyber space or even other communication media. A competent analysis of the facts available there can provide important connectivities with the enemy camp and an idea of what was going on there.
Since the invisible enemy was able to shift the point of origin of its operation, utilise the non-traditional turf to hit its target and use a wide expanse of ‘tactical’ acts to achieve its strategic aim, it becomes even more important to analyse all circumstantial information available in the public domain for identifying the nature of the ‘threat’ and broadly ascertaining where did it come from. This is the new dimension of analysis at work — where this function ‘presages’ the classical entry of the Intelligence agencies for finally defining the enemy, detecting its precise location and getting the timing of the attack right.
The post-Cold War era has thus put new calls on analysis as an instrument of security that determines the framework of how to conduct the business of collection of intelligence itself. First, on account of the rise of the new global terror that announced itself on 9/11 and the advent of ‘proxy wars’ using terror as their weapon, the entire democratic world faces a kind of threat that was unprecedented. The new global terror has used ‘faith-based’ motivation for instigating violence and derived sustenance from many Islamic countries who deliberately played down the threat by projecting it as the doing of ‘non-State’ actors.
Since the call of Jehad emanates from within the ‘Muslim world’, an organisation like OIC was expected to come out with an early declaration rejecting Jehad as a recipe for solving current political disputes. This has not happened. India is a major target of the Pak-instigated ‘proxy war’ that used cross-border terrorism as its instrument. Analysis for Intelligence has to embrace a constant study of the pattern and linkages of this new global terror — its focus has to be on Internet and social media that the ‘masterminds’ used for ‘cover’ communications to disseminate instructions, organise transfer of funds and weapons and closely guide their operations in real time. Big scale monitoring of cyber space combined with data analytics is needed even before the real time agenda for Intelligence agencies was itself set. Fortunately, India has made tremendous advancement in this sphere.
Secondly, a new turf for analysis was laid by the geo-political realities of a uni-polar world order — emerging post-Cold War — that created the need for the nations to have a convergence of Intelligence and diplomatic functions to deal with friends and adversaries. For India, an integral assessment of the multiple security threats of this new world — wherein national interests were heavily weighed in — has had to be made all the time. The threats may be perceived differently by various countries and a sharing of these is what will determine the ‘Intelligence Alliances’ to be opted for — within or outside of the ‘political friendships’ that would be forged by the same allies for wider purposes. A good illustration of this is the ‘Intelligence sharing’ arrangement that India has with the US — in spite of the limitations put on it by a strong American convergence with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia at the political level.
National security, consequently, is ultimately going to become the sole responsibility of the sovereign authority ruling the country — more so because even ‘strategic’ friendships were becoming a shifting phenomenon in these times. This is a sobering thought. A deep analysis of geo-political scenario and friendship pacts struck by other countries amongst themselves, is a part of national security assessment that would contribute to the determination of the charter of national Intelligence itself. Diplomacy today has to be rooted in a total understanding of external and internal security environ of the home country — as its own parameters are set by the policy largely determined by the latter. That the military build-up by the Chinese in Galwan valley of East Ladakh and the intensification of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir by Pakistan — happening together in the period following the repeal of Art 370 — showed a new level of meeting of minds between China and Pakistan against India, would be an easy pick for Intelligence analysts. This is what has rightly set the ball rolling both for our diplomacy as well as defence.
Third, the most important add-on to Intelligence analysis is linked to the changing concept of warfare itself. An opponent can be weakened today through unconventional non-military methods — economic blockade, cyber attacks on vital infrastructure and deniable covert offensives in which terror groups are used as the instrument of assault. National security is not complete without economic security and the post-Cold War years have seen a resurgence of non-conventional means of bringing down an adversary — damaging the economic strength of the latter would figure prominently in these. This has made for a paradigm shift in the Intelligence tradecraft to meet the requirement of information gathering in non-military spheres.
In turn, Intelligence gathering in the economic sphere puts a premium on mopping up of ‘open source’ information, including what comes out of appropriate use of ‘unconscious agents’ in socio-economic and even political interactions, analysis of technologically produced data and deployment of third parties as proxies to get a feedback in a particular sphere. Above all, there is a new speed in the work of Intelligence analysis now because strategic assessments themselves have lost their lasting character and suffered a shortening of their span generally — because of the pace of change. Intelligence analysis buys its importance more for its short range and medium-term readings now.
Fourthly, in the Indian context, an important part of the internal security scene is the domestic threat of caste, communal and regional conflicts that has abated in many ways over the decades of democratic assimilation but had the potential of resurfacing with intensity. The corona pandemic has accentuated the class divide because of the saga of migrant labor, deepened the Hindu-Muslim antipathy after the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz episode and created regional overtones because of the politics-ridden responses of the states. Analysis of socio-economic and political scene — as different from taking any interest in politics as such — is an important function of Intelligence as it helped to foresee any destabilising trends that could affect national security. Our Intelligence set-up has, while remaining apolitical, done a good job of reading signs of any such internal developments — some of these could be instigated from outside — ahead of time and helping the Centre to effectively cope with the same for preserving national integrity and well-being of the people at large.
Last but not the least, the study that helps to oversee the new level of civil-military cooperation required for coordinated implementation of the security policy, has acquired newfound importance — and is by itself an Intelligence analysis function. In this age of terrorism and proxy wars, the army plays a vital part in neutralizing the armed militants carrying out plans of the enemy on our own soil. The army needed specially trained units backed by the country’s Intelligence agencies for pursuing the difficult mission of foiling the terrorist attacks — and they needed to acquire a complete understanding of the terrain and the enemy’s modus operandi.
There is a new responsibility for analysts of bringing ‘information’ and ‘action’ to the point of convergence on a running basis for the success of counter-terror operations. Intelligence may be ’embedded’ in the operational formation itself, both to provide a feedback on local environ and receive information coming in top down. Terrorism or insurgency affected territories have to have this total civil-military togetherness and India can be said to have achieved this over a period to the nation’s total satisfaction. An ongoing evaluation of this coordination to keep the national interest above everything else, is the added task of Intelligence analysts.
Intelligence agencies of India do not perform a standalone kind of function any more — they analyse every facet of the nation’s life to help policy makers in achieving the integral objective of protecting national well being and security. The analysts today have to have the ability to see beyond the facts in front to peep into the future — something that Albert Einstein emphasised when he famously said that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’. The greatest scientist of all times was talking not of a ‘flight of fancy’ but a wise and cool extension of all that was known in the present, to a perception of what lay ahead.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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