Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Return of the Superspy

Return of the Superspy
The New Indian Express
By Yatish Yadav, 8th June 2014
No spymaster before him is so fabled for running meticulously conceived anti-terror operations deep inside enemy territory. He has personally trained agents in the dangerous art of exhaustive reconnaissance of insurgent hideouts in troubled Kashmir, at great risk to life and liberty. He has spent decades tirelessly tracking down suspected militants in the treacherous terrain of the North-East, infiltrating terrorist outfits in Punjab, conducting dangerous counter-insurgency missions, and, most importantly, acting as the father figure for India’s intelligence operatives working thousands of miles away from home running covert operations that no other Indian agency—perhaps with the exception of the Technical Services Division dismantled by General Bikram Singh— had dared to attempt in the past.
Ajit Kumar Doval, 69, former Director of Intelligence Bureau and now the new National Security Adviser in Narendra Modi’s government, is a revered figure in the secret world of Indian espionage. The ‘Master’ as a field agent had successfully broken the back of the North-East insurgency in 1986 in an undercover operation that gave him lasting fame—the defection of 6 out of 7 commanders of Laldenga’s outfit to the Indian cause, forcing the secessionist leader to sign the peace accord. In his heydays as an operative, Doval’s addiction to danger, instead of safely spending life behind a babu’s desk in the North Block, drafting and signing INT reports, marked him for greatness. As a young man, he was a thrill seeker—in the Eighties, the 1968 Kerala batch IPS officer, a master at disguise and embedded deep undercover in Pakistan for almost six years, pulled off daring coups that left ISI clueless. With years of experience in dealing with insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir, the new NSA is expected to shake up New Delhi’s moribund security establishments paralysed by UPA’s inaction and inter-organisational politics. Veteran intelligence analysts feel the Doval Effect will also impact the PMO’s aggressive foreign policy towards Pakistan and China.
Hours after the formal announcement of his appointment last week, terrorist chatter on the Kashmir border revealed that terror commanders in Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK) are on knife edge. India’s Most Wanted Dawood Ibrahim, who is the ISI’s prized guest in Karachi, immediately shifted his base closer to the lawless Pak-Afghan border. Doval’s experience in covert actions deep into enemy territory left the don fearing an unexpected Osama-like op. The legend of Doval, who for the next five years will command Indian security and Intelligence to ruthlessly protect Indian interests, stands to be reborn again.
DC Pathak, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, who had worked with Doval, says the government’s choice of NSA is perfectly tailored to the task. “The challenges and problems we face are well known to all. Now we have the right man for the job. I have always advocated someone with field operations background should be the NSA,” feels Pathak. Some of the best spies in the CIA, Mossad and the now defunct KGB with field experience as either soldiers or spooks make it to senior positions in government and intelligence across the world.
Sometime in 1988. Residents of Amritsar around the Golden Temple where Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale once held sway, and Khalistani militants spotted a rickshawpuller plying his trade. He was new in the area and he looked ordinary enough. The suspicious militants put him on their watch list. It took 10 days for them to make contact; or for him to approach them, as the confusing game of spycraft unfurled within the sacred precincts. The rickshaw puller convinced the militants that he was an ISI operative, who had been sent by his Pakistani masters to help the Khalistan cause. Two days before Operation Black Thunder, the rickshaw-puller entered the Golden Temple and returned with crucial information, including the actual strength and positions of the terrorists inside the shrine. He was none other than Ajit Doval undercover. When the final assault came, the young police officer was inside Harminder Sahib, streaming much needed information to security forces to carry out search-and-flush operations.
“His piercing gaze and mysterious smile is etched in my memory forever,” says an intelligence officer who met Doval after Operation Black Thunder. “The risk was high but our security forces got the blueprint for the attack from Doval. Maps, details like strength, weapons and the location where militants was hiding were given by him. The IB passed over the information to NSG, saving countless lives and preventing further damage to the temple,” he recollects.
Doval’s bravery and ingenuity earned him the Kirti Chakra, the first cop to win the gallantry award, previously given to Army officers only. Similarly, his operations in the ’80s in Mizoram had an unprecedented success rate in eliminating and effecting the surrender of important insurgent leaders. Doval’s strategy was to use information from agents on the ground to keep a tight leash on rebels while covert operations were carried out against hardcore anti-nationals. An intelligence officer, who served under Doval, describes his informal style towards trusted agents engaged in field operations. They were encouraged to “live” their roles and could come to work dressed anyway they liked, with no questions asked.
“We were not required to dress like babus,” the officer recalls. “Operatives would come in kurta pajamas and lungis, wearing sandals. Anyone preparing for an op deep inside enemy territory was allowed to grow a beard ‘to get into the role.’ Others could hire maulvis to learn Urdu and Arabic. As part of their cover, some agents spent days learning shoe-making and later worked as mochis in targeted areas including foreign countries. Doval saab himself is expert in Urdu,” the officer adds proudly.
The surrender of the dreaded Kashmiri militant Kuka Parray was a feather in Doval’s cap in the Nineties. Such was his acumen that, armed with terrorist psycho profiles, he was able to brainwash and persuade Parray and gang to become counter-insurgents. “He met Parray sometime in the 1990s and motivated him to help the government,” confides a serving intelligence operative who had seen action in Kashmir as a young man, refusing to divulge further details. Parray and his outfit Ikhwan-e-Muslimoon, neutralised top militant commanders in the Valley with the help of the Indian Army. Turning Parray was a political victory as well; the operation enabled the Centre to subsequently hold the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 1996. Parray, who became an MLA, was killed in a terrorist ambush later. The official says then “New Delhi” was not certain Doval would succeed, being aware of the complex political situation. But, the coup earned him the respect of even his staunchest critics within the agency, who were advocating a peacenik policy with Pakistan-sponsored terror outfits. A master of psychological warfare, Doval’s role in several near-mythical exploits in Kashmir expanded from being just a ruthless spymaster to a master-strategist, who brought various separatists including Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah Maulvi Farooq, and even the hawkish pro-Pak SAS Geelani to the negotiating table.
Intelligence agents admit that though India’s George Smiley hung up his boots in 2005, he was still unofficially in the field, directing covert missions. A Wikileaks cable dated August 2005 had suggested that Doval had planned the failed IB operation to take out Dawood, who escaped after some bad ’uns in the Mumbai police had tipped him off. “The reports of Dawood shifting his base in Pakistan appears credible as Doval has been pursuing him for over a decade,” said an Intelligence officer.
Doval’s New Strategy
■ Strengthening, reviving and ensuring coordination among the security and intelligence apparatus that were systematically dismantled by the previous regime.

■ Maximise the authority of security agencies undermined by the bureaucratic set-up to deal with cross- border terrorism.
■ To formulate a firm policy in dealing with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries known for harbouring anti-India elements.
■ Strengthening and ensuring penetration of human intelligence (HUMINT) at district and local level.
■ Launching National Intelligence Grid for the integration for intelligence.
■ Evolving a uniform anti-Naxal policy to deal with the menace.
■ Ensuring a system where innocents are fully protected and cases of those languishing in jail are expedited.

Ajit Doval: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Ajit Doval: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Written by Nitin Gokhale | NDTV, May 30, 2014
The appointment of Ajit Doval as India's fifth National Security Adviser or NSA was never in doubt once Narandra Modi swept to power and took office as Prime Minister earlier this week.
For the past nine years, Mr Doval headed the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), a think tank known to be close to the BJP but more importantly one that is doing significant work on critical issues in the realm of comprehensive national security.
Mr Doval, 69, a legend in the secretive world of intelligence and covert operations, retired as Director Intelligence Bureau in January 2005.
But he had attained fame much before he rose to the top. As a mid-level Intelligence Bureau officer in the north-east, he infiltrated the underground Mizo National Front, then waging an insurgency against the Indian state, weaned away half a dozen of its top commanders and all but broke the back of the MNF, forcing its leader Laldenga to sue for peace. The Mizo Accord of July 1986 -- after 20 years of insurgency -- was propelled largely by Mr Doval's initiative.
But his exploits did not end there.
In the late 1980s, when militancy was at its peak in Punjab, Mr Doval walked into the besieged Golden Temple in Amritsar posing as a Pakistani agent months before the 1988 Operation Black Thunder and obtained vital intelligence on the militants holed up inside.
Mr Doval, a 1968 batch IPS Officer of the Kerala cadre, also did his tour of duty in Pakistan, considered a high-risk, high-reward assignment in an intelligence officer's career.
He received India's second highest gallantry award, the Kirti Chakra, for his daring exploit in the Golden Temple Operation. In Kashmir, he lured away prominent militants like Kukkay Parey and turned him and his colleagues into counter-insurgents, a policy criticized in some quarters but also praised by others as an effective tool that helped combat militancy in Kashmir at its peak.
One of his last high profile acts in a career spanning 37 years was as part of the negotiating team that worked behind the scene during the December 1999 hijack of the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 to Kandahar.
Mr Doval was headed to an important post-retirement assignment if the BJP-led NDA was voted back to power -- as was largely expected in 2004 -- but the BJP was narrowly beaten to second place by the Congress, leading to the formation of a UPA government and effectively ending the chances of any role for Mr Doval in the national security set up.
For the majority of the past decade, Shiv Shankar Menon, a career foreign service officer, guided India's foreign, diplomatic and security policies. But as NSA, Mr Doval is expected to be different from his predecessor.
Exactly 10 years after he saw his big opportunity slipping away, he now has a chance to shape India's national security policy. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ajit Doval, both staunch believers in a strong state and stronger counter-terrorism measures, are likely to concentrate more on the internal security situation, improving India's covert operations capability in the neighbourhood even while they put in place an equally robust foreign and defence doctrine. Mr Doval, more George Smiley than James Bond, is truly India's spy who came in from the cold.

Former Intelligence Bureau Chief Ajit Doval Appointed as National Security Advisor

Former Intelligence Bureau Chief Ajit Doval Appointed as National Security Advisor
Written by Devesh Kumar | NDTV, May 30, 2014
New Delhi:  It's official now. Former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Ajit Kumar Doval has been appointed as National Security Advisor, or the NSA, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A hands-on officer, Mr Doval, 69, assumes his new role at the back of a formidable reputation. The 1968-batch IPS official, who belonged to the Kerala cadre, was the first policeman to be decorated with the Kirti Chakra, the second-highest peacetime gallantry award behind Ashok Chakra.
Mr Doval retired as the IB Director in 2005, but before his superannuation, he held several important assignments. He spent 6 years in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. He was pressed into service after 5 Pakistan-based terrorists hijacked the Indian Airlines Flight No. IC-814 which had taken off from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999, and was on its way to Delhi. He was among the officers who negotiated the release of the passengers.
He was part of several counter-terrorism operations in Mizoram, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. He took part in Operation Black Thunder, undertaken in 1988 to flush out Sikh militants holed up inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
After his retirement, Mr Doval had started the Vivekananda International Foundation, a think-tank known to take up nationalist causes.
Soon after being sworn in as India's 15th Prime Minister, Mr Modi had appointed former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Nripendra Misra as his Principal Secretary.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't see any political party speak much on national security issues: Ajit Doval

Don't see any political party speak much on national security issues: Ajit Doval
Nistula Hebbar, ET Bureau Jan 9, 2014
(Ajit Doval's comments are…)
Former director of the Intelligence Bureau and the youngest police officer to ever receive the Kirti Chakra, Ajit Doval heads the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). In an interview with Nistula Hebbar, he spoke about security issues, politics and how Narendra Modi is yet to articulate his strategic vision. Doval's comments are significant in the light of his having been regarded as a close confidante of BJP leader LK Advani and his authorship of a paper on black money that was adopted by the party.
As a security expert, what is your view of recent reports on Lashkar-e-Taiba's alleged attempts to recruit Muslims in Muzaffarnagar's riot camps?
I find it difficult to believe simply because there has been no official authentication of these news reports which have appeared. Areport appears and everyone talks about it without going into the fact that LeT as an organisation is a particular kind of creature. Nobody goes into their recruitment strategies, how they've recruited in the past etc. We need more information on this before it can be believed.
As part of your work for the VIF you have also issued a paper on black money along with (RSS ideologue) S Gurumurthy, which was commissioned by the BJP. Would you say you have right-wing sympathies, ideologically speaking?
The paper was written first and the BJP took it up later as part of their campaign to bring back black money from abroad. As for right wing, just what do you mean by that? As far as I am concerned, the entire country is right wing as we don't have collectivised ownership of resources and have the concept of private property. That is my understanding of right and left-wing ideologies predicated on ownership of resources. I stand for a strong nation with a strong economy so that we have enough resources to spend 2.5% of GDP on strengthening defence capabilities, enough to compete with China and others. You need to spend, and you have to take a strong nationalist view on these issues.
BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi also seems to advocate a strong nationalist view on these issues. Are you in sympathy with them?
I don't really know. He (Narendra Modi) hasn't articulated his views on many issues. There could be (a point of agreement) but I haven't really heard much. Why him, I don't see any political party speak much on security issues, maritime security which is so important, things that need to addressed at a fundamental level.

Were you upset that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also didn't refer to these issues in his press conference?
I do find it strange that the Prime Minister didn't speak about any of these issues in his press conference. That could be because of the nature of the occasion. As I said earlier, no political party seems to be engaging in any meaningful dialogue on these issues.
It's being said that you might find an important place in any future NDA government, even as National Security Advisor? Are you a member of the BJP?

That is absurd and hypothetical. I am not a member of any political party, have never been. I don't think I'd like to accept any position in any government.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Patna Blasts – Implications Under Assessed

Patna Blasts – Implications Under Assessed

Ajit Doval, KC

          The serial blasts that took place in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on October 27, 2013 during BJP’s Hunkar rally was an event whose seriousness and implications have not been fully fathomed. In a setting consumed by ruthless electoral rivalries, the powers that be, have failed to assess the incident in its correct perspective and respond adequately. The event heralds a new genre of terrorist threat, where the objective was not so much to cause depredations as to prevent the people and the leaders from pursuing their lawful right of assembly and speech. The trend, if unchecked, could  derail democratic process, undermine constitutional freedoms and seriously destabilise the country. If the terrorists even marginally improve upon their Patna performance, democracy in the country will get a body blow with no political party or political leader remaining safe enough to carry out their legitimate political activities. Further, if the terrorists succeed in doing it to one – and their capacities are not degraded – they will do it to all; those in power becoming  especially vulnerable. Long term implications would be still more dreadful and one would like to restrain  oneself from alluding to them. This calls for a careful analysis of the event, re-assessing terrorist intentions and capabilities, evaluating efficacy of our response strategies and plugging  the gaps in our level of security preparedness.
          The first reality that the event brings forth is that the Indian Mujahideen (IM), though incubated by the Pakistan’s ISI and a satellite of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has amassed significant domestic content that we cannot wish away for political expediency. No responses can be strategised or meaningful policies executed by remaining in a denial mode. Since its inception in 2005, in last eight years, the IM has acquired menacing proportions both in its geographical spread and cadre strength. Its activities and existence of local cells have been reported from the states of Delhi, UP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jhrakhand, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh etc. Patna blasts when analysed along with the stunning disclosures made by Abdul Kareem Tunda, Riyaz Bhatkal and Abu Jundal, the indigenisation of Jihadi terror in India presents a disturbing spectre. If the menace continuous to grow unabated at the pace of last eight years it may soon become unmanageable. The tendency of its getting intertwined with domestic politics will make things worse. Contrary to what their apologists would like us to believe, their Jihad does not spring due to the lack of economic or social upliftment but their plain and simple aim of degrading the Indian state and establishing  sharia rule. This aim mirrors that of global Jihadist groups like the Al Qaeda and LeT. It is true that their goal is neither achievable nor enjoys support of Indian Muslims, but that does not reduce their capacity to destabilise the country.  Attack on the Patna rally is an early indication of that.
          The second reality that the blasts demonstrate is that the Bihar policy of let sleeping dogs lie does not pay. The Bihar government has been pursuing the policy of conflict avoidance against all extremist groups, particularly the Jihadis,  hoping that the soft policy will insulate them from the threat. Bihar has been an important hub of IM activities right from its inception and a good number of its front ranking activists like Tehseen Akhtar and Haider Ali, who are presently driving IM’s activities in India hail from the state. Proximity to Nepal made it a favoured transit route for the IM members but no interceptions were attempted. Many IM activists considered Bihar as a safe haven and sought refuge there when under pressure from other police forces. In the last two years alone nearly 15 IM suspects belonging to Bihar were either arrested outside Bihar or the police forces of other states nabbed them from Bihar. Bihar police often resented their forays. The political argument of Muslim sensitivity is completely unfounded as no Muslim leader of the country supports Jihadis though want innocents to be spared.
          Another reality that the blasts brings forth  is the failure  of   the Bihar police to anticipate and take counter measures to defeat any terrorist or extremist threat. For a rally of this magnitude and considering high security vulnerability of the leaders attending it, they did not follow even rudimentary principles of security. Had proper area sanitization or access control measures taken, the terrorists would not have succeeded in placing 15 IEDs at the venue. An indifferent style of policing over the years had impaired the required verve and resoluteness of the force. Bihar police refusing to cooperate with the IB in  seeking remand of Yasin Bhatkal, despite his links with the infamous Darbhanga  module, is illustrative of their  indifference. The state police refusing to join the Advance Security Liaison (ASL) exercise with the IB and Gujarat police before the rally and later even refusing to accept and sign it for taking follow up action is unpardonable. In this environment, October 27 blasts were just waiting to happen.
          When the Home Minister in March this year announced a judicial probe into suicide in jail by the prime accused in the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape case, many who preferred to see him dead than alive, grudgingly accepted it. It is, however, intriguing that in a country where inquiry commissions are appointed at the drop of a hat, Patna blasts which presented an imminent and real threat to some of the top political leaders of the country and led to the death of six persons, with over 80 injured, was not considered fit enough even for a low grade magisterial inquiry. Both the central and state governments, more  by design than default, preferred to ignore it. The assertion of the Bihar Chief Minister that there was no security lapse implies that little improvement can be expected in future. Although Narendra Modi’s security has been beefed up following the blasts it is adhoc and not co-related to a proper threat assessment. The bigger issue is with how much seriousness do we tackle the challenge thrown by the IM and the measures that we take to deny them both their means and the ends. A high level judicial probe focusing on these issues will help.
(The author is Director, Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


(Talk delivered on July 23, 2013 at Cannon Hall, Capitol Hill in a function organised by USIPAC, AFC and FIIDS)

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to the US-India Political Action Committee, American Foreign Policy Council and FIIDS for providing me this opportunity to speak on ‘Moderate and Balanced Afghanistan – Imperative for Regional Security’. Friends, before I start, may I ask if there is anyone in this audience who holds a contrarian view and feels that an unstable Afghanistan ruled by extremists would help regional security. Great, there is none. Special thanks to the organisers once again for giving me an opportunity to speak to an audience that unanimously supports the subject.
Friends, like all of you, I also support the view but with a caveat. I believe that a moderate and balanced Afghanistan is not only an absolute necessity for regional security but is equally imperative for rest of the world. A radicalised and unstable Afghanistan, imbued with an intolerant jehadi fervour, has implications for US or Europe as much as for South Asia. Any resurgence of violent Islamic terrorism will have a cascading effect that will define the future trajectory and intensity of global terrorism, endangering the people here as much as in the region. Al-Qaeda is down but not out. Its structures and cadres have been degraded but in its new incarnation as an ideological hub driving and uniting violent form of political Islam poses a threat that is real, more complex and extensive. We are seeing some early trailers in the Gulf, North Africa and Western Eurasia etc.
             The debate is not about agreeing upon the end objectives but examining emerging ground realities, re-validating assumptions on which our policies rest, and evaluating new initiatives to see to what extent they enhance or reduce the possibility of achieving the end objectives. Are the critical players and stake holders involved in this complex imbroglio pursuing the policies that will lead to a stable and moderate Afghanistan? Are there gaps and anomalies in their stated positions and real intentions? Good intentions are important but not sufficient to achieve intended objectives.
            US and other members of ISAF have invested heavily in last 12 years to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. US alone has suffered over 2,000 military casualties and spent over $600 billion in this fight.  The results though commendable, have not been proportionate to the cost. The outcome might have been different if assumptions about Pakistan, the non-NATO ally with front line responsibilities,  had proven to be correct. The moral- when assumptions are wrong the strategies fail to deliver. 
            The security environment in Afghanistan is far from optimal for smooth transition to a stable and moderate Afghanistan post 2014. The Taliban and their allies are  better organised and resourced, have deepened their coercive influence in new areas and exude a sense of triumphalism. Islamist hardliners world over are looking at them with awe and respect. Within Afghanistan, their political engagement on the asking, if not cajoling,  by their erstwhile adversaries has given them a sense of legitimacy as victors on one hand and generated a fear of uncertainty and insecurity among those who stood on the side of religious moderation, human rights and democracy.
The recent developments indicate that there is lack of synergy and coherence among major stakeholders responsible for a stable post 2014 Afghanistan. The ruckus over president Karzai objecting to blatant display of the Taliban flag and a plaque with the inscription ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ at its Doha office and US talking about a zero option in post 2014 Afghanistan underlines that the two players critical for stability in Afghanistan are not on the same page. The left over elements of Al-Qaeda and undented Haqqani group being allowed by Pakistan to consolidate their positions along Af-Pak border are ominous. Pakistan ISI’s duplicitous deals with various factions of Taliban and other armed groups in Afghanistan in furtherance of its unknown post 2014 agenda has compounded the situation further. Pakistan’s advocacies of including sections of Taliban close to it but known to be soft on Al Qaeda in the peace process have serious long term implications. The cost of promised co-operation in future by Pakistan may prove more costly for the world than estimated.
            The problems of governance, internal security and weak economics both in Pakistan and Afghanistan may only give a fillip to further radicalisation in these two countries. While the world is closing in to 2014 drawdown, the insurgency and law and order situation both in Afghanistan and Pakistan is under  serious drift. In first six months of this year, over 800 Afghan army and police personnel, 365 civilians and 63 ISAF soldiers have lost their lives. The situation in Pakistan where Islamic terrorists are in control of large tracts in tribal regions is no better. In last six years, more than 2000 Pakistanis including 400 security personnel have been killed in terrorist related violence in the country. All these straws in the wind raise serious doubts about emergence of a moderate and stable Afghanistan after draw down unless basic correctives are applied at this stage.
            I have great respect for the optimists, not because they are always right but because they keep the hopes alive, at least till the things go wrong. On Afghanistan, the hopes of optimists are premised on following assumptions:      
Ø  Taliban will change. They will severe their links with the Al-Qaeda and its affiliates with Pan-Islamic global agenda. People in last twelve years have developed vested interest in democracy, development, and respect for human rights. Taliban will not get their support if they revert to their old ways. Democracy will stay and ethnic rivalries will be subsumed by a resurgent Afghan nationalism. 
Ø  Nearly 3,35,000 strong Afghan national army and police will remain a cohesive force, will be adequately resourced and remain committed to its fight against terror; irrespective of political complexion of the people who assume power.
Ø  Most importantly, Pakistan will change and will not pursue its three decade old policy of furthering its strategic and political objectives by using Jihadi terror as an instrument to keep Afghanistan under its control to the exclusion of others. It will no more follow a duplicitous policy in dealing with terrorism and terrorist groups.
            If these assumptions hold good, even to a reasonable degree, we can hope for a moderate and stable Afghanistan. Friends, I am not a scientist but a great admirer of Einstein. He defined insanity; as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting that the results will be different next time. Pakistan will change is a possibility but not a probability.
It is true policies and strategies cannot always be made on the basis of totally proven facts and crystal gazer’s ability to peep into the future. But it is necessary that we do not deny the existence of facts because that are unpalatable and do not deliberately work in a direction that negate the assumptions on which our policies rest. The right approach at this time should be to put in collective efforts to ensure that the above assumptions on which the end objectives are premised are reinforced, resourced and refined. In my assessment, there are plenty that we can do at this stage but the window of opportunity may not remain open indefinitely.
I consider that affirmative and coercive actions in three important domains from now till 2014 will be necessary to ensure that the post-2014 Afghanistan is reasonably stable and minimizes security threat to the region and the world at large.  First, no agreement or assurances to Taliban or other radical groups contravening the constitution, as it exists or is amended through due process, should be made. It is also important that no covert arrangement are arrived at by extraneous forces without taking into confidence the constitutionally elected government in Afghanistan. Whatever its shortcomings and failings may be, which indeed are plenty, undermining constitutional or moral authority of a democratically elected government will weaken constitutionalism and rule of law in Afghanistan that has been one of the major achievements of last 12 years. This is, however, still feeble and needs to carefully nurtured.

Second, the continuation of foreign financial assistance for maintaining the ANSF would be necessary. The security apparatus should also remain apolitical and selection of military commanders should not be influenced by ethnic considerations or political proximities. Large private armies and armed groups working under varying influences, ranging from drug syndicates to radical Islamic groups and to political parties,  under a well calibrated plan of action should be de-legitimized, disarmed and demobilized. Any external forces trying to control or influence them to sub-serve their agenda in post 2014 setting should be shunned.
Third, Pakistan’s role is going to be critical in defining the future. It has a past that is not very re-assuring. Measures have to be taken and compulsions created that makes it unaffordable for Pakistan to pursue a course that undermines stability in Afghanistan, boost terrorism in the region and most importantly endanger Pakistan’s own safety and long term security. Let us look at some expert views about Pakistan in the last few weeks:
·        Barely two week back here in Washington DC, Ambassador Robert Blackwill speaking at the Ambassador’s Round Table said, “there is no evidence that Pakistan military has changed its view- its primary role is to prevent the rise of India. It continues to look at Taliban as a strategic asset that can be leveraged to further its strategic objectives, particularly viz a viz India.”
·        Brig AR Siddiqi writing in The News, Pakistan’s leading daily on July 11 quoted Musharraf when he was the President and Army Chief, “Taliban are my strategic reserve and I can unleash them in tens of thousands against India when I want...” Gen Kayani was probably the ISI Chief at that time. He indicated that there was no shift in this mindset.
·        On July 3, Afghan Army Chief Gen Sher Mohammed Karimi told the BBC that “The Taliban are under Pakistan’s control – The leadership is in Pakistan.”
·        Bruce Riedel – on July 3, said “By 2004 under the leadership of its then spy chief and today top general, Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, was deeply engaged in helping the Taliban again. It still is. The senior Taliban leadership including Mullah Omar are protected by the ISI in Quetta and Karachi.”
All this and many more such inputs indicate that Pakistan continues to pursue a plan that may not be in consonance with what the world wants – a stable and moderate Afghanistan. It estimates that with American provocation gone and political space apportioned by its surrogates like Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani, it will be able to play the Islamic card and regain lost ground with militant Islamic groups on both sides of the border. The recalcitrant few could be neutralised with their support. On one hand it will help it to mount over its precarious internal security predicament  and on the other make available “strategic assets” for pursuing its agenda in the region like India, Central Asia etc. Pakistan’s assumption may prove to be its nemesis but many others may have to pay a heavy price.
More than anyone else, it is the US which exercises the leverage and influence to make Pakistan follow the right course and force it to abandon its policy of using terrorists as instruments of its state policy. It should be unequivocally made clear to the new regime in Pakistan that support to any form of terrorism irrespective of its cause, target or ideological persuasion would be unacceptable and involve costs. All financial assistance and aid to Pakistan should be made conditional to its deliverance on the terrorist front.
I would like to conclude with a reiteration that one assumption which must be dumped is that the threat emanating from Afghanistan would only affect the region. It won’t. It will engulf the regions far beyond. From Al Qaeda down to the lone wolves, the developments are being seen by the Jihadists as their victory against the sole superpower and rest of the world that stood by it in their fight against terror. They also are hopeful that the new dispensation in Afghanistan will provide them a foothold for pursuing their global agenda. The challenge is what we can do to prove them wrong.  And, if despite our best efforts, desired results do not come forth, start preparing for  the worst- an unstable Af Pak region -  right from today, jointly and more resolutely. You often don’t have to fight the wars you had prepared for in advance.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Chinese Intelligence: From a Party Outfit to Cyber Warriors

Chinese Intelligence: From a Party Outfit to Cyber Warriors
June 12, 2013

Shri Ajit Doval*,
Former Director of Intelligence Bureau
                     Whatever yardstick we choose to apply – size of the economy and its rate of growth, military hardware and pace of modernisation, stability of the polity and the government;  size, population and geo-political setting – China qualifies for a major power status. If we decide to be more candid than correct in making a hard headed assessment, its rise is not an assured peaceful rise. Its military build up, maritime ambitions, territorial claims, assertions in the cyber world and space etc have definite security ramifications both for the region and the world at large. The direction, intensity and form of these assertions among other things will be determined by China’s self view of its interests, capacities and limitations on one hand and assessment of global response to its actions on the other. In making these policy choices, the intelligence capability of the Chinese state will play a seminal role.
                     No one has internalised, more than the Chinese, the fact that strategic  strength of a nation is directly proportionate to its knowledge dominance. Three millennium back, they believed in Sun Tzu’s dictum, ‘Know thy self, know thy enemy - a thousand battles, a thousand victories’, and they continue to believe it till date. While advances made by China in its economy, military modernisation, defence production and technology acquisition have been intensely studied and analysed, not much is known or written about its intelligence apparatus, its capabilities and vulnerabilities, role in policy making, systems and  structures etc. Though China, compared to the past, has opened up in certain fields, its intelligence apparatus, not much understood by intelligence experts and scholars, remains a dark area. It assumes special import in the wake of its acquiring major power status on one hand, and expanding scope of clausewitzian doctrine of “War through other means” like cyber war on the other.  It becomes all the more relevant in the Chinese context, as espionage has been integral to its strategic tradition and state craft.
                     The history of Chinese intelligence is as old as that of the early warring kingdoms of ancient China.  In terms of its antiquity, it can be compared only with the history of Indian intelligence that dates back to about 700 BC, perfected by Chanakya during the Mauryan Empire (322 to 185 BC); the only difference being that while the Indians proclaimed ‘resorting to secret craft by the state’ as unethical and immoral after the Gupta period (320 AD to 600 AD), it remained an uninterrupted part of Chinese state craft. Intelligence played a seminal role in the efforts of successive Chinese dynasties to deal with their external enemies – primarily the warring nomadic tribes- as also tackling internal threats.
                     In recent history, Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek extensively used their spy networks to gather information about the Manchus that led to fall of the Qing dynasty. Intelligence also played an important role during the Sino-Japanese war and later the Civil War that led to the victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the Kuomintang. Mao, during this extended civil war, heavily relied on CCP’s secret apparatus and covert actions to subdue his political opponents. It is significant that one of the first resolutions adopted by the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), after the creation of People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, pertained to the crucial role played by the intelligence. 
Establishment of Communist Rule to Cultural Revolution:
                     On assuming power, three factors defined CCP’s approach towards national security and concurrently the intelligence build up. First was a strong belief that all those who were opposed to the Communist ideology were counter revolutionaries and thus enemies of the Chinese state and the people. Second was an inherent distrust of all foreigners and foreign powers, particularly the Western democracies, who were perceived to be conspiring to undo the socialist revolution. Taiwan and Hong Kong were considered to be bases of their covert activity. Third was a fierce undercurrent of Chinese nationalism that emphasised on avenging ‘wrongs of history’ and transforming China into a State with high Comprehensive National Power (CNP).
                     In terms of action points,  at the intelligence front,  this approach, inter alia, manifested into (i) Creation of a strong security state- policing its citizens, identifying ideological enemies and their neutralisation; (ii) denying access to suspected foreign agents; (iii) penetration into claimed areas of Chinese territory not fully under its control like Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc. (often referred as homeland territory by the Chinese); (iv) accessing scientific and technical information, mainly from Western sources, to build indigenous military and civilian capacities and (v) leveraging Chinese diasporas abroad for intelligence and counter-intelligence activities, including coverage of activities of anti-communist elements abroad. As the CCP was envisaged to play the central role in this secret activity, intelligence apparatus continued to be controlled by it, albeit with some structural changes. The erstwhile intelligence outfit, Public Security Department (PSD), was re-organised. Its internal security tasks were partly entrusted to the Central Ministry of Public Security (MPS) headed by Gen Luo Ruiqing, foreign intelligence was brought under Liaison Department headed by Li Kenong and some sections were transferred to People Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) Central General Office and the General Staff Department. Li Kenong was also designated by Mao as Secretary of the Central Committee’s Intelligence Commission, Director of the Central Military Commission, Intelligence Department, as also as the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister. Central Investigation Department, a field intelligence outfit, worked under Li Kenong.    
                     At this stage, Chinese intelligence had limited exposure to the outside world, confronted problems of access and language and faced a generally hostile anti-communist environment internationally. These factors, abetted by ideological proximity to the USSR made the intelligence apparatus considerably dependent on the Soviets, particularly for external intelligence. KGB, in those days, worked closely with Gen Luo Ruiqing and helped him develop intelligence systems, doctrines, trade craft, training etc., whose footprints can be observed even today. Russians also helped the Chinese develop liaison arrangements with fraternal communist parties through ‘International Liaison of the Chinese Communist Party’. The intelligence bonhomie with Soviets, however, started cooling off in the mid fifties and by 1960 the operational cooperation almost ceased to exist.
                     During the 1950s, almost every Chinese embassy had an Investigation and Research Office – a cover name for intelligence staff belonging to the Central Investigation Department. These were the field units for intelligence collection which were low in trade craft, highly secretive in their functioning and comprised of ideologically committed members. One of their major pre-occupation was to keep close watch on other members of the mission. They often remained present during the meetings with their diplomatic counterparts. In the headquarters, the analytical task was carried out by Central Investigation Department’s Eighth Bureau, publicly known since 1978 as the "Institute of Contemporary International Relations."
                     In 1962, just before the Cultural Revolution, Li Kenong died and was succeeded by Luo Qingchang. The legendary Kang Sheng, a confidant of Mao who for long years had headed the Central Department of Social Affairs and in 60s was a member of the Politburo, was entrusted with the overarching responsibility of ‘guiding’  the country’s intelligence apparatus. The infamous Kang Sheng played a vital role during Cultural Revolution in suppressing and neutralising Mao’s political enemies. The political confusion that prevailed during Cultural Revolution created serious fissures with the intelligence community also. Reportedly, on the initiative of Lin Biao, the Central Investigation Department was abolished, most of its senior officers shunted to the countryside for re-education and its operators and human assets, both within and outside the country, deputed to the PLA General Staff Second Department. It is suspected that there was an internal conspiracy, in which some intelligence operators of the dissolved Central Investigation Department were used, that led to mysterious death of Lin Biao in 1971 in a plane crash in Mongolia. Following his death, the department was re-established and its representatives sent to missions abroad. 

Cultural Revolution:
                     The role of intelligence in the internal polity of China during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), that witnessed millions of killings, deserves a special mention. The revolution created conditions of anarchy and uncertainty, and saw sharp degradation of civil society and violation of human rights. There was extensive abuse of secret police and intelligence services that were responsible for large number of killings of political opponents. The secret apparatus became not only the perpetrator of atrocities but also a victim of it. In April 1967, Secretary General of the Central Investigation Department, Zou Dapeng, committed suicide along with his wife, who herself was a senior intelligence officer. A large number of intelligence operatives were dubbed as renegades or traitors and punished - often for their suspected pre 1949 roles or proclivities. Ironically, these persecutions were spearheaded by none other than the intelligence Tzar, Kang Sheng, who himself was head of the CCP’s Intelligence and secret apparatus from 1939-1946. In those turbulent years, Kang, the hatchet man of Mao Zedong, headed the Central Case Examination Group (CCEG) that dealt exclusively in secret coercive practices and dirty tricks to bring about ‘cultural’ cleansing. At one point of time, at his behest, 88 members/alternate members of the party Central Committee were under investigation for suspected ‘treachery’, ‘spying’ or ‘collusion with the enemy’.  Kang Sheng used his infamous apparatus to crush Mao’s ideological opponents dubbing them as enemies of the revolution. The powerful role of Kang and his security services in China’s internal power play can be gauged by the fact that Kang Sheng was directed by Mao to supervise drafting of the new Party Constitution, which was adopted at the Ninth Congress in April 1969. He was also ‘elected’ as one of the five members of the Politburo Standing Committee, along with Mao, Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai and Chen Boda.           
Ministry of Social Security (MSS):
            The political developments in China consequent to the death of Mao Zedong (1976), fall of the Gang of Four (1976) and rise of Den Xiaoping heralded a new era in Chinese politics. Following the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee Congress, Deng Xiaoping emerged as the most powerful leader and gave a new fillip to the pace of modernisation and structural reforms. Himself a victim of political misuse of intelligence during Cultural Revolution, he wanted to re-structure the intelligence apparatus making it less susceptible to political vagaries. He resurrected the Chinese traditional concepts of Shishi Qiushi (seeking truth from facts), ‘Xianzhi’ (foreknowledge) and ‘Hide Your Strength, Bide Your Time’ as some of the guiding doctrines to reform the country’s intelligence set-up. He wanted Chinese intelligence to be transformed into a modern professional outfit – in tandem with China’s four modernisation programmes - having high technical capabilities and insulated from day to day party control. Deng Xiaoping was also not in favour of intelligence officers using legal cover as diplomats and wanted them to operate under illegal covers like media persons, representatives of business firms, scientists and researchers in universities etc.
            Many piecemeal reforms were brought about during 1976 to 1982 that eventually culminated in the formation of the Ministry of Social Security (MSS) in 1983. It was envisaged to be the country’s apex intelligence outfit, a position that it continues to hold till today. A formal proposal was initiated by Liu Fuzhi, who at that time headed the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and was approved by the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee. The new outfit that defined its charter as “the security of the state through effective measures against enemy agents, spies and counter-revolutionary activities designed to sabotage or overthrow China’s socialist system”[1] was made answerable to the Premier and the State Council. The above charter defined by Liu Fuzhi, however, hid more than it revealed. Unstated, the primary functions of the MSS included collection of foreign intelligence and undertaking covert intelligence operations both within and outside the country. It had a major internal intelligence charter as well. Ling Yun was appointed its first Chief, who on assuming office proclaimed that intelligence would no longer be used to settle ideological differences or allow party barons to use the service to settle factional fights. It was, however, nothing more than a pious wish and propaganda ploy.
            Major segments of the intelligence and counter-intelligence activities of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and remnants of the Chinese Communist Party’s Investigation Division under Central Department of Social Affairs (CDSA) were merged into the new outfit. For the first time, foreign intelligence was collected, collated and analysed in a systematic manner on modern lines. As MSS did not have a body of experienced analysts to interpret the data, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), which had existed since 1980 and had a professional research staff, was brought under its control. The organisation, though has an open profile, is a feeder outfit that provides MSS with intelligence assessments based on inputs received from all sources including open sources and interaction with foreign think-tanks. It is a conglomerate of eleven institutes and two research divisions specialising in diverse areas of international interest to China. According to some press reports, “the CICIR has provided intelligence collection support to the MSS and the Foreign Affairs Leading Group (FALG), the Communist Party of China’s top foreign-policy body.[2]
The MSS over the years has emerged as China’s largest and most effective intelligence organisation, working under the state council with its headquarters in Beijing. Under Article 4 of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law, it enjoys police powers to arrest and initiate prosecution in cases involving national security. It has different wings covering foreign intelligence, internal intelligence, counter-espionage and counter-intelligence. There is a certain degree of overlap with the Second Department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in respect of foreign intelligence and Ministry of Public Security (MPS) in the field of domestic intelligence.
Ministry of Public Security (MPS):
                     Though essentially a national security agency, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has a wide intelligence network. Enjoying overriding powers over the police and law enforcing agencies, huge resources and proximity to the CCP makes it a powerful security cum intelligence outfit.
                     In its intelligence gathering and operational role, it keeps a close watch on internal political developments and concurrently reports to the State Council (executive component of the state) and Central Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (party apparatus). Besides collection of intelligence through police organisation at provincial and local levels, MPS performs its intelligence functions using ‘working units’ of the ‘Chinese citizens’. MPS is empowered to draft any citizen to spy over fellow citizens or foreigners living in their area. Surveillance over visiting foreigners is an important function of the MPS which it performs through local law enforcement units besides its dedicated intelligence units. However, deficient in skills, experience and equipment, its trade craft is primitive and crude and easily detectable.
                     While the intricate network of MPS informers allows the system to keep a close watch on its citizenry, it often leads to erroneous or disproportionate police actions on account of perfunctory reporting, informers settling personal scores through false reporting and intervention by party bosses. Some of the problems encountered by MPS include managing the unwieldy data generated by diverse working groups spread throughout the country, validation and analysis of data, delayed real time flow of information among the provinces and from provinces to the MPS headquarters in Beijing and lack of coordinated decision making process due to two parallel masters - the state executive and the party apparatus.  Intervention by the Central Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, that is supposed to deal with coordination problems, often proves to be delayed and non-workable.
                     As custodian of ideological security, the MPS also performs an important political role of monitoring political opinions of the people, logging people’s grievances and collecting information about rivalries among the party cadres/leaders. To assist its political role, it maintains a massive national database covering personal information from national to local levels. The inputs are derived from police reports, inputs of working groups, local level party sources, interception of  e-mails and telephonic communications, employment records, data available with banks and industrial  concerns, prosecution and immigration records etc. This data is integrated and aggregated to identify ‘persons of interest’ which in turn are sent to police stations for stipulated action.
                     Internally, China has created intelligence capacities for a panoptic state where it can identify, monitor, control, intervene and, when required, coerce citizens to submission for furthering perceived national interests. This trend got further strengthened after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, that badly shook China and whose after effects continue to haunt it. Growing unrest in Tibet and Xianjiang  and the spate of suicides in Tibet have further unnerved China. The declining face of economic growth, unemployment and exponential rise in agitations and protests have further compounded the internal security landscape.
                     In 2011, Zhou  Yongkang, China’s senior party leader in charge of security and stability, emphasised the need of integrating MPS intelligence system for “social management” that would include monitoring political views, moulding public opinion and propaganda to shape people’s decision. In furtherance of this policy in December 2011, MPS directed units under it to visit villages and houses to win over their hearts and minds on the one hand and monitor their opinions on the other.  This is illustrative of the Chinese management of state affairs intricately intertwining security, development, political and civil society controls. Though it has not drawn the attention of strategic analysts abroad, in last one decade, both the size and influence of MPS has increased substantially. However, to what degree the MPS influences political decision making process and policy formulation needs further investigation.
 Military Intelligence - 2nd General Staff Department (2nd GSD):
                     The powerful Chinese military apparatus has dedicated intelligence apparatus of its own under the General Staff Department (GSD) of the PLA. Second Intelligence Department (2nd GSD) is one of the most important departments of the military intelligence setup. It is headed by a Director who is assisted by two Deputy Directors and a Political Commissioner. The Director and Political Commissar are equivalent to a Group Army Commander. [3] As it works directly under the General Staff, political control over it is lesser than in the case of MPS and MSS. STRATFOR, a leading intelligence research organization, avers that border intelligence is one of the primary responsibilities of the MID in which it is assisted by the PLA’s reconnaissance units. [4]  Specializing in tactical intelligence, it keeps tab of the order of battle (ORBAT) of foreign armies, their doctrines, strategies, location, identity of field formations and profiles of their commanders etc. Its responsibilities include terrain assessment of target areas of military interest, identification of military command and control centres, plotting vulnerable Areas/Points (VA/VPs), equipment profile, counter-intelligence tasks, etc. It also monitors the activities of foreign armies operating in the Asian continent.[5]
                        Some of the important wings of the 2nd GSD include (i) ‘Department 2’ collecting information through human assets (HUMINT)  with seven bureaus working under it, (ii) ‘Department 3’ collecting intelligence through communication interceptions (SIGINT) located  in seven of its military regions and (iii) Department 4 specializing in battle field Electronic Intelligence. Electronic intelligence is sourced through Electronic Warfare (EW) Regiment/Reconnaissance Units functioning at the Group Army (GA) level. Other departments deal with administration, logistics, training etc.
                     The 2nd GSD’s field formations have Military Reconnaissance Units (MRs) in border areas, Intelligence Analysis Centre at the Divisional level and Intelligence Peace Units at Company levels. During war time, the Intelligence Analysis Centers function at the Battalion Headquarter level also with a limited remit. It also monitors the activities of foreign armies operating in the Asian continent. Earlier the 2nd GSD primarily focused on human intelligence and traditional military intelligence activities but has recently expanded the range of its activities to cover scientific and technological information.[6] [7]
                     The 2nd Department is further sub-divided in functional bureaus such as  Military Intelligence Bureau, Tactical Reconnaissance Bureau, Political Bureau, Confidential Bureau, Comprehensive Bureau and Confidential File Bureau. [8] Military Intelligence Bureau focuses mainly on Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong; collects technical intelligence to improve and develop military hardware for the PLA and establishes contact with potential clients for weapons exports concealing PLA’s direct involvement in arms trade. The Tactical Reconnaissance Bureau streamlines the information flow from specialized units at the MR level.  The 3rd Bureau (Military Attaché Bureau) screens and debriefs military attaches who are deputed to foreign missions abroad. The 4th Bureau’s responsibility is Intelligence analysis for Russia, former Soviet republics, and other East European countries. The 5thBureau is also known as the Foreign Affairs Bureau. Its responsibilities include organizing foreign visits of PLA officers, military exchanges and receiving foreign military visitors. It, at times, works under the cover name of “the Ministry of National Defence Foreign Affairs Office”. It has its work divided on territorial lines like America & Canada Bureau, Europe & Asia Bureau, etc. It is learnt that the Press Bureau, known as "Ministry of National Defence Press Affairs Office", also works in conjunction with 2nd GSD. Several PLA Universities and Command colleges are directly subordinate to the Foreign Affairs Bureau.[9]  The 6th Bureau focuses on analysis of Intelligence pertaining to the neighbouring Asian countries. The 7th Bureau (Technology and Equipment Bureau) plans and carries out cyber espionage operations through six governmental research institutions and two computer centers. It also enlists the services of individual civilian hackers and uses companies that produce electronic equipment for carrying out its activities.  In addition, the 2nd GSD oversees working of the Arms Control Bureau, Space Reconnaissance Bureau, Computer Institute, PLA College of International Relations.
3rd General Staff Department:
                     The 3rd GSD or the Technical Department primarily focuses on signal intelligence (SIGINT) operations of the PLA. In the American jargon, the quintessential SIGINT task is to carry out cyber surveillance or Computer Network Exploitation (CNE). Computer network operations (CNO) in China are often referred to as ― “Network Attack and Defense”, based on the premise that –“without understanding how to attack, one will not know how to defend”. The 3rd Department’s SIGINT targets are diplomatic missions, military activities, economic entities, public education institutions, and individuals of interest.  There may also be bureaus operating at the Military Districts for conducting network defense and attack, technical reconnaissance, and psychological operations. Bureau Directors and Political Commissars are equivalent in rank to an Army Major-General.[10]
4th General Staff Department:
                     The Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) and Radar Department, also known as the 4th GSD Department, is responsible for developing equipments, doctrines, and tactics for electronic warfare and information. Established in 1990, it maintains a data base of electronic and radar signatures of foreign armies. The department is headed by a Director and two Deputy Directors and has at least, four bureaus, one brigade, and two regiments. It is widely believed that an ECM Brigade is headquartered at Langfang in Hebei Province with subordinate battalion-level entities located in Anhui, Jiangxi and Shandong. Two units, including one with operational or experimental satellite jamming responsibilities, are located at Hainan Islands with the purpose of jamming US satellites. All PLA, PLAAF and PLAN Military Regions have one ECM Regiment. The 3rd and 4th General Staff Departments also operate a joint centre dedicated for network attack/ defense training system.
General Political Department (GPD):
                     The GPD functions directly under the Central Military Commission (CMC). It oversees the discipline, political education and indoctrination of PLA personnel. It has an organisation called the China Association for International Friendly Contacts which infiltrates foreign armies in order to subvert loyalty of their personnel and propagate Chinese ideology among them to further their aim. The Political or the Liaison Department also conducts counter-espionage activities in foreign countries to keep a watch on its own intelligence operatives. The GPD maintains Liaison Departments at the Military Region (MR) level. The Department also oversees the Military Museum of the Chinese People's RevolutionLiberation Army Daily, the PLA Literature and Art Press (Kunlun Press), PLA Pictorial, and PLA Press.
Human Intelligence:
            The modus operandi of the Chinese intelligence is uniquely Chinese in its application characterised by Chinese cultural traits. As only few cases of Chinese intelligence operations are available for detailed study and analysis, it is generally presumed that Chinese intelligence trade craft is primitive and low in its reach. The famous case of Larry Wu-Tai Chin is indicative that even before People’s Republic of China (PRC) came into existence, the CCP’s intelligence setup had started recruiting deep penetration sources in target areas. Chin passed on classified information to China while working for the US intelligence community for over 35 years. He supplied a stream of high grade intelligence till his retirement in 1981. He was detected only in 1985 when his cover was blown by a defector leading to his suicide before being brought to trial. The trade craft used for intelligence collection, contacts between the source and handling officers, communications, briefing and debriefing etc. show a high degree of sophistication. The fact that Chin was able to operate undetected for 35 years also indicates high level of secrecy standards in protecting source identity.
            The technique and methodology adopted by the Chinese operatives in respect of raising and handling human assets (intelligence sources) is slightly different from those employed by other modern intelligence agencies. Even after the initial ‘ice breaking exercises’, the handler remains vague and circumspect in specifying his needs and considerations in return. Emphasis is more on personal and friendly relations.  Quite often, even when a human asset starts passing on information, he is not consciously aware of working as an intelligence agent. The trade craft used is elementary and the relationship between the handler and the source is nebulous and ill-defined. It is only after considerable period of time that the handler discloses his real intentions, requirements and identity; asking the agent to follow more rigorous trade craft for collection of classified information, fixing of RVs, communications etc. Despite the fact that during its formative years the Chinese intelligence operatives were trained by the KGB, who make a fetish of traditional trade craft, their cultural trait of being circumspect and employing  symbols to communicate is discernible in their intelligence practices. Nigel Inkstar, in his ‘Chinese Intelligence in the Cyber Age’ however, feels that “when the need arises, or when they are sure of their ground, Chinese intelligence officers can be very direct and explicit and capable of deploying sophisticated tradecraft”.
            Chinese are also known to effectively provide cover identities to its human assets using forged documents. The case of  Liu Kang-Sheng, a MSS operative, who was caught using forged Thai and Singaporean passports is illustrative. Though passports of these countries have high security features, it was found that the forged documents were almost perfect in incorporating these features. It is obvious that Chinese intelligence has well developed facilities for forging documents.
            Among the Chinese intelligence officers, there is a marked preference for people of Chinese ethnicity and those seen as friends of China for cultivation as human assets. However, this phenomenon is gradually undergoing a change. Valentin Danilov, a Russian physicist who headed the Thermo-Physics Centre at Krasnoyarsk State Technical University (KTSU) and had researched on effects of solar activity on space satellites is a case in point. In 2004, he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for passing on classified information to the Chinese. Similarly, Swedes uncovered diplomats in the Chinese embassy in Stockholm who recruited a Uyghur émigré to monitor the activities of Uyghurs in Europe. The case of US nationals Noshir Gowadia and Glenn Duffy Shriver are also illustrative of Chinese intelligence recruiting foreign nationals for espionage. Shriver was arrested for spying in June 2010 while flying to China. He pleaded guilty of unlawful communication of national defence information after a polygraph test and was imprisoned for four years. He had met his Chinese handlers about 20 times and received $70,000 for the services rendered.  Gertz Bill reported in Washington Times on March 25, 2013 that “Shriver is not the first spy for the Chinese to target the CIA. U.S. intelligence sources have said at least three CIA officers who reported to Director George J. Tenet in 1999 as having spied for China, but were never caught. One of the agents was paid $60,000 by Beijing”.
            Chinese intelligence pursues its defined operational missions, once defined and approved, most doggedly unmindful  of its cost-benefit ratio. Chinese efforts to go for outright purchase of a Stealth aircraft parts manufacturing company for obtaining the in-flight refuelling capability for its Air Force is a case in point. The attempt was foiled at the last moment. It resorts to all means, including most unethical practices to achieve its operational missions. The case of Da Chuang Zheng, a Chinese intelligence agent, who was caught while attempting to steal advanced radar and electronic surveillance technology to China is one among many such cases of heist.
            The Chinese have mastered the technique of amalgamating disparate micro intelligence accessed from incongruous sources with no comparable gradations in respect of their authenticity and reliability. This technique of ‘Thousand Grains’ entails collecting small bits of information and then piecing  them together to make intelligence sense. This has particularly been used for acquiring mid level technologies using inputs both from human and technical sources. Widely spread Chinese diasporas working in research and academic establishments, high technology using manufacturing concerns, business houses etc. are often utilised for the purpose. Potential targets are, at times, recruited during their visits to China. Another variation is collecting micro intelligence bits during participation in scientific cooperation programmes, seminars and conferences in foreign countries and visits of scientists under scholar overseas exchange programmes. FBI investigations in 1988 had revealed that the technology for neutron bomb detonated by China was not indigenously developed but acquired from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in California. Various Chinese delegations comprising ostensibly of scientists, but actually MSS intelligence operatives, visited the facility and were able to collect the required information in bits and pieces over a prolonged period of time.
            Chinese intelligence closely monitors activities of political dissidents and groups both within and outside China, suspected foreign agents, visitors and scholars visiting China and members of diplomatic missions. Human assets are often placed in vantage positions to cover their activities. In June 1989, Shou Huaqiang, a delegate to the Chinese Alliance for Democracy Convention in California, an anti-China dissident group, publically declared that he was an MSS agent sent to spy on the activities of the Alliance. He alleged that he was forced for the job by MSS officers who made him sign an agreement with instructions to disrupt its work.
Cyber Intelligence:
                     When the rest of the world was busy celebrating the great strides in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the late eighties, the Chinese Strategic Community was busy evaluating its security implications. They realised that they could not allow the revolution in ICT bypass it, lest their modernisation programme come to a naught. At the same time, if allowed free access, it could not escape its concomitant adverse fallouts. The American military successes during the Gulf War during 1990s shook them and made them realise formidable capabilities of war machine supported by the informatics. Internally, in the wake of people’s uprising culminating in Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, there were apprehensions about internal security if people were allowed unchecked access to the outside world through internet. By 1996, the number of internet users in China had touched the figure of 2 million, which was fraught with danger. The ‘bourgeoisie’ influence through the internet posed a threat to the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing Patriotic Education Campaign launched in early nineties. These developments led China to embark on an ambitious programme of acquiring cyber dominance, both in offensive and defensive modes. It became evident by 2008 that Chinese intelligence had made remarkable strides in this direction on both fronts.
                     While there is no direct evidence to prove culpability of Chinese intelligence undertaking covert cyber intelligence operations abroad, there is ample circumstantial evidence to infer that. Besides reliable intelligence inputs, tracing large number of cyber attacks to servers in China, technological sophistication of cyber attacks, resources required to carry out the operations at global scale, selection of targets, type of information accessed and long history of Chinese intelligence for science and technology thefts strongly point towards state  involvement.[11] Many instances of cyber attacks on countries like the US, Canada, Japan and India have been tracked to China. There are strong pointers to infer that China is indulging in large scale cyber espionage using an army of hackers, drawn from military, intelligence, cyber professionals etc. As an intelligence activity, it has enabled China to penetrate classified domains of target countries to extract technological and systems information and collect military and security related information about programmes and activities of the countries on its intelligence radar. On the internal security front, it is being used to contain and counter liberal and democratic ideas of political dissidents. However, there is little information to assess China’s ability to validate and analyse the colossal data collected by it both internally and externally.
                     The Gulf War, in addition to highlighting the potential of information and communication technology (ICT), also made the Chinese aware of the heavy dependence of Western military systems on these state of the art technologies and attendant vulnerabilities. They saw in it an opportunity of developing asymmetric capabilities which could defeat advanced technical capabilities through counter-electronic systems.
                     Col Ling Qiu and Col Wang Xiangusi in 1998 in their book ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ conceptualised how huge US combat superiority emanating from its IT edge could be transformed into their vulnerability. It was a doctrinal shift for preparing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to fight under informationised conditions. According to Nigel Inkster, “the PLA is pursuing a highly ambitious cyber-warfare agenda that aims to link all service branches via a common ICT platform capable of being accessed at multiple levels of command and has created three new departments of Informatisation, Strategic Planning and Training to bring this agenda into being.”[12]
                     Though late to enter the internet domain, China took giant strides, both in development of hardware and software on one hand and training people on the other, that made up for the lost time. The first indications of Chinese capabilities started trickling in the early years of the last decade when hackers broke into US official networks to steal sensitive information which US investigators code-named as ‘Titan Rain’. Nathan Thornburgh writing in the Time Magazine said that the targets included US military establishments, NASA, the World Bank, etc Similar attempts were reported from United Kingdom, Germany and New Zealand during 2006-07 detailing cyber attacks that had emanated from China. Mandiant, an American firm dealing with information security, reported that PLA Unit 61398, one amongst many such units, was responsible for the cyber attacks on more than 140 companies the world over since 2006. In 2009, University of Toronto’s Information Warfare Monitor Citizen came out with its so-called ‘Ghost Net” report detailing intrusion by Chinese hackers into the network system of Indian security establishment and offices of Dalai Lama’s secretariat.[13] Though rejected by the Chinese, it was a well researched and accessed professional report which concluded that the cyber operations were being conducted by the “2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s (GSD) 3rd Department”.[14]
                     The Chinese have been systematically recruiting and training a pool of cyber professionals to undertake these tasks. In 2005, hacker competitions were held at the regional and provincial levels in China for hiring computer network operators. In 2007-08, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), internal intelligence cum security outfit advertised job vacancies for hackers under the cover name of computer operators. According to a report in Asia Times of Feb 9, 2010, Chinese embassies were contacting Chinese IT graduates in different foreign universities purportedly for jobs in public security departments but essentially for computer network operations.[15]
                     China’s cyber capabilities are not only confined to military combat needs, espionage and internal security. Economic and Technical intelligence, that have figured high in its national priorities, are also being served through cyber warfare. In target countries, computer networks containing classified data pertaining to trade secrets or denied technologies are being accessed. According to a report of the Office of National Counter Intelligence Executive submitted to US Congress in 2011, US networks were facing Chinese onslaught for trade information, communication technology, data pertaining to scarce natural resources and civilian technologies in energy and health sectors.[16] Accessing critical defence technologies is more alarming. A recent report published in the Washington Post points out that Chinese hackers have broken into several defence production firms involved in the manufacturing of critical military hardware including the Patriot missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, as also vital combat aircraft and ships like the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship. The report submitted to the Pentagon by the Defense Science Board underlines the enormity of the Chinese cyber-espionage activities and investment of effort to overcome the US military advantage.[17]  One illustrative case is of US company AMSC, specializing in wind turbine manufacturing, having lost its centre software code to the Chinese hackers. This theft led to the company losing 80 % of its revenues. Similar was the experience of Nortel, Canadian Telecommunication giant that went into bankruptcy. Brian, its former security adviser in an interview to CBC on October 11, 2012 said that, “Huawei spent years hacking into Nortel’s system and stealing information so it could compete with Nortel on world markets and added that, “These kind of things are not done just by average hackers. I believe these are nation state activities”.[18] A disclosure was made by Daily Mail in March 2012 that Chinese hackers were able to find “full access” to NASA computers containing information about 13 spacecrafts. It is believed by experts that it helped the Chinese in their quest for outer space utilization programme. Similar evidence of Chinese efforts to beef up its cyber warfare capabilities came to light in 2011 when McAfee, an American cyber security company brought out its White Paper, code named ‘Operation Shady Rat’. McAfee reported about the attacks, some of them raging for as long as five years targeting 70 government and private agencies in different parts of the world. Forty nine of these were US based networks while others were located in Taiwan, India, UK, South Korea, etc. Through these digital storms, the Chinese have also been undertaking ‘Spear-Phishing’ operations that involves sending innocuous e mails to targeted individuals, websites etc and to extract stored data from the computers. Through a detailed and carefully researched trade craft, high potential targets are selected, artificial identities created, and malware messages routed through multiple destinations that are often difficult to trace. A report brought out by the Northrop Grumman in 2009 geographically detailed the modus operandi used first to breach and then to ‘exploit’ [19]
                     Information about what is the cyber intelligence infrastructure, who controls it, how the key intelligence needs are identified, what is the co-ordination mechanism, how the data is validated and integrated to convert information into usable intelligence are still grey, if not black, areas. Going by the scale of activity and swathe of their operational targets, it presents a highly confusing picture. It is believed that 3/PLA has the highest technological capabilities at least to gain covert entry into targeted domains and access the data. However, except for information of military value, its capability to process other inputs are seriously doubted. The co-ordination mechanism available with the MSS also appears to be inadequate and while the relationship between MSS and MPS, uncomfortable though, is known to some extent, the working mechanism of 3/PLA with other intelligence outfits is a matter of speculation.
Intelligence in Internal Security:
                        To make a holistic assessment of what the Chinese call Comprehensive National Power (CNP), it is essential to evaluate its internal stability and political dynamics and the role intelligence services play in this arena. It assumes special import as with the opening of China and its modernisation programme, the Chinese are finding it increasingly difficult to keep a lid over internal dissidence. Murray Scot Tanner in his ‘Cracks in the Wall: China’s Eroding Coercive State’ as back as 2001, observed that, “Beijing’s control over the coercive system, as well as that system’s capacity to maintain social control appears to be slipping”. Since then, the internal security landscape has further deteriorated. There have been well over one hundred thousand incidents of mass protests and agitations in 2012. Large scale visits of Chinese, particularly the students abroad, access to internet and mobile phones, activities of pro-democracy groups and economic affluence have raised the threshold of political awareness. The situation in Tibet has become precarious, particularly after the Olympic Games in 2008. Besides, a large number of protests and agitations, there have been over a hundred cases of self immolation by Tibetans since the Olympics. The rise of Islamic radicalism and violence in Xinjiang is another cause of serious concern. The Tiananmen Square massacre still looms large on the psyche of the people and have accentuated Chinese fears of internal destabilisation which they attribute to conspiratorial counter-revolutionary forces propped up by external enemies. The anxiety was discernible when in the year 2011, the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in a public address, stated that We have not yet fundamentally solved a number of issues that the masses feel strongly about”. The Jasmine Revolution in 2011 further shook the Chinese administration and they hiked their budget for internal security, reportedly, to $95 billion in 2011 and $111 billion in 2012. It is significant that notwithstanding China’s massive military modernisation programme, the internal security budget ranks above the defence budget.
                     China’s internal intelligence apparatus is much more complex and multilayered; with both the party and state having overlapping roles. Department one of MSS, the premier national intelligence agency, handles ‘homeland security’ while its department six and nine deal with ‘counter espionage’ and ‘counter defection and counter surveillance’ respectively.
The Indian Experience:
                     The Indian experience of Chinese intelligence dates back to early fifties when its intelligence apparatus started operating in Tibet. It assisted both the CCP and the PLA in degrading Dalai Lama’s regime and consolidating its position in Tibet, politically and militarily. Dalai Lama was eventually coerced to sign the 1951 agreement. Extensive reconnaissance of the areas bordering India was done and construction of national highway 219 was undertaken through Aksai Chin connecting Lhasa in Tibet to Xinjiang. The Indian intelligence, though reporting about Chinese activities in Tibet for quite many years to a government that was not listening, had physical confrontation with the Chinese, when on November 21, 1959, Karam Singh, a Deputy Central Intelligence Officer (DCIO) of the Intelligence Bureau was killed at Kongka La (Hot Springs) in Ladakh.[20] The years that followed saw intensified Chinese intelligence activities mainly undertaken by the PLA and party apparatus in Tibet.
                     Following the exodus of over 80,000 Tibetans, led by the Dalai Lama, in 1959 to India and a deep sense of fear that, his influence over the Tibetans created in Chinese minds, coverage of Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees in India became a high priority item for Chinese intelligence. Ethnic Tibetans are regularly recruited and infiltrated into India, mostly through Nepal, to cover the activities of the Dalai Lama. Arrest of Pema Tsering, a former PLA combatant, on May 23, 2013 from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh for spying is one of the recently reported cases. He infiltrated into India a few years back, acquired an Indian voter ID card in 2011 and was masquerading as a Tibetan refugee.[21]
                     Intelligence coverage through diplomatic staff has remained in vogue all through and got intensified particularly after 1959. Even during Den Xiaoping’s regime when this practice was discouraged, use of legal cover for intelligence operations in India remained unabated. In some instances, Chinese nationals from mainland China with illegal cover are sent to India for coverage of political intelligence, establishing contact with the insurgent and extremist groups and collecting defence related intelligence. One of the illustrative case is of Wang Qing, a young Chinese lady who operated in India using different covers before she was arrested in Dimapur (Nagaland) on January 18, 2011. She flew to Kolkata from Kunming on a tourist visa as an executive of a Chinese timber company, and visited Nagaland where she held a four hour long secret meeting with Naga insurgent leader T Muivah. She was deported and a protest note was sent by the Indian government to the Chinese embassy.
                     Chinese intelligence has also been active in supporting North-eastern insurgent groups and providing them with weapons, training and financial support. Coinciding with the Cultural Revolution at home, the first group of Naga insurgents, comprising 300 strong Naga rebels, led by Muivah and Isak Swu were imparted military and ideological training in Yunan in 1966 and sent to India with a consignment of arms. This trend continues till today with Chinese assisting the Assamese, Manipuri and other rebels besides Left-Wing extremists.[22] One of the recent cases of Chinese support to Indian insurgents was revealed during questioning of Anthony Shimray, who after his return from China in 2010 was arrested in Nepal. He was assured supply of 1,800 pieces of arms that included AK series rifles, M 16 rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. The shipment was to be loaded from a port in Beihei in China and sent to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh via a shipping agent based in Bangkok.[23]
                     One of the marked features of China’s intelligence activity in India is its close relationship with Pakistan’s ISI. Besides, their close strategic relationship, the advantages enjoyed by Pakistanis in respect of language, appearance, well entrenched local networks account for the special relationship. This cooperation started way back in mid sixties with Dhaka as the operational hub where Chinese and Pakistani intelligence officers first established contacts with the North Eastern insurgents together. With the deepening of this relationship, it got extended to other areas of common interest. Daily Mail (UK) in its report dated September 30, 2012 observed that, “Chinese agencies are financing and providing assistance to Pakistan’s ISI to keep insurgent groups active in the North East.[24] However, with Chinese intelligence coming of age, there are indications that it is now launching independent operations.
                     In last six decades, starting from a primitive party apparatus, Chinese intelligence has attained new heights and capabilities. Its intelligence apparatus is highly complex and intricately intertwined between party and the government, internal and external, civilian and military et al with parallel roots of command, control and reporting etc. All this has led to large degrees of duplication and redundancy. Though over the years, governmental machinery has taken control of large segments of intelligence activity, the party apparatus continues to reign supreme. Deeply concerned about internal security, all its intelligence agencies have a marked internal intelligence or counter-intelligence role. The PLA, over the years, has upgraded its intelligence capabilities at tactical, technological and strategic levels, particularly in Asia Pacific Region, South Asia and Central Asia. It has built an extensive technical and signal intelligence infrastructure, and its electronic intelligence capabilities have been considerably augmented by cyberspace and space based platforms. The MSS has evolved itself as the premier foreign intelligence agency and besides diplomatic intelligence, it has been aggressively hunting for technological data and systems information to augment national economic and military capabilities. It continues to bank heavily on Chinese global diaspora that provides it a vast catchment area for human assets for intelligence gathering and espionage. To widen its catchment area, it is expanding its illegal cover for intelligence gathering by using commercial companies and business houses, media agencies, Chinese banks etc. Establishment of nearly 380 Confucius Institutes in 180 countries, Chinese language institutes etc. also are part of its foreign intelligence activities. China envisions for itself a big power role and, silently but steadily, is building up its intelligence capabilities commensurate to that vision.

[1] Ministry of State Security, Intelligence Resource Program, Federation of American Scientists, accessed online at http://www.fas.org/irp/world/china/mss/history.htm

[2] Bill Gertz, Inside the Ring: Terrorists’ Antics, The Washington Times, May 16, 2012, accesed at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/16/inside-the-ring-terrorists-antics/?page=all
[3] Ibid (3) above
[6] Ibid (5) above
[7] Nicholas Eftimiade, Chinese Intelligence Operations, 1994.
[8] ibid (8) above
[9] Ibid (8) above
[10] Mark A. Stokes, Jenny Lin and L.C. Russell Hsiao, The Chinese People’s
Liberation Army Signals Intelligence and Cyber Reconnaissance Infrastructure, Project 2049 Institute, November 11, 2011
[11] Many instances of cyber attacks on countries like the US, Canada, Japan and India have been tracked to China. On the internal security front it is being used to contain and counter liberal and democratic ideas of political dissidents.
[12] Nigel Inkster (2010): China in Cyberspace, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 52:4, 55-56, IISS
[13] Tracking Ghost net: Investigating a cyber espionage network, Information Warfare Monitor, March  29, 2009. accessed at http://www.infowar.monitor.net/ghostnet
[14] Mandiant report, accessed at http://intelreport.mandiant.com/
[15] Willy Lamb, “Beijing beefs up Cyber Warfare capacity”, Asia Times, Feb 9, 2010
[16] Foreign spies stealing US economic secrets in cyberspace – Report submitted to Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, accessed at http:// www.ncix.gov/publication/reports/fecie_all/

[17] Ellen Nakashima, ‘Confidential report lists US weapons system designs compromised by Chinese cyberspies. The Washington Post, May 28, 2013, accessed at

[18] CBC News, Oct 11, 2012, ‘Former Nortel executive warms against working with Huawei’, accessed at
[19] Ibid (13) above.
[20] Ram Pradhan, Debacle to revival: Y.B. Chavan as Defence Minister, 1962-65.
[22] N Manoharan, China’s Involvement in India’s Internal Security Threats: An Analytical Appraisal, Vivekanda International Foundation, 2012, accessed at
[23] Is China backing Indian Insurgents, The Diplomat, January 22, 2011, accessed at http://thediplomat.com/2011/03/22/is-china-backing-indian-insurgents/