India’s Assertive Intelligence Activities: A Cause for Global Unease?

India's Assertive Intelligence Activities. Protest placard during the UK state visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Image Credits: Guy Corbishley/Alamy

The recent years have witnessed a noticeable uptick in India’s assertive intelligence activities, particularly under the current Modi Administration. This assertive approach, marked by increased surveillance, operations, and information gathering, has raised concerns not only in neighbouring Pakistan but also across the broader international community.

The January 25th, 2024, press conference by Foreign Secretary of Pakistan serves as a stark illustration of such concerns. The statement outlined specific instances of Indian intelligence agencies’ involvement in activities deemed detrimental to Pakistan’s national security, including espionage, infiltration attempts, and support for militant groups. India’s assertive intelligence posture raises broader questions about the implications for the global order, considering the wider repercussions for the South Asian region.

The potential for increased state surveillance, misinformation campaigns, and cyber operations targeting foreign entities cannot be ignored.

Rising Concerns: India’s Assertive Intelligence Activities

Allegations of InterferenceIndia has faced accusations of interference in the internal affairs of other countries, including through covert funding of political parties, influencing elections, and supporting separatist movements. According to a top secret briefing obtained by Global News, a Canadian inquiry into foreign interference in the last two federal elections, identified India as potential actor, recommending enhanced efforts from Ottawa to combat such threats. Similar accusations have been made regarding elections in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Covert Operations and Assassinations

The statement by Pakistan’s MOFA on January 25th, 2024, presented the evidence, including intercepted communications, stating Indian intelligence agency R&AW’s involvement in planning and executing targeted assassinations inside Pakistan. The Canadian Government accused Indian intelligence agents of the assassination of Sikh Canadian activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil. Nijjar was gunned down outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. The Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), was implicated in this case.

Likewise, in September 2023, The Intercept reported on threats to Sikh activists in the U.S. after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned several Sikh Americans about intelligence indicating that their lives were in danger following the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. Former British insiders have indicated that the UK has long monitored Indian intelligence activity within its borders. Khanda Singh, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was mysteriously poisoned in Birmingham. His wife went to court and filed case against Indian Intelligence Agencies for murdering her husband. Accusations have centered around the targeting of nationalist Sikhs and the spreading of anti-Pakistan disinformation.

Increased Surveillance

India has implemented various initiatives that raise concerns about increased surveillance of its own citizens and foreign nationals.

These include the Aadhaar Biometric ID System, the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) data-sharing platform, and the Central Monitoring System (CMS) for internet traffic. While proponents argue such measures enhance national security, critics raise alarm about potential privacy violations and misuse of data by Government and intelligence agencies.

Analysis of the motivations behind India’s assertive intelligence activities entails mulling of various factors: India’s growing ambitions as a regional power and its rivalry with Pakistan and China plays a role in its intelligence activities. The jostling for influence and strategic advantage in the South Asian region leads to aggressive intelligence gathering and covert operations.

The current Indian Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for its Hindu nationalist ideology and use of intelligence agencies to consolidate power, while silencing the dissent.

Also Read: Modi’s Draconian Policies Impacting Sikh Minority

Pakistan perceives India’s assertive intelligence activities as a significant threat, given the historical context of tense relations and ongoing border disputes. These concerns center around several key issues: Accusations of interference in foreign elections, targeted assassinations, and widespread surveillance raise questions about India’s adherence to international law and norms governing state behavior. This includes principles of non-intervention, respect for territorial integrity, and protection of human rights.

These revelations have undoubtedly intensified tensions and raised the international profile of the issue. Whether this marks a turning point remains to be seen, but its potential impact is significant. By presenting concrete evidence, Pakistan has put pressure on India to address the accusations and face international scrutiny. These concerns go beyond individual incidents and point towards broader questions about responsible use of intelligence capabilities, adherence to international norms, and the potential for regional destabilization.

The views shared in this article reflect the author’s personal views and do not necessarily align with the institution’s official stance.

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