India’s Experience of Covert Action and Need for Action against Pakistan

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  1. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    India’s Experience of Covert Action and Need for Action against Pakistan

    The following paper [following post] is a preamble to recommendations by DR BHASHAYAM KASTURI and PANKAJ MEHRA for Indian covert action against Pakistan. Readers can go through and link both articles in the light of present turmoil in Pakistan and draw their own conclusions.

    Source: http://www.scribd.com/doc/44831591/...t-Action-and-Need-for-Action-Against-Pakistan
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
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  3. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Intelligence agencies have undertaken covert operations, independently and in cooperation with agencies of other countries. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Military Intelligence(MI) have undertaken operations covertly with certain objectives. These have been low grade and little has been achieved. In the present context,the focus is on operations conducted by India ’s external intelligence agency, R&AW, termed as RAW for this paper.

    Tibet:

    India, in the late 50s and 60s with the help of the CIA aided the Tibetan rebellion, providing training facilities in India. The 1962 border war with China led to the establishment of several organisations that are today under the Cabinet Secretariat, the Special Frontier Force (Establishment 22at Chakrata) and Special Services Bureau. Additionally, a group was raised with the objective of carrying out aerial reconnaissance of China and Tibet, the Aviation Research Centre (ARC). One source suggests that at Charbatia in December 1964 a U-2 aircraft was deployed for operations over Tibet. The Tibet operation continued till the early 60s when the CIA, withdrew its operations on Indian soil and moved to Nepal.

    The Tibetan rebellion against the Chinese forces and Indian help straddled an era of post-colonial assertion of non-alignment as the major plank offoreign policy, and yet Jawaharlal Nehru chose to engage in covert action as a foreign policy tool knowing fully well, that India could do little for Tibet. He was keen to have friendly relations with China, but he still believed, like the British did, that a Tibet with an identity was important for sub-continental India. The question may well ask if this policy did not contradict the policy of non-alignment? Possibly yes, but in Nehru’s mind, the best way of dealing with the Chinese was diplomatic, and towards this end he was even willing to sponsor China ’s candidature to the UN. The help given to the Tibetans was probably a small cog in the larger world view and helping the US in this was a part of geo-politics of the time. This did of course have the adverse effect of changing Chinese perceptions about India. All this is of course based on the scanty evidence that is available indifferent sources but this is important to suggest directions of discourse inorder to dilate on the foreign policy angle to covert operations.

    East Pakistan:

    Then in the late sixties, the need for an organisation tasked with gathering external intelligence led to the formation of RAW, and the Directorate General of Security was transferred from IB to RAW. As the Bangladesh crisis arose, RAW was given the task of gathering intelligence and undertaking covert missions, including pro-insurgency. This is the most successful operation till date, publicly written about, carried out, involving the training of the Mukti Bahini of East Pakistan and their role in helping the Indian military intervention.

    The operation involved getting the freedom fighters in East Pakistan (nowBangladesh ) together and training and arming them. This was essentially a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) operation, with the Indian army providing the training infrastructure. The Mukti Bahini was formed in January 1971 and for the next ten months people who came across the border were selected for training. By September-November 1971, these forces were infiltrated into East Pakistan for covert missions, including sabotage of lines of communication and command and control centres.

    When war did officially break out on 3 December, the Mukti Bahini was ready, (just like the French resistance in 1944, when Operation Overlord the invasion at Normandy began). The Mukti Bahini helped Indian troops find their way, harassed Pak troops and generally made itself a nuisance. Naval Mukti Bahini divers planted mines in the harbours around Bangladeshand sunk many merchant and warships, playing a crucial role in blockadingthe ports. Another facet of covert action was witnessed in the trans-border attacks carried out by the Special Frontier Force (SFF) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Thus a combination of para-military action in the form of the Mukti Bahini and direct covert action using special forces, complimented the main military action in the 1971 Bangladesh war. The benefits accruing from coordinated covert action allowed implementation of foreign policy to secure national interests namely liberation of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh.

    Sikkim:

    Subsequently measures taken to integrate Sikkim into the Indian Union by the RAW proved crucial. One authority states that RAW performed the task of counter-intelligence in Sikkim preventing foreign agencies from getting a foothold in the sensitive Himalayan kingdom and allowing it to accede to India. But soon after the successful mounting of Bangladesh and Sikkim operation, leading to the latter’s integration as a state in the Indian union, came the Sri Lanka operation. This pro-insurgency operation launched by Mrs Gandhi during her second term in office, meant to train Tamil separatists followed the same lines of the 1971 case. Equipping and training of insurgents from across the Palk Straits took place on Indian soil,in the state of Tamil Nadu and in places as far as, Chakrata and Dehradun. With the active support of the state and central government, Indian intelligence agencies took up the task with gusto. But what was missing was the broad institutional oversight so essential for tying up the loose ends. Foreign policy makers and defence planners were scarcely aware of what was happening as political masters changed and priorities shifted.

    Sri Lanka:

    Former foreign secretary JN Dixit covertly has identified the reasons for India getting involved in Sri Lanka. He says Mrs Gandhi was aware that all political parties in Tamil Nadu were sympathetic to the aspirations of Sri Lanka Tamils. Therefore extending support to Sri Lankan Tamil parties and Tamil militant groups from 1980 onwards was a natural corollary. There was also the security factor, Sri Lanka getting Israeli and US military personnel to train its own army and para-military. And there was the VoA station in Trincomalee. India perceived this to be an opening for US strategic presence in South Asia. These factors created the conditions for Indian covert intervention in Sri Lanka. The main point was that Mrs Gandhi did not like J Jayawardhane, for his policies and thus began Operation Sri Lanka.

    Secrecy is undoubtedly called for in operations of this sort. But as the Iran-Contra affair in America showed, in the Sri Lanka operations also one part of the government did not know what the other was doing. In the Indian case, while RAW knew what it was doing politically, neither it nor the government was [un]able to fathom the potential for trouble that was generated by this operation. This was because the mission sought to achieve too much at one time. The number of groups being trained were one too many and difficult to control. No accountability existed and eventually not enough attention was paid to the risks of losing control overthe insurgents. Thus by the time Mrs Indira Gandhi was killed in 1984, and Rajiv became prime minister the priorities changed and so did policy towards Sri Lanka.

    In politico-military terms, covert action eventually proved to be of little use when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) went into Sri Lanka in 1987. For the simple reason that intelligence on the insurgents trained by India was not forthcoming. Additionally, the intelligence agencies continued to covertly continue political dealings with the insurgents to suit their ends, even during the IPKF’s stay in Sri Lanka. This undermined the foreign policy goal of sending a peace keeping force to restore peace in Sri Lanka.The problem was that too many prime ministers were involved in the SriLanka episode, resulting in several conflicting decisions. Also involvement of state leaders like MG Ramachandran created more complications for command and control.

    Burma:

    Intelligence agencies have been involved in various covert acts, both within India and in the surrounding region. Intelligence agencies often make alliances and then forget to inform their cousins resulting in confusion. In February 1998, the Armed Forces intercepted ships at sea off the Andamans killing six people and arresting 73 others. This was essentially a "sting" operation carried out by MI in collaboration with their Burmese counterparts. But the result was a big hue and cry.

    In April, the leader of the National Unity Party of Arakans (NUPA) wrote tothe Defence Minister that the men abroad the ship were in fact Arakanese revolutionaries who were cooperating with the Indians. He wrote, "The Indian military intelligence had okayed our voyage and that is why we entered Indian territorial waters to avoid the Burmese Navy." The issue is whether it was a case of military intelligence not giving the information to its forces in the field in time or it was a case of giving up its people. Maung wrote, "We were cooperating with each other. The Indians asked us for help to track down gun runners carrying weapons to Northeast India and we helped them. So it came as a shock to us that our ship, about which the Indians were given full information, should be attacked." The pointhere is that at one level India is willing to help the pro-democracy movement in Burma, but due to the insurgents buying arms from South-East Asia and this having a direct influence on the insurgent movement in India’s north-east it becomes necessary for the army to curb such activity. The dichotomy in policy towards the region is a reflection of the lack ofunderstanding how to secure vital interests in the north-east.

    It needs recalling that in the 80s, RAW supported tribal and ethnic factions fighting the SLORC in Myanmar. One of the factions supported by India was the Kachin Independence Army. The Kachins, known more accurately as Jingphaws or Marus, account for some 3 per cent of Myanmar’s ethnic population. They inhabit the north-east of the country and have the reputation for resorting to arms to assert what they believe are their rights.

    A senior officer in RAW deputed to Bangkok in the 80s, made contact with Burmese underground leaders in the hope of gaining some information. Then this officer decided that the KIA could be beneficially used to channelise information. And RAW could aid them with money and arms. Having made contact, the idea was to get members of KIA into India for training and contact creation. After the controlling officer returned from Bangkok, infiltration of KIA cadres was started. They came as students, youths touring India and helpers, sent for training to Chakrata and other locations in north and north-east. Arms and other material began to filter through to camps in North Myanmar and this reached its peak in 1991-92. Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram provided exfiltration sites, while some material went via Bangkok. This was the post election period when Aung Sang Suu Kyi had won but was not allowed to take power by SLORC. All this was stopped by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, as part of his "LookEast" policy.

    Discussion:

    Looking back, one may well ask what purpose did this operation serve? What national interests or foreign policy goals did it serve? Keeping in mind the dimension of policy in the 80s, that of coercive diplomacy there is little doubt that the Government thought it fit to aid all rebels across the borders, wherever it suited us. But on many an occasion it backfired, as it did in Sri Lanka.

    There is one other aspect of covert action that requires highlighting in the present study. Nation-states also engage in action within the territorial confines of the country for politico-military aims, such as pro-insurgency orcounter-insurgency or counter-terrorism. Since the institutional framework for covert action exists in most countries in the South Asian region, indulging in domestic covert action is a continuing tool for governments. In India for instance, it was suggested that SSB was used to raise and train the Bodos in the late 80s in an effort to counter other groups in the region. Their employment to fulfil political goals has affected their organisation and performance and impinges on their role, which is really to engage in "stay-behind" operations.

    It has been often suggested that RAW should function as efficiently asPakistan’s ISI. In fact both India and Pakistan accuse each other of encouraging subversion through their intelligence agencies. ISI’s activities in India get greater media coverage than RAW’s activities in Pakistan. The latter seems to lack the intensity of operations in Pakistan to counter or duplicate ISI’s activities in India.

    The ISI has been involved in covert action in various parts of India since the 80s. The main focus has been on Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. Infiltration of arms and drugs into India, along with men to stoke insurgencies has been common. For Jammu & Kashmir, the ISI has a special cell to fuel the insurgency. It has been responsible for the setting up and maintenance of training camps in POK and Pakistan, the provision of arms and equipment, infiltration and exfiltration of both recruits and trained militants into the Valley. The entire plan to infiltrate Kashmir and launch a covert low-intensity war there has been described in the part fact, part fictionalised Operation Topac in 1989. The Pak strategy has followed the lines suggested in this analysis.

    Op Topac visualised a three-phased strategy in Kashmir. First, fuelling of alow-level insurgency in the Valley. Next, attacks on military and infiltration of mujahids and other special forces for strikes and attacks on soft targets. And then finally, to liberate Kashmir.

    The Kashmir operation was an offshoot of the US-Pakistan fight against Soviet Union. The CIA backed the Mujahadeen, via the ISI. The latter siphoned off money and weapons meant for Afghanistan to stoke the insurgency in Kashmir. But infiltration into the Valley has been taking place on a low key since the early eighties, first of Kashmiris who were alienated from India and currently of Pak mercenaries, including criminals andforeign soldiers of fortune from Afghanistan and further afield. This occurred through training camps in POK and Pakistan proper.

    The enormous powers enjoyed by ISI were brought to the notice of Robert Gates in May 1990 on a visit to India and Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto apparently expressed her helplessness to Gates, in controlling the training camps run by ISI in POK and Afghanistan used for anti-India operations. Even accounting for an element of exaggeration, the illustration speaks much for the ISI’s independence. Being a military controlled organisation, covert operations are tightly controlled. A more recent statement by Benazir Bhutto portrays an intelligence operation that has run amok and that one wields enormous power within Pakistan.

    Source: India's Experience of Covert Action and Need for Action Against Pakistan
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
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