Relating terrorism with Islam 'downright prejudice': Ansari:
No religion condones terrorism and those attempting to attribute its
origin to Islam display "downright prejudice", Vice President Hamid
Ansari said Tuesday.
Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari Wednesday called for greater
“oversight and accountability” in the operations of the country’s
intelligence agencies, and suggested a standing committee of
parliament on intelligence be set up, like other such committees, to
meet the needs of good governance in a democratic society.
Delivering the Fourth R.N. Kao Memorial Lecture organised by the
Resarch and Intelligence Wing (RAW) of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ansari said although ministerial responsibility to the legislature,
and in turn to the electorate, was an essential element of
democratic governance, exceptions to it pertained to the
“intelligence and security structure of the state”. This had only
executive and political oversight.
He said the present system, though
accepted for so long, did not “meet the requirements of good
governance in an open society” and concerns have been raised over
the scope and extent of the political executive’s supervision as
also the possibility of misuse of these services.
“The shortcomings of the traditional
argument, of leaving intelligence to the oversight of the executive,
became evident in the Report of the Kargil Review Committee” that
went into the intelligence debacle before the Kargil invasion by
Pakistani Army soldiers, Ansari said.
He said given the international models of
“calibrated openness to ensure oversight and accountability” in
advanced democratic societies, “there is no reason why a democratic
system like ours should not have a Standing Committee on
Intelligence that could function on the pattern of other Standing
Committees (in parliament)”.
Since internal and external intelligence
in the Indian system did not report to the same minister, the
possibility of entrusting this work to the Standing Committee on
Home Affairs may not meet the requirement, the vice president said,
throwing open to debate an issue that is likely to find greater
resonance in the political and strategic community in the coming
Ansari also said that, just like in other
democracies like the US and the UK, the “concerned agencies should
make public their mission statement, outlining periodically their
strategic intent, vision, mission, core values and their goals”.
And, in step with the globalised
information architecture, “there is a case for greater openness with
regard to the history of intelligence institutions”, Ansari said.
He said the contention that openness and
public discussion would compromise the secrecy essential for
intelligence needed to re-examined. While operational secrecy was
essential in the functioning of the intelligence services and needed
to be maintained, it was necessary that these services have
“financial and performance accountability” and the proposed Standing
Committee “could fill this void”.
“It could also function as a surrogate
for public opinion and thus facilitate wider acceptance of the
imperatives of a situation,” he said.
Kao, considered the ‘guru’ of the Indian
intelligence community, founded the RAW, the country’s external
intelligence agency. He was close to then prime minister Indira
Gandhi and was described by a British newspaper after his death in
2002 as a philosopher-spymaster. The Indian intelligence community
honours his memory with a lecture every year.