The following are a series of seven reforms proposed to eliminate corruption in Indian’s intelligence services, harmonize operations, and establish a system that is self-correcting and self-learning.

1. Establish an Intelligence Fusion Cell that works under the Prime Minister’s Office. One of the major problems in India’s intelligence services is harmonizing internal and external intelligence gathering. “The lack of co-ordination in trans-border operations often resulting in inaccurate, misleading, and alarming reporting continues to be the bane of our intelligence community” (Raman, 97). This coordination center will de-conflict intelligence tasks and collaborate intelligence reports used to inform policy makers. Once IB and RAW each have clearly defined charters, this will become much easier.

2. Establishing formal charters for RAW and IB. “…our intelligence agencies operate without any well-defined charter, much less by way of legal sanction, often poaching on other’s turfs” (Akbar, 118). To solve this problem, both IB and RAW should draft formal charters that clearly define each agency’s task and purpose. An act of parliament should be formed which includes these charters and gives clear and legitimate legal standing for the activities of both organizations.

3. Oversight from Parliament. “There is no oversight worth the name and consequently no accountability” (Akbar, 118). Because IB and RAW are not formal ministries they have no real oversight and are not held accountable by parliament. Like in the United States, IB and RAW officials should have to report to parliament, brief them on operations, and inform them about covert operations after they have taken place.

4. Creation of an Inspector General. “In several countries inspector general, ombudsman, or commissioner posted in each agency who…work independent of the departmental head…” (Akbar, 121). Perhaps the most challenging reform will be breaking IB and RAW’s legacy of corruption and nepotism but this is essential to creating a professional intelligence service which can defend against threats and actively pursue India’s national security interests. An independent Inspector General’s office should be created to investigate RAW and IB corruption.

5. Recruitment. Modern intelligence services recruit personnel directly and, “no notable foreign intelligence service in the world depends on the general bureaucracy or police like us for staffing their positions” (Akbar, 107). IB and RAW should set up a recruitment program to capture the best and the brightest in India for direct recruitment into their agencies. Individuals with special skills in computers, telecommunications, and science should be specifically sought out along with those who have intelligence experience in the police force or the military.

6. Increased funding for modernization. The TechInt sections of both IB and RAW are reported to be severely behind the times. Modern espionage requires not just traditional tradecraft, but advanced capabilities in cyber-warfare, electronic bugging, and signals interception. After a full analysis has been done of both agency’s budgets, funding should be devoted towards this endeavor and the potential for creating a separate agency that specializes specifically in SIGINT should be considered.

7. Declassification and academic review. “Kao liked the US idea of a historical division tremendously. He worried that once those officers of the R&AW and DGS who had played a role in connection with the 1971 war, passed away, the nation would have no authentic first person account” (Raman, 27). India currently needs a system of declassification and a board for academic review of past operations. These positions could be staffed by historians and former intelligence officers who compile accounts and produce valuable lessons learned for current intelligence operatives, which would also inform a larger public discussion about the role of intelligence services in India.


India’s intelligence services have a history of great contrast. While IB and RAW have fielded highly educated, experienced, gentlemen professionals who have had amazing successes from Kashmir to Pakistan to Punjab and Sikkim, they also have had spectacular failures which include a suicidal frontal assault on the Golden Temple and the assassination of a Prime Minister. A culture of corruption and nepotism exists in both IB and RAW. This corruption is not simply a matter of them recruiting bad people, but is clearly related to the very shape of the bureaucracy itself.

When politicians are able to use intelligence services as their personal play thing to be directed against opposition parties and when intelligence operatives have zero accountability to elected representatives, then there can be no doubt that these organizations will eventually rot from within. After each national emergency in India there are calls for intelligence reform, calls that largely go ignored. This is not by accident, but rather by design. When politicians and the heads of agencies and ministries personally and professionally benefit from corruption than there is no incentive for them to reform the system.

True intelligence reform in India will only come when the public demands it. Currently serving and retired IB and RAW officers must also present a united front and stand behind the cause of intelligence reform. The future of democracy in India depends upon reining in India’s intelligence services and ensuring that they serve the people within the confines of India’s laws and constitution.

The alternative, an Indian version of ISI, is too horrifying to consider.

Works Cited

Akbar, A.J. National Security and Intelligence Management. Indus Source Books, 2014. Print.
Dhar, Maloy Krishna. Open Secrets. Manas Publications, 2005. Print.
Doval, Ajit. “Changing Paradigms of National Security-Need to Transform and not Reform Intelligence Apparatus.” Vivekananda International Foundation. 11 May 2014. Web.
Kumara, Kranti. “India’s intelligence bureau and Gujarat police indicted for extrajudicial murders.” 25 July 2013. Web.
Raman, B. The Kao-Boys of R&AW. Lancer Publishers, 2007. Print.
Swami, Praveen. “A raw deal for RAW.” The Hindu. 18 February 2009. Web.
Unnithan, Sandeep. “The league of shadows.” India Today. 31 January 2014. Web.

(Featured Image Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle)