Indus Source Books, Mumbai

2014, pp.331, Rs.895.

Reviewed by Brig. Suresh C. Sharma (Retd.),

advisor to the telecom industry and a freelance writer.

And member, Advisory Board of Freedom First.


The book is a collection of articles

and papers contributed by Mr. Balachandran, a

distinguished officer of the IPS cadre. He had

served in the Maharashtra Police for 17

years and in the Central foreign Intelligence for 19 years. He had an inside view

of the security and intelligence apparatus.


There is need to collate, coordinate and arbitrate

to build up actionable intelligence from bits of conflicting

reports. Absence of an apex body to carry out the function

of arbitration and policy formation has been responsible

for lapses that resulted in Kargil crisis,assassination of

Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and attack on political

leaders at Rajghat on 2 October 1986.

National Security Council [NSC] was formed in

November 1998 as an apex body but it did not perform

its functions well. During the Kargil crisis, it met only on

8 June 1999, a month after the incursion was confirmed.

Nor did the Joint Intelligence Committee [JIC], recast in

1965, deliver the desired results.

Work suffers due to turf war between various

intelligence agencies. The State Police cannot handle the

increasing traditional and non-traditional threats to security.

This task should be the responsibility of the Central

Government, who need international cooperation to tackle

terrorism, supply of arms and drug running. The author

has given examples of link up between crime and terrorism

which can be dealt with only by cooperation between

Central and State agencies. All attempts to achieve this

change have not been successful due to opposition by

the States. In USA, the NSC is an advisory body and is

staffed by professionals often drawn from outside. In USA,

lateral induction at senior level from outside is often done

even at the senior level in various departments. The

bureaucracy would not let this happen in India.

During the Cold War, the CIA undertook covert

actions as against espionage. This led to wrong

recruitment and promotion policies and quality of

intelligence work suffered. It was preoccupied with the

threat of chemical and biological weapons and ignored

terror groups residing in Pakistan. In India, the Intelligence

Bureau (IB) had inherited the British tradition of watching

the opposition and neglecting external threats.It continued

to consider communists to be the main threat. Indira Gandhi

had to warn the IB about the dangers from the

communalists. RAW is largely staffed by police personnel

on deputation for limited period which is not the ideal

arrangement. Direct recruitment through UPSC has not

given good results either. The difficulty remains unsolved.

Intelligence work has suffered due to lack of

oversight and accountability. The CIA has established a

website for the information of the public. We deny

information to the public in the “public interest”. Reports

of enquiry into major security lapses like the attack on

Taj Hotel remain classified while the recommendations of

the Kargil Enquiry Committee have not been implemented.

Vice- President Ansari made a plea for sharing the

information with the public. He suggested substituting

the phrase “need to know with the phrase “need to share.”

Under pressure from the Western countries, the

Ministry of External Affairs [MEA], attempted to change

India’s policy on the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Intervention by Dr Sethna at the behest of the author and

Kao rectified the situation. The MEA had made a similar

mistake by committing that the Indian communication

satellite launched by NASA would not be used by the

Defence Services. The Space Department was able to get

this commitment cancelled. These two incidents bring out

the dire need for coordination amongst the various

ministries. Shashi Tharoor has suggested the augmenting

of the under-staffed diplomatic service. The difficulty arises

due to our diplomats giving priority to conferences than

to ground realities.

President Sadat of Egypt visited Israel in search

of peace and followed it up with talks in Camp David in

USA. Progress could be possible by compromise on core

issues. This could not have been achieved if the

negotiations had been left to bureaucrats sticking to old

files. Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore was a similar attempt but

it failed due to the Kargil aggression. The author

recommends people to people contact and fostering of

Freedom First December 2014 29

bilateral relations without waiting for a solution of the

Kashmir problem. This approach ignores the vested

interests of the Army and the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan.

In a TV interview on 16 October 2014, Musharraf

openly talked of inciting Kashmiris to revolt and infiltration

by a few hundred thousand Pakistanis. Security experts

view China’s military and economic rise as a threat while

the finance writers predict a China-India century. Those

in charge of national security cannot ignore threats arising

from China’s modernization of its armed forces. In his press

conference on Navy Day, Admiral Joshi, Chief of Naval

Staff, was right to assure the nation about our capability

to protect our interests.

The USA has a similar approach of engagement and

containment. The “containers” want to subvert China

through military and economic pressure while the

“engagers” prefer a détente and hope that democratic

China would adopt a Western style democracy and follow

a peaceful path. A democratic government does not

necessarily give up hostile acts as we have seen in

Pakistan. The governments of Benazir Bhutto and Sharif

continued to follow wrong policies directed against India

and Afghanistan.

Our security experts are concerned about China

establishing a string of pearls around India. It is a step

to ensure safe transit of oil needed by China. Isolated pearls

can be neutralized and should not be a threat as long as

we have adequate military strength to do so. China cannot

be blamed for using its economic power to build close

relations with India’s neighbours. In disregard of national

security, we have been guided by electoral interests in

West Bengal and Tamil Nadu regarding sharing the River

Teesta water with Bangladesh and the issue of Tamils in

Sri Lanka. Visits of former NSA Narayanan, to Colombo

on 24 April 2009 was construed as requesting Colombo

to defer the end game against LTTE till the voting in Tamil

Nadu on 13 May.

The US intelligence agency had knowledge of

Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project but ignored it since USA

had to depend on help from Pakistan for the war in

Afghanistan.For reasons of realpolitik Pakistan continues

to be a preferred partner of the West ignoring Pakistan’s

sponsorship of terror acts. Our diplomats have to

understand the importance of realpolitik. The Western

countries are guided by their own interests and not by

justice for all.

Friendly police committees can be a great help in

promoting peace. The citizens of Bandra, a Mumbai suburb

took commendable steps during the Christmas season to

guard themselves. Delhi police should be accountable to

the Chief Minister who is answerable to the people. Police

reforms have often been talked about but not carried out.

CBI needs to be free of political interference but it would

be dangerous to give it a constitutional status. Why should

even small crimes like murder be made the responsibility

of the CBI? A point missed is the need to restore the

credibility of the Criminal Investigation (CID).

Indira Gandhi was assassinated at about 0920 hours

and confusion prevailed due to absence of a clear

hierarchy. After consultations with all the senior ministers,

Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister [PM]. Even

today, there is no designated hierarchy.The Army could

move in only two battalions by evening and the GOC

insisted on a magistrate accompanying the troops. It has

not been clarified why more troops could not be rushed

to Delhi. The brigade stationed in Delhi was not

deployed,may be, due to the class composition of the units.

There was complete chaos. H D Pillia, DIG [security], had

withdrawn the guards based on intelligence reports. He

was punished and humiliated. None of his seniors who

were party to the withdrawal of guards stood by him.

India is facing armed revolt on economic, religious,

regional and ethnic grounds. The Naxalite movement has

spread to 143 districts. They have improved their weapons,

forged external links and operate like an army. They have

developed a harsh system of collecting revenue from

traders and contractors. Political parties have drawn

mileage from Naxal and communal forces. The political

leadership ignored participation by indigenous elements

in jihads. It suited them to put the blame on Pakistan.

Terrorism is borderless and unpredictable. The State

Governments are not able to take effective action since

training of jihadis, purchase of explosives and location

of terror acts may involve activities in more than one state.

The police and judiciary may get intimidated and give up

too easily. This problem must be tackled by Central forces

and it is so in most of the countries in the world. The

British campaign in Malaya after World War II is a model

for counter-insurgency operations. The Security Forces

had a strength of twenty to one guerrilla and the villages

were cordoned off to deny food to the rebels. A

rehabilitation programme was launched for the rebels who

surrendered. The major task was carried out by the Army.

We have rightly taken the decision not to employ

the Army which should be used only for short periods

as was done for ensuring fair elections in West Bengal in

1971. We did try to isolate the rebels from the villagers in

Mizoram but failed to provide adequate supply of food

to the villagers. They broke the fences and ran away.

Undertaking any measures half way is worse than no action

at all. The Red Army of Japan boarded a plane in Mumbai

to hijack it because of weak security. We all have

experienced the difference between a thorough check of

air passengers at airports at Colombo or Kabul compared

to the patting at Mumbai.

In spite of previous experience of terrorists using

sea transport for entering India, coastal security was

neglected and we witnessed the massacre of a few hundred

people in November 2008. Recently, press reports revealed

that the boats given to the police for patrolling the coastal

waters have remained unutilized due to shortage of funds

for fuel. This is not the complete story. Police are not at

home on the high seas. Nor can effective surveillance be

done by patrolling. As in other countries, this task is best

carried out by relying on the coastal people who have an

intimate knowledge of the sea and people living on the


These are only some of the many issues dealt with

by the author in this book which is a compilation of the

author’s published works and lectured on different facets

of our national security. Additionally the author has

participated in decision making at the highest level on

Intelligence and anti-terrorism policies. He has presented

India’s viewpoints on terror activities at international


The book is a must read for professionals and

students concerned with these issues.