Madhur Sharma, Delhi. India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), is a catchword across the Indian subcontinent. The agency has acquired an antagonistic image and gets accused for anything and everything that goes wrong in the subcontinent. This is the case from Nepal to Sri Lanka where the agency is often accused of meddling in their internal affairs. While the agency’s intervention is debated, what is broadly agreed upon is that the agency needs reforms, particularly now when both India and the Indian subcontinent face unprecedented challenges.
The agency needs to reform its ‘recruitment to retire’ process where it may adapt a process similar to the American Central Intelligence Agency, Shibani Mehta wrote for The Print.
Mehta wrote that ‘by adopting a practice similar to the one employed by the CIA, India too can utilise university deans and retired intelligence officers as talent spotters for campus recruitment across Indian universities. These talent spotters can easily identify students who have a flair for foreign languages, are articulate in speech and writing and display strong interpersonal skills. Increasing student engagement by offering internships and asking retired officers to take on teaching assignments will allow intelligence agencies to tap into the university talent pool. Continued engagement with university students will serve a second objective of relaxing the element of secrecy enough to make working at the agency an attractive career option for students.’
Mehta suggested that younger officers would have more time to learn the foreign language and tradecraft, and it would be easier to instill in them a sense of belonging with the agency which remains a challenge with the civil services officers who serve on deputation in the agency. This would not just make the agency leaner and meaner but will also reform its working, as personnel specifically recruited and trained for the agency will serve the purpose better than those who serve there on deputation and join the agency quite late in their career, often in their thirties.
While the Narendra Modi government has revamped the national security infrastructure, it has not been able to ensure holistic reforms in the Indian intelligence agencies, particularly the RAW, which is the need of the hour. It is now the time, experts believe, that the RAW should keep ‘police work’ and ‘intelligence gathering and analysis’ separate like most of the agencies in the world, and having a permanent cadre rather than having civil services officers on deputation should be the first step in this direction. It has also been suggested that the agency should also open up like the American CIA and have a more public and attractive profile where its cadre is young, energetic, and more rooted in the agency, so as to do the job better.