Wednesday, February 2, 2011



I felt sad by the news of February 2 on the death of K.Subrahmanyam, , the strategic affairs analyst, who made us proud of him. He lost no opportunity to educate us and share with us his assessments of how the situation in the world in general and in our region in particular was evolving. One might not have agreed with all his assessments, but they compelled attention. He was one of the rare experts produced by India on the science, art and techniques of National Security Management (NSM).

2. He was not only a great analyst with no confusion in his mind. He was also a very decent human being. He never put on airs. He was easily accessible to everyone who wanted to meet him to discuss anything. He was courageous and polite in expressing his views---- whether to those in power or to others. He never tried to monopolise discussions in meetings. It was a pleasure to see the way he conducted meetings. He let everyone have a say.

3. He wrote profusely and encouraged others to write equally profusely. It was his encouragement that made me take to writing to give the views of an ex- intelligence officer to the reading public. My first article titled "Human Rights & Human Wrongs" was carried by the "Hindustan Times" a few days after I retired on August 31,1994. I wrote it largely on his prodding.

4. Since then, I must have written about 2000 articles on various subjects. He figured on my Article Alert list. I liked to think he read many of them and not infrequently sent his comments. His last comment on one of my articles was a few weeks ago. He said that he had been bed-ridden for nearly two months, but he was getting interesting articles read out to him by his grand-son and dictating his comments to him.

5.Subrahmanyam came to know of me as an intelligence officer in the late 1970s when Morarji Desai was the Prime Minister. I was posted abroad. He was the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). The late N.F.Suntook, the then head of the R&AW, had shown him one of my assessments. After reading it, Subrahmanyam wrote to me that it was one of the best intelligence assessments he had read as the JIC Chairman. I met him for the first time after I returned from my posting.

6. In the early 1980s, he was on board one of the planes of the Indian Airlines that was hijacked to Lahore by some Khalistani terrorists of the Dal Khalsa. There was concern in Delhi that if the Inter-Services Intelligence ISI) came to know of his presence on board the plane, it might detain him and subject him to interrogation since even then it was widely known that he was one of the best informed persons on nuclear-related issues. Fortunately, the ISI apparently did not identify him. Nothing happened. He returned to Delhi from Dubai where the hijacking was terminated by the local authorities.

7. He was a well-wisher of the intelligence community. He strongly believed that India needed a top-rate intelligence set-up. He never hesitated to criticise its inadequacies and never failed to highlight its achievements. As the Chairman of the JIC, he strongly backed the R&AW at a time when it was passing under a cloud after the defeat of Indira Gandhi in the 1977 elections.

8. In 1998, I wrote an article in "The Stateman" explaining why Smt.Sonia Gandhi, because of her foreign origin, should not become the Prime Minister. The Delhi edition of the paper carried it as the second lead story on the first page. The Calcutta edition carried it as the first lead story. I was told by some of my friends in the R&AW that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) went to town with that article and used it for political purposes.

9. In 1999, the Government of Atal Behari Vajpayee, then in power, appointed the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) headed by Subrahmanyam to enquire into the operational conduct of the Kargil war. One of its reported terms of reference was the performance of the intelligence agencies before and during the war. I wrote a number of articles criticising the composition of the KRC. It was my view that an officer from the intelligence community should have been a member of the Committee. I wrote that the KRC report was unfair to the intellgence community because it had no intelligence officer to defend the performance of the agencies. I felt that while the report contained the criticism of the agencies by the Army, it did not reflect the defence of the intelligence community.

10.Many years later, Subrahmanyam sent me a personal message saying that he was keen that I should be a member of the KRC, but decided against it because he was worried that allegations could be made that I was included as a reward for my article regarding Sonia Gandhi. " I didn't want you to be embarrassed by such allegations," he said.

11. Many of us in the intelligence community were unhappy with the KRC report in general and with Subrahmanyam in particular. We felt that he allowed his judgement to be unduly influenced by the unfounded criticism of the agencies by the Army by taking advantage of the absence of any intelligence officer in the KRC. The media went to town claiming that the KRC had held that there was intelligence failure before and during the conflict.

12. Subrahmanyam, in his media interactions after the release of the report, pointed out that the KRC had not used the expression "intelligence failure" in its report. It was a claim by the media which did not correctly reflect the contents of the report, he said.

13.Among those very unhappy with the report was R.N.Kao, the founding father of the R&AW. He wrote a personal letter to Shri Vajpayee conveying his unhappiness. Shri Vajpayee promptly sent for him for a discussion. Subrahmanyam came to know of this later. It did not affect the high esteem in which he always held Kao.

14. The revamping of the intelligence apparatus by the Vajpayee Government on the basis of one of the recommendations in the KRC report was a tribute to the tenacity with which Subrahmanyam kept pressing for it. The creation of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) was largely the result of his ideas. However, one does not know whether they are fulfilling the purposes for which he wanted them.

15.He wanted a top-class National Security Agency (NSA) on the pattern of the NSA of the US to co-ordinate the collection of all technical intelligence.While his idea was readily accepted, there were considerable differences over how it should be set up and what should be its charter.There were bitter turf-battles involving the R&AW on the one side and others on the other. The end result was that the NTRO as it has come up is a strange creature. It is neither an ass nor a donkey nor a mule. Possibly a mix of all the three plus something else.

16. Subrahmanyam felt that if India wanted to be a major power it should have a strong intelligence collection community and a strong intelligence assessment set-up. He was critical in no uncertain terms of the down-grading of the JIC by the Vajpayee Government when it set up the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) towards the end of 1999. He considered the down-grading a retrograde step and made his views known in strong language when he, as the Chairman of the KRC, testified before the Special Task Force for the Revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus headed by Shri G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, set up by the Vajpayee Government in May 2000. I was a member of this Task Force.His tenacity and pressure on this subject ultimately led to the restoration of the full authority of the JIC as an assessment agency in April 2006, when Shri M.K.Narayanan was the National Security Adviser.

17. Subrahmanyam was a strong critic of the decision of the Vajpayee Government to combine the posts of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the National Security Adviser (NSA). He strongly argued in private as well as in public that national security management would suffer if it did not enjoy the undivided attention of a single individual dealing exclusively with national security. He repeatedly called for the separation of the two posts, but his idea was not accepted by the Vajpayee Government. It was only in 2004 after Dr.Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister that his idea was accepted and the two posts were separated.

18.He took keen interest in the revamping of the national security management system. Some of his ideas were accepted and some had no takers. Among his long-held ideas which he could not push through during his life-time were the need for a National Intelligence Adviser or Director, National Intelligence, to supervise and co-ordinate the functioning of all intelligence agencies and the need for the early creation of a post of Chief of the Defence Staff. The idea for a National Intelligence Adviser or Director, National Intelligence, has had no support either from the intelligence community or the political leadership. The idea for a Chief of the Defence Staff has had wide professional support, but there seemed to be some reluctance at the political level partly due to a lack of unanimity at the senior levels of the Armed Force as to the need for this post and how to implement the idea.

19.Subrahmanyam often highlighted the poor quality of the area studies capabilities that India has been able to create since its independence. He felt that area studies by non-Governmental institutions and experts did not receive the attention they deserved. He often pointed out the unsatisfactory nature of our area studies capabilities even in respect of Pakistan and China. An idea of his that was readily accepted, but tardily implemented was the importance of having a National Defence University (NDU). Under the Vajpayee Government, he himself led a team of experts that visited the US and China to study the working of their NDUs and submit its recommendations. I don't know what is the present stage of implementation.

20. I had the honour and privilege of serving under Subrahmanyam as a member of the second NSAB in 2000-2001. I retain precious memories of my association with him. Three points which he repeatedly stressed need to be recalled. Firstly, our study of national security management would remain incomplete and unsatisfactory without a less restricted policy on declassification of past documents. Secondly, the quality of the national debate on national security management would remain poor unless documents such as edited versions of the annual reports of the NSAB were made available to the public. Thirdly, the NSAB would not fully serve the purpose for which it was set up unless serving officers readily accepted the important role which the NSAB could play in national security management and took its reports and recommendations seriously.

21. There can be no better tribute to the memory of Subrahmanyam than for the Government to appoint a group to revisit his ideas---those accepted and implemented, those accepted, but not yet implemented and those not accepted--- and recommend what further action needs to be taken on those ideas. Our national security management will benefit immensely from such an exercise.

22. Subrahmanyam valiantly fought against cancer for nearly 10 years. In October,2009, after coming to know that I had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer of prostate origin, he sent me the following message: “ Cancer is defeatable. I know you well. I have no doubt in my mind that you will defeat it.” ( 3-2-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



Some Indian students---mainly from Andhra Pradesh--- have fallen victims of the Guantanamo Bay mindset of the US authorities which permits them to use demeaning and dehumanizing methods against suspects under investigation or detention in order to prevent them from escaping and to locate them by using the Global Positioning System (GPS) if they manage to escape. We saw the use of such methods against Al Qaeda and other terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba and subsequently against terrorist suspects and Iraqi Prisoners of War in Iraq and then against terrorist suspects arrested in the US. Now, for the first time, these demeaning and dehumanizing methods, which originated from Guantanamo Bay, have been used against some Indian students whose only crime is---if there is any crime--- that they became unwitting accomplices of a university in the State of California which was allegedly making money by helping foreign students get illegal jobs in the US.

2.The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities raided an institution called the Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California, near San Francisco last week reportedly on receipt of information that it was not a university and that it was allegedly a racket for making money by helping foreign boys and girls legally enter the US for the ostensible purpose of studying and then illegally taking up a job after having legally entered the US.

2. The raid reportedly corroborated their suspicion. They found that the majority of the students were from India and that many of them had illegally taken up jobs after formally enrolling themselves in the university. The ICE authorities ordered the closure of the University and initiated enquiries against some of the Indian students on a charge of their illegally taking up jobs after legally entering the US. They were not formally taken into police custody during the investigation. Instead, they were required to wear GPS anklets to make sure that they did not abscond while the investigation against them was incomplete.

3. The GPS device consists of an anklet, which is also called a radio collar and a tracking device attached to the belt of the person who is required to wear it. Through this, the police control room is able to keep track of his or her movements and sound an alarm if the person wearing the anklet goes outside the jurisdiction of the police or immigration post investigating him.

4. According to some sources, this device was initially attached to the ankles of all Al Qaeda and other terrorist suspects detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre to prevent them from escaping. Possibly since 2004, it is being used by law enforcement authorities of some States in the US to prevent persons arrested for common law crimes from escaping or absconding. It is understood that GPS anklets are also used in the UK against child sex suspects, persons repeatedly indulging in domestic violence and habitual offenders.

5. It is not known whether in the US there are any regulations laying down against whom or under what circumstances the GPS anklets could be used or whether it is left to the discretion of individual officers.

6. The US contention that the fixing of the GPS anklets to the person under investigation does not indicate any criminality is not correct. True, it does not indicate any proved criminality, but it does indicate that the person wearing the anklet is under investigation for a criminal offence. It is an act of humiliation against the person made to wear the anklet and it creates a prejudice against him or her in the minds of all those coming into contact with him or her.

7.The contention of the US authorities that the alternative would have been to keep them in police or judicial custody till the investigation is over shows total insensitivity to the feelings and emotions of young students. The police authorities could have retained their passports in order to prevent them from leaving for India while the investigation was on. The real reason for making them wear these anklets seems to be to prevent them from going to another State and taking up a job illegally. This could have been easily prevented by other means not involving humiliation.

8. In India we have strict regulations regarding the use of hand-cuffs and leg chains. Our police does not use them on women, old people and teen-agers. They do not use them in cases of white collar crime either. They use them only against persons who have committed offences involving violence and against whom there are fears that they might to try escape after using violence. The underlining principle of the regulations regarding the use of handcuffs and leg chains is that these should not be used in a manner tending to humiliate the suspect.

9- The Indian students made to wear the anklets have not committed any crime involving violence. They do not have a previous criminal record. There is no evidence that they are prone to using violence. Their alleged offence of taking up an illegal job is a white collar crime which would not come under the category of serious fraud or serious misappropriation of money, for which some justification might have been made for making them wear the anklets.

10. The university might have also had some non-Indian students on its rolls. Some of them might have also taken up jobs illegally. Is there an investigation against them also? Have they also been requited to wear these anklets? If not, one would be justified in suspecting that the Indian students have been targeted in order to prevent future such instances----- considering that Indian students were in large number in the university.

11. The Government of India should take up the matter strongly with the US authorities directly as well as through human rights organizations. (2-2-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )