Issues in News – Indian Intelligence Architecture: An Overview

In this article, you can read about India’s intelligence set up, intelligence architecture and agencies for the UPSC exam. This is an important part of the IAS internal security syllabus.

Why in News?

The Prime Minister has stressed at various instances for coordinated efforts to tackle the menace of terrorism, the most recent being the joint statement with US president Donald Trump. Any fight against terrorism, insurgency and internal security would be incomplete without a strong and a robust intelligence network.

Nature of  Security Threats

The country is being faced with a multitude of threats which are mainly due to-

  • The geographical location of the country sharing borders with unfriendly neighbours like Pakistan and unstable nations like Afghanistan, exposing our nation to the terror groups across the borders.
  • The terrorist infiltration through coastal areas is increasing as seen in Mumbai and Gujarat.
  • Organised crime networks involving nationals of different countries like smuggling of drugs, human trafficking etc.
  • Communal violence and secessionist movements in various states.
  • The Government’s increasing push for digitisation and the problems associated with it-
  • Vulnerability of critical infrastructure like Banking. Ex: The recent ATM hacking which led to sensitive banking information being compromised.
  • Lack of awareness of the public about the do’s and don’ts over the internet sometimes even threatening the security of the individual.
  • Attacks on sovereign infrastructure ranging from stealth of sensistive defense data to breach of aadhar database.
  • Attacks on private infrastructure ranging from denial of service to the recent extortion like ransomware(WannaCry).


Facets of Intelligence Gathering
  • Human Intelligence(HUMINT)– Data gathered by the personnel of the investigating agency through direct involvement in the field of action.
  • Technological Intelligence(TECHINT)– Tracking and monitoring suspicious activities and individuals through various means like satellite tracking, phone tapping etc.

With the coordination of technological intelligence and human intelligence we can get real time information which is required for action against the terrorist threat or any other threat to the country.

Current Intelligence Infrastructure

The major intelligence agencies currently operating in the country include-

  • Intelligence Bureau(IB) –  A specialised agency used to garner intelligence from within India and also execute counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism tasks. 
  • Counter-intelligence refers to information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons or international terrorist activities, but not including personnel, physical, document or communications security programs.
  • Counter-terrorism tasks include political or military activities designed to prevent or thwart terrorism thereby giving a wide remit to the agency.
  • Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) – A specialised, independent agency dedicated to foreign intelligence gathering.
  • Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN)- Deals with the Collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber security incidents.
  • Directorate of Enforcement (DE)- An economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.
  • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI)- A major intelligence agency which enforces the prohibition of the smuggling of items including drugs, gold, diamonds, electronics, foreign currency, and counterfeit Indian currency.
  • Intelligence units of different states with different mandates. For ex: Maharashtra intelligence unit is concerned with organised crime and smuggling activities while north eastern states also have to deal with secessionist movements.
Concerns over the existing intelligence network
  • The changing nature of threats emanating from the Cyber space and social medialike the ISIS using secure communications networks to further its propaganda and recruit people online which cannot be tackled through the traditional setup.
  • Chronic shortage of specialised personnel coupled with the inefficient use of human resources. Take for instance the IB, a major portion of its human resources gets diverted doing daily police work like verifications, something that the agency claims it does not do any better than the police forces.
  • Intelligence Agencies with different mandates, often overlapping each others’, sometimes leading to duplication of efforts and non cooperation between agencies. For Ex: The mandates of RAW and IB with respect to organised crimes like smuggling.
  • Intelligence collection is ad-hoc in the absence of clear-cut requirements from the consumers of intelligence.
  • Poor cadre management and inability to recruit qualified language specialists and technical skills .
  • Lack of intellectual capacity and investment in education system exacerbate recruitment shortfalls in intelligence agencies. Engaging private players for specialist tasks is therefore necessary.
  • Agencies suffer from chronic shortage of military expertise.
  • Lack of a comprehensive national level database of suspected individuals. Initiatives like NATGRID are yet to take off due to difference over data sharing between the centre and states.
  • Failure to act swiftly over the gathered intelligence by the enforcement agencies due to doubts over credibility of the data , a fact which came to light post the Pathankot air base attacks.
  • The country’s inability in ending various armed conflicts, be it Naga insurgency or other northern movements or Kashmir militancy exposing the faultlines in our intelligence establishment. Neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and China too have role in fomenting these movements.
  • Inablity of the police forces to prevent communal violence and growing fundamentalism in many instances like the muzaffarnagar violence, which is mainly due failure of the traditional intelligence networks.
  • Lack of parliamentary statute failing to enforce accountability in intelligence agencies.
  • The National Cyber Security Policy which aimed at creating a skilled workforce of 5,00,000 professionals to tackle the growing cyber attacks fails to suggest ways to create such a talent pool.
  • Lack of political attention and effective guidance has prevented reform and optimal functioning of the intelligence system.
  • The absence of the Chief Of Defense staff has hampered the coordination between the military and other intelligence agencies.
Proposed agencies to improve the Intelligence Infrastructure:
  • NATGRID will utilize data analytics to process the huge volumes of data generated from the 21 data sources so as to analyse events, match patterns and track suspects.  It will help in zeroing in on a suspect by converging and processing all kinds of personal details including medical and financial information, iris, fingerprints and transactions of an individual.
  • The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) to draw up and coordinate counter-terrorism plans, integrate intelligence gathering and coordinate with all existing investigating and intelligence agencies.
  • The National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC), which will screen online threats and coordinate with the intelligence agencies to handle issues related to the national security.
  • The Central Monitoring System (CMS) to stop the leakage of information from the service providers’ end .The CMS, if implemented, will be connected with the Telephone Call Interception System (TCIS) which will help monitor voice calls, SMS and MMS, fax communications on landlines, CDMA, video calls, GSM and 3G networks.
  • The Government has announced in budget 2017 to create a specialised agency CERT-fin to counter threats to the financial sector.
National Security vis-a- vis Federalism

The states which are not mere appendages of the centre in the Indian federal setup have certain concerns over the existing intelligence mechanism, mainly-

  • IB(Intelligence Bureau) which is a specialised agency used to garner intelligence from within India and execute counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism tasks is handicapped due to-
  • The IB has over the years become a reporting arm of the government, often treated as an appendage of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The tight political control by the MHA made IB focus more on domestic and political matters at the expense of other security challenges.
  • The NCTC was initially empowered to search and arrest people without informing the state government, police or anti-terror squad in the loop.
  • The officials of the NCTC would have the right to enter into that state and pick up the suspected terrorist without informing the state machinery and deal with him under their laws.
  • The role of the state was redundant with such powers and states would have no say or role to play in the fight against terrorism.
  • This would have a bearing on the rights and privileges of the states as enshrined in the Constitution.
  • To curb this fear, Home Ministry has recently altered the rules. Now, the senior most police officers in all states – the Director Generals of Police and the chiefs of anti-terror squads of all states will be members of the Standing Council of the NCTC. They will be informed before the NCTC conducts an operation in their state.
  • The Home Ministry has also assured the State Governments that NCTC will now be able to carry out anti-terror operations only in the rarest of rare cases.
Financing the Security Infrastructure
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2009-10 following the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008, has been witnessing a steady increase in its allocations over the years in order to-
  • Enhance intelligence gathering.
  • Capacity building of security and law enforcement organisations through strength augmentation.
  • Improved training.
  • Modern weaponry.
  • Technical upgradation.
  • In the last three years too, allocations have increased from Rs. 61,401.78 crore in 2014-15 to 73,406.37 crore in 2016-17.
  • The enhanced budgetary allocations for the MHA since 2009 reflect the efforts of the successive Union governments to comprehensively overhaul the internal security set up of the country .
  • One of the serious internal security threats that the country has been grappling with for more than a decade is left wing extremism (LWE). Although the primary responsibility of fighting LWE lies with the concerned states, the Union government assists them-
    • By providing funds for capacity building through various security related expenditure (SRE) schemes.
  • Through increased budgetary allocations under the ‘Police’ head to prioritise threats and challenges and deal with them in a concerted and sustained manner.
  • In lieu with the Government’s commitment for Smart Policing, under police modernisation, Rs. 800 crore has been allocated for modernisation of the state police forces.
  • The sum includes grants by the Union government to states to strengthen police infrastructure in terms of training, weaponry, mobility and communication, and the establishment of secure police stations.
  • It also includes the establishment and upkeep of the crime and criminal network tracking system (CCTNS).
  • The Intelligence Bureau (IB), which in recent years has been augmenting its strength, has also received an allocation of Rs. 1,577 crore, an increase of 11 per cent from the previous year.
  • In the past, the IB was functioning at a reduced strength with a shortfall of around 2000 agents, but in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack, calls were made to strengthen the IB in a comprehensive manner through increased recruitments, among other things.
  • The IB has been recruiting personnel since 2009 but this is yet to reflect accurately in the manpower strength since full induction of operatives would only happen after the completion of their training.
  • However most of the expenditure, will be as revenue outlay indicating an increase in spending on salaries and perks of personnel.
Way forward
  • The Intelligence agencies need to anticipate threats in advance to prevent and mitigate possible security breaches.
  • The states must rise above politics in matters of national security to implement crucial initiatives like NATGRID and NCTC.
  • A comprehensive law bringing intelligence agencies under parliamentary scrutiny will help in delineating functions of different agencies and enforce accountability to the legislature rather than the present ad-hocism.
  • The Central Government should take active steps to ensure inter agency, interstate and centre –state cooperation to plug the information gaps.
  • While the revenue outlays have been increasing, the capital outlays have seen troughs and crests in the last four years. Hence, expenditure on expanding manpower has to be balanced by commensurate expenditure on infrastructure like training schools , forensic laboratories, procuring additional vehicles etc.
  • The  National Cyber Security Policy has to strengthened to address the skill gap and develop cutting edge/bleeding edge technologies in the upcoming fields of big data and data analytics to detect early patterns of crime and effectively prevent it.
  • There is a need to develop a coalition of like minded countries to enable smooth and efficient transmission of intelligence data.
  • The recent trend on overemphasis on technological intelligence gathering should be supplemented with an equally robust human intelligence network through greater skilling and parallel recruitment of individuals with specialised knowledge.

No security network would be strong enough to tackle security threats unless centre and states focus on intelligence gathering and sharing. A coordinated plan of intelligence gathering involving all stakeholders and dissemination should come into place immediately without any delay so that we can tackle the present challenges effectively.


Approach to Civil Services Examination

GS Paper II

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation


GS Paper III

Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security. Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


Practice Question

Critically analyse the role of intelligence agencies in light of the ever changing Indian security scenario.

Also see: