India’s intelligence agencies

India has a variety of intelligence agencies.  Though not in the same league as the USA which has hundreds of agencies, there were many I had never heard of until I made a concerted effort to check for them.  What is more disturbing is that none of these have been set up by any law.  Most of them are completely free of any oversight by Parliament.  This in itself has serious implications.

Listed below are the main intelligence agencies operating in India:

Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)

The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the government of India analyzes intelligence data from the Intelligence Bureau and the RAW, Directorate of Military Intelligence, Directorate of Naval Intelligence, Directorate of Air Intelligence. JIC has its own secretariat that is under the Cabinet Secretariat.

Research and Analysis Wing [RAW]

The Cabinet Secretariat Research and Analysis Wing [RAW], India’s most powerful intelligence agency, is India’s external intelligence agency. RAW has become an effective instrument of India’s national power, and has assumed a significant role in formulating India’s domestic and foreign policies.

Intelligence Bureau (IB)

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is the Indian government’s domestic intelligence agency, and reputedly the world’s oldest intelligence agency. It is rather difficult to ascertain what the IB does, since its operations are outside the purview of audit or inquiry. In addition to domestic intelligence responsibilities, the IB is particularly tasked with intelligence collection in border areas, following the 1951 recommendations of the Himmatsinhji Committee (also known as the North and North-East Border Committee), a task entrusted to military intelligence organizations prior to independence in 1947. The IB was also tasked with other external intelligence responsibilities as of 1951.

Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)

The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was created in March 2002. The new agency combines the intelligence networks of all three armed services of India (Army, Navy, and Air Force) and is the product of long-standing demands by the armed forces for such an organization and the recommendation of the Group of Ministers’s report investigating the intelligence failures leading to the Kargil incident of 1999.

Joint Cipher Bureau

The inter-services Joint Cipher Bureau has primary responsibility for cryptology and SIGINT, providing coordination and direction to the other military service organisations with similar mission. Most current equipment providing tactical intelligence is of Russian origin, including specialised direction finding and monitoring equipment.

Economic Intelligence Council

In order to facilitate coordination amongst the Enforcement Agencies dealing with economic offences and ensure operational coordination amongst them, a two tier system has been established by the Government of India with an Economic Intelligence Council at the Centre under the Chairmanship of Union Minister Finance, and 18 Regional Economic Intelligence Committees at different places in India.

Central Economic Intelligence Bureau

It is well recognised that the evasion of one tax usually entails evasion of other taxes as well. For the purpose of effective information gathering, collation and dissemination, a close co-ordination between the Agencies enforcing different tax laws is essential.

Hence, the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau was set up with the intention of creating a body which would coordinate and strengthen the intelligence gathering activities as well as investigative efforts of all the Agencies which enforce economic laws.

Army Directorate of Military Intelligence

India’s military intelligence traces its origins to the appointment in 1885 of Maj. Gen. Sir Charles MacGregor as head of the Intelligence Department of the British Indian Army. Headquartered in Simla, the Department was primarily tasked collection and analysis of intelligence relating to Russian troop dispositions in Central Asia. The departure of the British in 1947 marked the low point, as the British left behind very little in the way of assets or infractructure for the Intelligence Corps of the newly independent India.

Through the 1960s Military Intelligence was largely focused on field security services rather than external intelligence collection. Responsibilities primarily consisted of policing the army, rooting out corruption and misuse of facilities and equipment by Army personnel. Subsequently the increasing deployment of Army units in support of civil authorities has led Military Intelligence to focus on counter-insurgency operations.

Special Security Bureau

The Special Security Bureau is unique, as it is both an intelligence agency and also a specialized commando organization for behind enemy line operations. Its strength is currently about two battalions.

Directorate of Air Intelligence

Air Force intelligence responsibilities include imagery intelligence collection MiG-25R and Jaguar recconnaissance aircraft. During the 1971 war with Pakistan, Russian satellite imagery provided India with information on Chinese force deployments. And with advances in the Indian space program, the Indian Air Force will be acquiring independent space-based imagery intelligence capabilities.

Naval Intelligence

The Navy Directorate of Signal Intelligence can intercept signals by means of communication equipment. Intercepts are routed through the Director of Naval Operations/Director of Naval Signals as part of operational tasking.

3 thoughts on “India’s intelligence agencies

  1. Hi Anirudh,

    Excellent post. You might find this speech by the home minister interesting:

    I am copy pasting a para from the same.

    “The present architecture consists of political, administrative, intelligence and enforcement elements. At the political level, there is the Cabinet Committee on Security. The administrative element is the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Prime Minister’s office and the Cabinet Secretariat. The intelligence elements are spread over different ministries: there is the Intelligence Bureau which reports to the Home Minister; there is the Research and Analysis Wing which falls under the Cabinet Secretariat and, hence, reports to the Prime Minister; there are organisations such as Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and Aviation Research Centre (ARC) which report to the National Security Adviser; and there is the National Security Council Secretariat under the NSA which serves the National Security Council. The armed forces have their own intelligence agencies, one each under the Army, Navy and Air Force and an umbrella body called the Defence Intelligence Agency. There are other agencies which specialise in financial intelligence. These are the Directorates in the Income Tax, Customs and Central Excise departments, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Enforcement Directorate. The enforcement element of this architecture consists of the central para-military forces such as CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP, Assam Rifles, SSB and the NSG. What will strike any observer is that there is no single authority to which these organisations report and there is no single or unified command which can issue directions to these agencies and bodies.”


  2. If all the intelligence is concentrated in one hand, it is expected to be abused and who can maintain checks and balances and at the same time, it would not be safe for different persons handle the intelligence. However, it is expected to have a situation developed (example of recent terrorism and after 9/11 but not allowed to develop 26th Nov.) to decide based on merits of the case in public interest. Hence it may be necessary to have as many intelligence agencies controlled by different organs of govt. that should strictly be confidential and in no case allowed to be mis-used and abused at any level. In the present day context, intellience on terrorism, communcal clashes, separatist tendencies, should be concentrated so that decision need be arrived in right time before something could happen to public.


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