LAST year when the island nation of Sri Lanka was embroiled in a political turmoil with uncertainty over government and governance, a crucial factor was bleeding profusely due to utter neglect of the leadership. Intelligence agencies, the backbone of national security, were at loss with no clear directives or help from the Government that had locked itself into a game of political oneupmanship. The ramifications of such a conundrum were bound to hit Lanka as the tear-shaped country realised on Easter Sunday. After a decade of peace following the annihilation of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), calibrated bombings shattered the nation when it lost over 250 people gathered in churches for Sunday Mass and in top hotels frequented by westerners.
It is a gory price for ignoring crucial intelligence sources. As Lanka gathers pieces of the carnage, the Islamic State (IS) has owned responsibility of the deadly bombings. Initial clues confirm the handiwork of IS in the attacks with the help of radical local terror group National Towheed Jamat (NTJ). Joining of more dots will clear the picture but before that the critical failure of intelligence agencies needs a threadbare autopsy. It is, undoubtedly, a major intelligence failure and the first blame must rest with the agencies involved in pre-empting attacks on national security and sovereignty. But as the outgoing Defence Secretary Mr. Hemasiri Fernando stated before putting his papers, he had forwarded the inputs shared by international intelligence agencies including concrete information by Indian intel sources. This changes the total perspective of the failure behind stopping the attacks and ticks the political class for its inaction. Intel agencies work as the first shield for a country’s security.
The secret services, operatives and their handlers are the first gatherers of plots with incessant activities under shadows and risking their lives for nation. But they need a solid political backing to perform their immensely important duties. They remain the unsung heroes despite astonishing contribution towards our safety. The Lanka bombings bring to fore the importance of having a coordinated comprehension of national security between political leadership and intel agencies.
A slight slip can have disastrous consequences. Unfortunately, for all their good works, the intelligence agencies are measured only in their failures. It is the rule of the game where hundreds of attacks thwarted are weighed against one failed mission. In context of the Lankan massacre, the worth of Indian intelligence agencies stands out. They have kept India safe since the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Barring a few minor incidents, terror targeting has taken place in a few areas in Jammu & Kashmir, which is a totally different ball game even for the intelligence sources given the complexities, social dynamics and presence of hardliners in deep pockets. Being on the same page with the political establishment has helped the services in keeping India safe from major dangers. A largely significant but underrated and unreported fact behind the robust intel network is the contribution of late Mr. Manohar Parrikar when he held the Defence Minister’s portfolio. He went the whole hog in sprucing up India’s secret services within and outside the country. It is acting as the strongest and first shield.