NannyInterrupted-DiplomaticFarce+SecurityJeopardy

protest(picture courtesy: theaerogram.com)

Recent events related to the external affairs of India have cast a sad light on issues of integrity plaguing this critical area of government policy-making. The Indian diplomatic scene has degenerated to a level where their interest in the genuine well being of the country has to be questioned. This is true at least in the following case that came to light a few months ago but has now conveniently escaped the memory of the public.

The issue in question is the ‘Nannygate’ incident, extensively reported in the media, but not researched to the extent the Indian media is capable of. For instance, beyond the diplomat’s involvement in the so-called visa-fraud, the ‘Adarsh’ fraud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adarsh_Housing_Society_scam) and the issue of nepotism/favouritism in the diplomatic service, not much attention was paid to the crucial element related to ‘national interest’ and ‘security’ that take immediate precedence over the fore-mentioned issues. This is also an issue in which the entire ‘Indian Foreign Service’ is culpable, that of ‘dual passports’ held by the children of the concerned diplomat, not to mention the citizenship status of the spouse.

Central government employment rules require employees to relinquish ‘foreign’ citizenship post-marriage. This is what India’s constitution says about ‘citizenship’.

 

Article 9 in The Constitution Of India 1949

” (A) Person voluntarily acquiring citizenship of a foreign State (shall) not to be citizens. No person shall be a citizen of India by virtue of Article 5, or be deemed to be a citizen of India by virtue of Article 6 or Article 8, if he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of any foreign State..”

 

When a ‘conflict of interest’ arises, the country’s laws would either require the spouse to relinquish foreign citizenship or allow its serving member to resign from service unconditionally. While it is evident that the nation’s security cannot be compromised, as per laid down rules, the country doesn’t bar any individual from exercising complete freedom in choosing a marital partner.

Beyond the criminal breach of security and questionable integrity displayed by the diplomat, this issue raises crucial questions of the entire diplomatic corps of India. The amount of sensitive data accumulated over a lifetime by Indian diplomats, who incidentally number only 900 odd (incomprehensible considering the size of the country and its international interests) is a matter of concern, considering the wealth of information shared by so few, and the obvious lack of sensitization towards security and the questionable integrity of its office-bearers.

The inaction by India’s Ministry of External Affairs so far, in reconciling this issue highlights the rot in the system and exposes the diplomatic corps’ weaknesses. Having heard no statement or intent of action by the ministry for the past 3 months (the latest media articles are from March 2014, produced below), it is but pertinent to ask the diplomatic community not only where their interests lie, but if they genuinely consider themselves as representatives of the citizens of this country? The community’s new found penchant for social media connectivity via FB or twitter reveals its ability at self-aggrandizement, but its lack of meaningful engagement with its audience exposes the superficiality of this exercise and highlights intellectual dishonesty on their part, in that positives are sugar-coated while issues of concern are kept out of public view. After all, social media usage by government entities is meant to reflect transparency and accountability – something that their social interaction so far has failed to demonstrate.

 

a. http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/DEL-delhi-news-fresh-trouble-children-of-devyani-khobragade-hold-dual-citizenship-4537474-NOR.html

b. http://www.firstpost.com/india/khobragade-still-faces-trouble-as-dual-citizenship-of-daughters-is-illegal-1416665.html

c. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/trouble-for-khobragade-as-govt-finds-daughters-have-us-indian-passports/

 

The subversion of government policy by the bureaucracy, the apathy of the policy, the disinterest of the media and the public’s short memory are all responsible for the sad state of affairs plaguing Indian Diplomacy. However, as primary stakeholders of India’s ‘international’ face, the Indian Diplomatic Community needs to stand ahead of the pack and rise to the occasion.

And, while we’re on ‘nanny’, let’s also do some housecleaning in the process.

Looking forward to the next one.

 

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SecurityInterrupted-Intelligence I

 

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Its been a while.

Today, I want to talk about an important facet of Indian governance that no political party will focus on during the run-up to 16 May 2014. While that list of ‘important concerns’ is endless, the idea for this blog stems from some recent research that I have been involved in.

Security Policy is an important topic, for a multitude of reasons. Exploring this in totality requires a macro-examination of the broad issues that impinge on a nation’s well-being. Analysing and predicting this is a major exercise no doubt, but where ‘Intelligence’ comes into its own is the ‘depth’ with which it pursues this agenda and the power it exhibits in ‘shaping’ events.

My focus today is but a brief glance at the Accountability mechanism overseeing India’s Intelligence Community (IC) – comprising agencies like the IB, R&AW, etc. This element is a critical measure in examining the IC’s effectiveness and in assessing the ‘legality’ of its conduct – protecting fundamental rights of all citizens versus fulfilling their intrusive requirements.

The IC is responsible for providing the nation’s policy/decision-makers with crucial inputs enabling them to channel the nation’s diplomatic, defence, economic and social policies, by digging under the surface of various domestic and international developments. It would not be wrong to say that policy-makers see development, social inclusiveness, economic growth, diplomacy and fiscal policies collectively under the garb of ‘security’, usually pitting these with overt manifestations of conflict. The ‘depth’ and ‘shaping’ criteria that ICs pursue towards addressing these demands require them to indulge in clandestine, covert and other ‘dark’ actions. In terms of the crucial aspect of legality (ever important in a democracy), the IC is provided with an added dimension of ‘discretion’. Though this entails a certain leeway, the IC’s ultimate ‘grand’ goal of preserving ‘democracy’ demands that their actions be constitutionally acceptable, giving legal authority to their mandate and enforcing oversight and transparency in keeping with the spirit of democracy.

India falters badly on this account. And the basic reason for this is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the population to ‘persistent discretionary’ practices within the corridors of governance. There’s a lot of talk about 1962, Kargil, 2002, 26/11, etc. generally revolving around intelligence failure, non-disclosure of classified documentation and lack of/pressing need for reform. This indicates that while there has been a knee-jerk, peripheral examination of the symptoms, no one has yet addressed the underlying causes, pointed out by the numerous fault-finding commissions whose findings are hidden from public view, mired in dust.

Unfortunately for the citizens, repeated failures haven’t pushed them into openly questioning the role of these agencies and the way they are run. For instance, while the IB, R&AW and the military intelligence agencies justifiably don’t find but a passing mention in the open media, the lack of credibility of an allied agency like the CBI (I guess IB + CBI can be equated to the FBI in the US – the difference being that intelligence and law-enforcement is separated in the Indian context) evidenced by their poor portrayal in the media, may be used to symbolise the performance of the entire IC – their actual performance being compared to the potential they hold in addressing the nation’s security concerns.

Putting right this issue of ‘legality’ and ‘effectiveness’ necessitates an examination of the IC ‘oversight’ mechanism. In India’s case, the IC comes under the sole purview of the Executive, which has the final call on transparency and accountability. For a coalition-prone federal political system as ours, the IC is unfortunately rendered as a mere tool in the hands of the ruling party. I say ruling party, because the IC cannot expect adequate coordination and cooperation from the various states that are controlled by different political interests. More often than not, this secret-slush fund-enabled community finds itself performing house-cleaning services for the party in power. ‘Survival’ of the party as the foremost concern. Expecting the party in power to relinquish this genie-in-a-bottle sometime in the future, the likely successors from the political arena find it tempting to continue this ‘eyewash’ – after all, its far more preferable to concentrate such power in a few hands rather than dilute it by handing its reins over to a multi-party parliamentary oversight committee that balances the need for secrecy with the imperative for accountability.

All is not so hunky-dory for the Executive, though. The events of the past decade culminating in the 26/11 attacks have brought ‘insecurity’ into every individual’s personal space. With security impinging on a citizen’s daily activities, IC affairs cannot continue to follow the ways of yesterday (when nations enjoyed a monopoly over the use of force). The citizen’s are going to demand greater accountability from the government in matters of security, and if not addressed, this may result in alternative ‘intelligence’ mechanisms (mercenary IC communities) within society, as an extreme case. With most cutting edge technology applicable to the IC community available in the open markets, be it in the cyber, communication, encryption domain etc., this is not altogether an impossible supposition. And that would seriously undermine a state’s effectiveness in satisfying the most basic demand of its inhabitants – Security.

Maintaining a narrow political focus while national security comes under assault from an ever increasing list of sources is a disturbing trend. If India were to continue on this path, the results could be grim indeed given its unique geopolitical and cultural vulnerabilities. Enabling an effective oversight mechanism for India’s Intelligence Community is but the first step in revitalising India’s strategic decision-making capacity.

Intelligence is too vital a tool to fritter away given contemporary challenges. More on this later.