Richard Melson

February 2006

Intelligence Bureau India

Intelligence Bureau (India)

The Intelligence Bureau is India's internal intelligence agency.



It was recast as the Central Intelligence Bureau in 1947 under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The reason for the perception may be because in 1885, Major General Sir Charles Metcalfe MacGregor was appointed Quartermaster General and head of the Intelligence Department for the British Indian Army at Shimla. The objective then was to monitor Russian troop deployments in Afghanistan, fearing a Russian invasion of British India through the North-West during the late 19th century.

In 1921, a new state-run surveillance and monitoring agency — Indian Political Intelligence (IPI) — was established, in reaction the development of Indian anarchist activities in England. IPI was run jointly by the India Office and the Government of India and reported jointly to the Secretary of the Public and Judicial Department of the India Office, and the Director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB) in India, and maintained close contact with Scotland Yard and MI5.


Shrouded in secrecy, the IB is used to garner intelligence from within India and also execute counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism tasks. The intelligence bureau is comprised of employees from law enforcement agencies mostly Indian Police Service officers as well as from the military. The current chief of the IB is Ajit Kumar Doval, who replaced K. P. Singh. In addition to domestic intelligence responsibilities, the IB is particularly tasked with intelligence collection in border areas, following the 1951 recommendations of the Himmatsinhji Committee (also known as the North and North-East Border Committee), a task entrusted to military intelligence organizations prior to independence in 1947. The IB was also tasked with other external intelligence responsibilities as of 1951


Understanding of the arcane workings of the IB is largely speculative. One known task of the IB is to clear licenses to Ham radio enthusiasts. The IB also passes on intelligence between other Indian intelligence agencies and the police. The IB also grants the necessary security clearances to Indian diplomats and judges before they take the oath. On rare occasions, IB officers interact with the media during crises. The IB is also rumoured to intercept and open around 6,000 letters daily.

The Bureau is also authorised to conduct wiretapping without a warrant. This clause is mostly misused by ruling governments to spy on their political opponents, sometimes indicting them on false criminal charges. The IB also has numerous authors who write letters to various newspapers and magazines to support the government’s perspective.


The IB was India’s external and internal intelligence agency. Due to lapses on the part of the intelligence agencies to predict the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the IB was split up and entrusted with the task of internal intelligence. The external intelligence branch was handed to the newly created Research and Analysis Wing.

Intelligence Bureau (IB)

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is the Indian government’s domestic intelligence agency, and reputedly the world's oldest intelligence agency. It is rather difficult to ascertain what the IB does, since its operations are outside the purview of audit or inquiry. In addition to domestic intelligence responsibilities, the IB is particularly tasked with intelligence collection in border areas, following the 1951 recommendations of the Himmatsinhji Committee (also known as the North and North-East Border Committee), a task entrusted to military intelligence organizations prior to independence in 1947. The IB was also tasked with other external intelligence responsibilities as of 1951.

The Indian Telegraph Act authorizes the surveillance of communications, including monitoring telephone conversations and intercepting personal mail, in case of public emergency or "in the interest of the public safety or tranquility." These powers have been used by every state government. It has been reported that as many as 5,000 letters from abroad are intercepted every day by the Intelligence Bureau under the provisions of the Indian Post Office Act. Indian courts do not issue warrants or accept wiretaps as evidence, giving the police little incentive to intercept. Many wiretaps are conducted "informally" by agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau, and the targets are frequently opposition politicians. From time to time a few such cases have come to light, been furiously debated in Parliament, and declared illegal.

The IB has also employed officers, who submit letters and opinion pieces under assumed names, to ensure that newspapers carry the government’s point of view. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) procures information which is more often than not related to the security of the current Government rather than of the nation.

The DMK government led by M. Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu was dismissed in 1990 on grounds of having encouraged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) movement in the state. karunanidhi had portrayed the fellow Tamils' cause in Sri Lanka as just and noble. Imposition of central rule in Tamil Nadu, a political step taken under pressure from the Congress (I) Party, was taken following a series of reports filed by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that reveale the growing informal relationship between the followers of the DMK and the LTTE. Although the IB had established Karunanidhi's sympathy towards the LTTE, it was unaware of the group's plan to assasinate Rajiv Gandhi.

Sources and Methods

Research and Analysis Wing

The Cabinet Secretariat Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is India's premier external intelligence body. It was created as an independent unit in 1968 from the Intelligence Bureau which at that time handled both internal and external intelligence. Its headquarters are on Lodhi Road in New Delhi.

The current director of the organization is P K Hormese Tharakan, who was with RAW from 1989 to 2001, and is an IPS officer.


Profile, Structure and Funding

Most available information about the RAW is largely speculative. Relative to other intelligence agencies of comparable size, the RAW maintains a very low media profile and is largely ignored by Indian writers, filmmakers and the general public. It reports directly to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and its operations and structure are not revealed to Parliament.

Even its name and legal status are rather unusual - unlike the CIA, the RAW is not an "agency", but a "wing" of the Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of India responsible for "research" (gathering of raw intelligence) and "analysis" (organizing information and drawing conclusions for presentation to the PMO).

The RAW's budget and funding are not discussed in public forums. According to some reports, part of its funding comes from "discretionary grants" provided to various government bodies, especially Indian embassies and representatives abroad. Estimates of its annual budget vary wildly among experts - from $16 million to $145 million.

One consequence of such a low profile is that it is very difficult to judge RAW's effectiveness and performance. Reports cover the entire range of judgements from "highly effective and professional" to "inadequate and riddled with internal politics".

The cadre for RAW is drawn by deputation from state police forces and other intelligence agencies. The Research Analysis Service instituted during the times of Indira Gandhi is the All India Level Service of RAW.

Activities - Scope and Limits

The RAW is rumored to have around 12,000 agents in neighboring countries. Countries that have had past hostilities with India are also watched. It also provides assistance to interest groups that are able to promote India's national interests overseas. The RAW does not determine foreign policy - that is the job of the elected government.

Initially, Pakistan was a primary focus of RAW's activities, though this is reportedly diluting in recent years, as India seeks an enlarged role in world affairs. There have been many anti-terrorist activities carried out by RAW in Pakistan to subdue its terrorist networks. This, together with India's attempts to "decouple" itself from Pakistan among world leaders, is said to have given RAW increased tasks beyond Pakistan. Pakistan, however claims that as many as 35,000 RAW agents were in Pakistan at point of time. Naturally, specific focus areas can at best be speculated by studying India's foreign policy pronouncements. An important outcome of the Gujral government in 1997 was the decision not to significantly increment and rather stop all support for separatists groups in Pakistan which in turn carry out terrorist attacks on civilians and government installation on behalf of the Indian government. The Indian security establishment had envisaged the support as in an in-kind response to Pakistani intelligence and special force operations in India since the 1980s. Subsequently, a large number of intelligence assets in these groups that had been cultivated during the earlier part of the decade decayed.

That said, RAW still closely monitors a large number of anti-India terrorist groups and training camps in Pakistani territory. Being an external intelligence agency, the RAW, however, does not operate in the troubled region of Kashmir - that comes under the purview of the IB.

An important element in India's external intelligence activities has been combating Terrorist groups in neighbouring countries and supporting pro-India groups. The depth of RAW's support in these activities, however, are not known and is under speculation.

As per convention, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) under the Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for co-ordinating and analyzing intelligence activities between RAW, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). In practice, however, the effectiveness of the JIC has been varied. With the establishment of the National Security Council in 1999, the role of the JIC has been merged with the NSC.

Secretary (R)

The chief of the RAW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Understandably, there is not a lot of information available about this position, or its occupants. Most of the occupants have been experts on either Pakistan or China. They also have the benefit of training in either US or the UK, and more recently in Israel.

The Secretary (R) reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister (PM). However, on a daily basis the Secretary (R) reports to the National Security Advisor.

Past Secretaries:

Organization Structure

Reporting to the Secretary (R) are:


Thought to be particularly active in Pakistan, the RAW is known to have gathered massive amounts of data on the Pakistani establishment and its military. RAW also sponsored sectarian and separatist groups in Pakistan, for example the Seraiki and Baluch nationalists movements in Baluchistan.

It is often alleged by Pakistan that the RAW was instrumental in obtaining independence for Bangladesh. Covert operations against the ruling East Pakistan government were carried out by aiding recalcitrant groups such as the Mukti Bahini. This culminated in the [[Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Since 1981, the RAW has actively played a role in Sri Lanka supporting Tamil separatist groups like the LTTE. There is controversy that RAW was helping and arming the LTTE even when Indian peace keeping forces where still fighting LTTE. This backfired as the LTTE became more engaged with separatist groups in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. After 1986, following a policy change by the Indian government, this assistance was withdrawn and the RAW put the LTTE and similar groups under surveillance.

In 1996 a foreign diplomat was implicated in a scandal in the US for providing illegal funding to political candidates in the US.

In 1999, RAW came under heavy censure in India for its failure to detect the infiltration of a large number of foreign guerrillas into the mountains of Kargil, Kashmir.

In 2004, the RAW uncovered a senior officer allegedly working for the CIA, but failed to prevent his defection to the US. This caused a minor media uproar in India, focussing on RAW's sluggishness in responding to signals and evidence of infiltration. There has also been criticism for its failure to detect the coup of General Musharaf in Pakistan (Oct 1999) and King Gyanendra in Nepal (Jan 2005). Although it is believed that it was able to foresee the intent of General Pervez Musharraf to become the president of Pakistan. This speculation is fueled by the fact that then Prime minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee had congratulated the general as the president even before taking the oath.

Thirty-five years ago, in September 1968, when the Research and Analysis Wing was founded with Rameshwar Nath Kao at its helm, then prime minister Indira Gandhi asked him to cultivate Israel's Mossad. She believed relations between the two intelligence agencies was necessary to monitor developments that could threaten India and Israel.

The efficient spymaster he was, Kao established a clandestine relationship with Mossad. In the 1950s, New Delhi had permitted Tel Aviv to establish a consulate in Mumbai. But full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel were discouraged because India supported the Palestinian cause; having an Israeli embassy in New Delhi, various governments believed, would rupture its relations with the Arab world.

This was where the RAW-Mossad liaison came in. Among the threats the two external intelligence agencies identified were the military relationship between Pakistan and China and North Korea, especially after then Pakistan foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Pyongyang in 1971 to establish a military relationship with North Korea.

Again, Israel was worried by reports that Pakistani army officers were training Libyans and Iranians to handle Chinese and North Korean military equipment.

RAW-Mossad relations were a secret till Morarji Desai became prime minister in 1977. RAW officials had alerted him about the Zia-ul Haq regime's plans to acquire nuclear capability. While French assistance to Pakistan for a plutonium reprocessing plant was well known, the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta was a secret. After the French stopped helping Islamabad under pressure from the Carter administration, Pakistan was determined to keep the Kahuta plant a secret. Islamabad did not want Washington to prevent its commissioning.

RAW agents were shocked when Desai called Zia and told the Pakistani military dictator: 'General, I know what you are up to in Kahuta. RAW has got me all the details.' The prime minister's indiscretion threatened to expose RAW sources.

The unfortunate revelation came about the same time that General Moshe Dayan, hero of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, was secretly visiting Kathmandu for a meeting with Indian representatives. Islamabad believed Dayan's visit was connected with a joint operation by Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies to end Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Apprehensive about an Indo-Israeli air strike on Kahuta, surface-to-air missiles were mounted around the uranium enrichment plant. These fears grew after the Israeli bombardment of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Zia decided Islamabad needed to reassure Israel that it had nothing to fear from Pakistan's nuclear plans. Intermediaries -- Americans close to Israel -- established the initial contacts between Islamabad and Tel Aviv. Israel was confidant the US would not allow Pakistan's nuclear capability to threaten Israel. That is why Israeli experts do not mention the threat from Pakistan when they refer to the need for pre-emptive strikes against Iraq, Iran and Libya's nuclear schemes.

By the early 1980s, the US had discovered Pakistan's Kahuta project. By then northwest Pakistan was the staging ground for mujahideen attacks against Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Zia no longer feared US objections to his nuclear agenda. But Pakistani concerns over Israel persisted, hence Zia decided to establish a clandestine relationship between Inter-Services Intelligence and Mossad via officers of the two services posted at their embassies in Washington, DC.

The ISI knew Mossad would be interested in information about the Libyan, Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian military. Pakistani army officers were often posted on deputation in the Arab world -- in these very countries -- and had access to valuable information, which the ISI offered Mossad.

When young Israeli tourists began visiting the Kashmir valley in the early nineties Pakistan suspected they were Israeli army officers in disguise to help Indian security forces with counter-terrorism operations. The ISI propaganda inspired a series of terrorist attacks on the unsuspecting Israeli tourists. One was slain, another kidnapped.

The Kashmiri Muslim Diaspora in the US feared the attacks would alienate the influential Jewish community who, they felt, could lobby the US government and turn it against Kashmiri organisations clamouring for independence. Soon after, presumably caving into pressure, the terrorists released the kidnapped Israeli. During negotiations for his release, Israeli government officials, including senior intelligence operatives, arrived in Delhi.

The ensuing interaction with Indian officials led to India establishing embassy-level relations with Israel in 1992. The decision was taken by a Congress prime minister -- P V Narasimha Rao -- whose government also began pressing the American Jewish lobby for support in getting the US to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism. The lobbying bore some results.

The US State Department put Pakistan on a 'watch-list' for six months in 1993. The Clinton administration 'persuaded' then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to dismiss Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, then director general of the ISI. The Americans were livid that the ISI refused to play ball with the CIA who wanted to buy unused Stinger missiles from the Afghan mujahideen, then in power in Kabul.

After she returned to power towards the end of 1993, Benazir Bhutto intensified the ISI's liaison with Mossad. She too began to cultivate the American Jewish lobby. Benazir is said to have a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli emissary, who flew to the US during her visit to Washington, DC in 1995 for talks with Clinton.

From his days as Bhutto's director general of military operations, Pervez Musharraf has been a keen advocate of Pakistan establishing diplomatic relations with the state of Israel.

The new defence relationship between India and Israel -- where the Jewish State has become the second-biggest seller of weapons to India, after Russia -- bothers Musharraf no end.

Like another military dictator before him, the Pakistan president is also wary that the fear of terrorists gaining control over Islamabad's nuclear arsenal could lead to an Israel-led pre-emptive strike against his country.

Musharraf is the first Pakistani leader to speak publicly about diplomatic relations with Israel. His pragmatic corps commanders share his view that India's defence relationship with Israel need to be countered and are unlikely to oppose such a move. But the generals are wary of the backlash from the streets. Recognising Israel and establishing an Israeli embassy in Islamabad would be unacceptable to the increasingly powerful mullahs who see the United States, Israel and India as enemies of Pakistan and Islam.

India:  Intelligence Bureau

February 27, 2006