Handguns| Representational image | Victor Moriyama/Bloomberg
Handguns| Representational image | Victor Moriyama/Bloomberg
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After every terrorist attack – whether the Pulwama attack in February 2019 or the Mumbai 26/11 attack – the all-too-familiar question arises about intelligence failure by agencies like the IB and the RAW.

There is no doubt that inadequacies exist within India’s intelligence community, especially in the RAW. Instead of letting them fester and risk national security, the focus should be on reforms that focus on the people that constitute the institution.

Cancel the crash courses

Intelligence operations are human-driven and, therefore, prone to error and inaccuracies. As former RAW chief Vikram Sood points out in his book, ‘The Unending Game’, anticipating the future while judging the present as one continues to remember the past can be quite the task for even the most highly trained agents and analysts. At present, training of new RAW recruits lasts for an approximate period of six months – a period that is grossly insufficient for them to hone the finer skills required for espionage.

This is in stark contrast to the three years spent training by those recruited during the initial years of the agency. It can be argued that the motivation behind the reduced training period was to address the staff shortage faced by the RAW. However, taking recruits through a crash course and expecting them to refine their skills on the job would create an entirely different and possibly more dangerous challenge.

Developing human assets should remain a high priority for the RAW because they are able to convey intent better than any other electronic source of intelligence. Basic training in a paramilitary institute, physically arduous courses in guerrilla warfare and defensive driving are all critical elements of training. But with India’s expanding covert programmes, more skills need to be added to the basket of training offered over an increased period. Currently, the agency lacks talent with area knowledge and advanced language skills, particularly in Arabic, Chinese, Burmese, Sinhala and minor Pakistani languages.

Without language expertise, raising sources overseas is near impossible. This deficiency in language expertise can be overcome by partnering with language schools in the country. In addition, the RAW could sponsor its recruits to undergo advanced language training at institutions. Golf lessons could be re-introduced. It is the one game which helps build up interpersonal skills and competencies that can ultimately lead to beneficial associations.


Also read: RAW needs to become more like CIA, and move away from IAS & IPS


Learning from the best

It can be argued that certain aspects of espionage (such as cultivating a source) cannot be taught, and are instead innate. However, some virtues can be acquired and sharpened through training. Establishing a “research park” similar to the United States, where new hires do unclassified analytical work is worth exploring. Collaborating with academics, industry experts and analysts master critical thinking and analytical writing. The RAW should consider setting up a school that offers on-campus training experience. Retired officers and seasoned veterans could be engaged to train new recruits in the finer skills of espionage during the orientation period.

At Fort Monckton, for instance, new recruits to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI-6) are still taught the art of pistol shooting by retired sergeant-majors. Being trained by senior retired officers with deep expertise in an environment conducive to learning will help the fresh breed of officers to sharpen their skills.

Develop the individual

Training is not and should not be limited to the initial stages of an intelligence officer’s career. RAW officers are trained as analysts and have few managerial responsibilities during the initial stages of their career. As they move up in the hierarchy, the number of managerial activities increase. They should be trained in how to manage and lead people.

AMAN, Israel’s primary military intelligence agency, witnessed positive results after it trained its analysts to act like leaders through various workshops. Lack of proper management training can pose a serious human resource challenge that could damage the functioning of the agency. Having a sufficient number of trained mid-career officers is necessary to sustain an agile agency that is able to meet evolving national security objectives.


Also read: Pulwama attack raises questions on Kashmir’s intelligence and security structure


The perfect intelligence agency

No intelligence agency can be built to perfection. To believe it can be would be naïve. Intelligence failure and attacks cannot be eliminated, but efforts can be made to minimise them. Reform is a constant process driven by the objective of continuous improvement. Reforms and policy suggestions must, therefore, be centred on the people that comprise the agency.

The author is a Policy Analyst at the Geostrategy Programme of The Takshashila Institution. Views are personal.

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21 Comments Share Your Views

21 COMMENTS

  1. Our agency must be put in the continuous changing accordance world,no one agency in the world is perfect but some agency worked and walked with world requirement rapidly.
    We should worked on those students who take interest in foreign languages and international relations instead of UPSC.
    We should be world best agency because we have a enough talent and man power than others.indians sending highest quantity of dollars from foreign in India than others.a lot of Indian speed in the world, We should take immensely benefit from immigrants

  2. There are loopholes in the requirement procedure of R&AW , as they select candidates generally through UPSC (CSE) exam, which all the candidates could not qualify , and also who qualify exam are aged people meanwhile there brain is developed in a particular way , which becomes difficult to alter , beside this , they should go for younger guys , whose minds are still developing , which they can transform in the way of requirement , other , like CIA has a website where students are invited for internship from there they can recruit , if not this , they can go for people who willingly want to join , they can select after interview which is conducted by experts . Like I wanna join agency but I can’t , because CSE is beyond my capabilities and am left with a option after joining army , on deputation , which is very short period of time ,and in future , the face of war will be changed. So no human fight , only cyber war, so urgent steps should be taken .

  3. RAW is mostly depends on IAS,IPS officers for administrative purpose ..the military and para military officers also doing great job ..but the real problem is shortage of sharpened field agents, without having the best soldiers we cnt win battles. The recruitment is not enough.The MOSSAD,CIA,MI6,and former russian intelligence KGB r recruiting and training their field agents on their own methods. But the common thing is their agents r very well trained in espionage ,counter espionage, unarmed combat , all weapons handling training,surveillance, guerilla warfare ,foreign language expertised etc. All the super powers r not only recruiting army personnel also doing direct recruitment of young blood. Neoptism already damaged our spy agency in 70 s & 80 s .so our government should monitor the agencies function regularly. Direct recruitment and full fledged expertised training period will lead us to win the shadow war

  4. Kindly search them at school and university levels and also from NCC and scouts and guides levels as you have ample of talents and time to refine them for multi modalities.

  5. Hello everyone,
    I want to know the procedure of above mentioned crash course to join R&AW. Can anybody help me for the same ?
    Thank you.

  6. Give as the a chance we are ready to serve our country . I am a SPC and a NSS cadet . I am ready to join RAW.
    Barat matha ki jai. 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳

  7. I did some research on R&AW , as I know they recruit candidates from their contacts or it’s like a family business they recruit there relatives , friends etc etc , this must be change and second is corruption this organization is not disclose with public so there is high level of corruption , even public’s can’t imagine so govt must focus on this …..
    And many more things are going inside….

  8. Just to add raw office before the name is not enough. Because real petriotisum is only comes from within it is not cultivated by some mod of training. I just want to ask few questions. Why our officers in Indian defence is eassly trapped by our neighbors intelligence. Why don’t they keep our county first and then use their intellectual against the traper. I think they all are lacking in real love for the county . They joined just to increase corruption and make money in our defence system. Iam stund why SSB failed to detect such candidates while their testing process. I think SSB format to select a officers is also doubtful. There is number of people’s in India who are not interested to putt a word like office before their name. Even they don’t want lakhs of salary but they need chance so that someone trust on them and they will write a new deffination of nation love or patriotism……jai hind

  9. Those here in the comments asking for a chance to get into RAW…Go take UPSC CSE..get into IPS..after a long career there, get inducted to RAW. 😛

  10. Open school recruitment should be started as said by former top officials like Mr jaydev randev.. By going in universities and looking for potential candidates by their knowledge in current affairs and language capabilities in foreign terms.. Just ips and ias and civil services won’t work for the long term

  11. I am merit out candidate for 33SSB and I have knowledge about how RAW functions and we have also conducted programs inorder to check the stability of a person and his views.
    My only aim is to be hidden all time but simultaneously collect information through different sources.
    There is no way to join RAW directly, but if gives a chance I can prove myself.
    JAI HIND

  12. Joining intelligence agency means that person shall have some sort of capacities by birth. Retreaving those qualities and sharpen them for use. Taken into RAW, certainly standards be maintained.
    Only aspect that should not hinder the activity, means, political involvement. I don’t know but be cautious, nation first. Differences, person to person needs to differ then only an analyse facts.

  13. I M READY TO JOIN THE RAW BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW IS IT POSSIBLE

    ANY ROUTE FOR JOINING THE RAW PLEASE TELL ME PLEASE

    THANKS

  14. I want to be a spy… I want one chance to my self… I was trying to join in Indian spy teams … but there’s is no chance … please .. give me one chance

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