Common enemy

India and Pakistan will benefit from intelligence cooperation against terrorism

Common enemy
Terrorism is a major security concern in India and Pakistan. Both have been victims of vicious acts of terror and have blamed each other. Today, new threats are emerging in this field which are of growing concern to both countries. This article seeks to describe why dialogue between the services of both countries on the issue of terrorism is of vital interest to both countries and spells out an agenda that can realistically be pursued.

India and Pakistan have a history of suffering from and accusing each other of fomenting terrorism. The serious trust deficit between the two countries makes it easy for state and nonstate actors to use terrorism as a policy instrument, or accuse the other of doing so. This makes it all the more urgent and important that both countries find a way to move forward on counterterrorism intelligence cooperation. Negotiators on both sides have seen years of confidence-building effort undone by terrorism.

Dialogue between security and intelligence services on matters of mutual interest is the norm worldwide – even between services of nations that are not entirely on friendly terms – but does not take place between India and Pakistan. In the past, such a dialogue has come to be seen as a ‘favour’ that is extended when the situation is good or improving and withdrawn when it is not. This must change and that the two countries must come to see such dialogue as a means to further vital national interests. A start can be made by working together in at least three fundamental dimensions that can move forward simultaneously.

The first is a general dialogue between the intelligence and security services as to best practices and generic approaches to the terror issue. This can include dialogue over such issues as the respective structures of the security services; the respective legal frameworks which govern activities in this sector; and the nexus between criminal activity and terror in each country (eg linkages between drug trafficking and terrorism). Success stories with regard to control over insurgencies and the subsequent development of counter narratives leading to de-radicalisation can be shared by both the countries for their mutual benefit. Views and practices in the area of de-radicalisation and how narratives can be constructed and promulgated in each country which counter the justification of terror on religious or ideological or any other grounds can also be discussed and shared.
Al Qaeda and ISIS have declared their intention to target South Asia in future, and make no distinction between India and Pakistan

The second area of possible activity concerns two specific areas in dialogue and cooperation that can be pursued: criminal activity which is of concern to both countries; and cooperation in countering the activities of terror groups that both sides regard as dangerous. This dimension may raise the greatest resistance on both sides. One way forward initially would be to focus on activities of persons and organisations that are not seen to be patronised by the other but in whose case at least one of the two countries has meaningful intelligence to contribute that the other may use. For example, emerging groups of religious extremists (such as Al Qaeda and ISIS) have publicly declared their intention to target South Asia in future, and make no distinction between India and Pakistan – they pose a threat to both countries and both countries should be willing to share information about them. As the environment and confidence improves on both sides, the intelligence services can share more and more.

Finally, to help institutionalise dialogue between the security and intelligence services at the Track 1 (official) level the authors of this paper believe that the two sides should develop more regular contacts. Examples of this might include ‘declaring’ the two station chiefs at the respective high commissions and encouraging them to enter into more normal contacts with their host services, as is the norm for declared station chiefs at all embassies around the world, and/or establishing dedicated liaison officers at the respective high ommissions to facilitate exchanges on matters of mutual concern.

Despite their mutual history the countries must learn to share intelligence and cooperate on countering terrorism. Each of them holds the key to peace in the other country. To overcome the trust deficit, they can start slowly with matters in the public domain, like a dialogue on role of intelligence and security services in countering terrorism and gradually move on to the sharing of actionable intelligence on persons and groups involved in terrorism on either side of the border. There is a deeply held view in each country that they can ‘muddle through,’ but this is not good enough anymore. It is hoped that a dialogue between the intelligence and security services may thus contribute to better relations overall, and to the more effective management of crises in the region.

This article is based on a paper written for University of Ottawa and US Institute of Peace’s Intelligence Dialogue initiative, and was adopted in a meeting at Istanbul in October 2014