Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TOI Buries Eye-Popping Story on Intel Bureau

On 12 April The Times of India buried on page 8 an eye-popping story on the Intelligence Bureau that casts an entirely new light on the surveillance of Netaji’s kin.

Written by V. Balachandran, a former Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, the story tells how the IB continued after independence to work closely with the Brits.

“Declassified British archives speak of a loud disconnect between the Nehru government’s strategic policies and the priorities pursued by the IB,” Balachandran writes.

India’s warming relations with the Soviet Union and its cooling ties with Britain following the 1956 Suez Crisis did not affect IB-MI-5 cooperation a whit.

In fact, IB shared intel on Soviet leaders with the Brits, and even gave them information on Moscow's funding of Indian communists.

The IB Director at that time wrote to his British counterpart that “In my talks and discussions I never felt that I was dealing with any organization which was not my own.”

That sentiment seems to have been shared by others who led IB.

Its first Director shared a dislike of V.K Krishna Menon with the head of MI-5, who assured his own government “we are doing what we could to get rid” of him.

To facilitate such close cooperation the British maintained a Security Liaison Officer (SLO) in New Delhi for over two decades after independence. When he was finally withdrawn in 1971, the IB Director wrote officially that he “did not know how [he] would manage without him.”

Balachandran notes MI-5’s official historian Christopher Andrew’s view that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru “either never discovered how close the relationship was” between the two agencies “or less probably, did discover and took no action.”

That situation needs to be kept in mind, Balachandran says “before we jump to any conclusions that Jawaharlal Nehru had ordered IB snooping on Netaji Subhas Bose’s family members.” .

As a journalist genetically mistrustful of intelligence agencies I should add that it is also necessary to keep in mind the possibility that the British declassified the documents containing these revelations so as to divert attention from the damning evidence of Nehru's collaboration with them. In the final phase of the freedom struggle he was compromised by his liaison with Edwina Mountbatten into playing a deeply invidious role.

That is a matter for historians to ponder.

What is significantly more urgent is the need to ensure that the Intelligence Bureau is no longer attached to the MI-5 teat. 

There should be a judicial inquiry empowered to look into the entire record of the IB in independent India.

A special focus of the inquiry should be the allegations of IB complicity in the 26/11 attacks.

This would also be a good time to create a constitutional framework for our Intelligence agencies and draw them into a system of parliamentary oversight and accountability.

Without a strong and rigorously implemented set of standards and rules they could very well be the death of Indian democracy.

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