A Comparative Analysis of the Structures and Functions of Intelligence Community in Israel and India

Columnist EJAZ AKRAM gives a detailed analysis of the intelligence capacities of India and Israel


Israel represents one of the most interesting cases in the field of Intelligence Studies for several reasons. Creation of Israel is artificial and a direct result of excellent strategic intelligence and foresight. Due to its precarious geo-strategic position and a self-induced threat environment, it has relied and continues to rely on swift intelligence for its survival. It is a nation that spends the highest proportion of its GNP toward intelligence and it is also one of the biggest consumers of intelligence.

India on the other hand has been a land base political entity for thousands of years and has a history of statehood under various empires and rulers. Most of its boundaries are natural and its strategic location is geographically and historically consolidated. Its resources are plentiful but its threats are more internal than external, at least as compared to Israel. In contemporary India, the external threat environment constitutes Pakistan and China whereas, the internal threat of communal dissension is omnipresent and it constantly looms over the heads of Indian policy makers.

Both Israel and India have to deal with the ‘problem of Islam’ and the Muslims, whose identity and ideology constitute a key threat to the prevalent values in those societies1. Israel is more comfortable with its hostile anti-Islamic posture than India, as the latter posits itself as a secular state in order to accommodate its extremely populous and restive minorities. Both the states and their intelligence services have roots in the British institutions, and the structure and functions of the British intelligence agencies are in many ways the prototype of their organizations. However, the intelligence services of both the states depart from their origin in many interesting ways, which are attributable to geography, culture, resource base and needs.


I. Background: The origin of Israeli intelligence services lies in the underground organizations that were formed to assist Aliya (Jewish immigration to Palestine), during the period of British mandate. In 1884, the Choveve Zion (the lovers of Zion) met in the Prussian city of Pinsk to constitute ideas on the return of the Jews to Palestine. Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State came out in 1896 and in the same year he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland to consider the idea of a Jewish national homeland2. In 1900, under the auspices of the fourth Zionist Congress, the Jewish National Fund was created whose task was to purchase land in Palestine3. Upon the defeat of the Ottoman Empire with the Arab help, the British promised independence to the Palestinians. On the other hand, the British in 1917 issued the Balfour Declaration and pledged for the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in the land of Palestine, which later in 1922, was granted to Britain as a “mandate” by the League of Nations.

The Pre-1948 Waves of Jewish Immigration: The first Aliya took place from 1882-1904 and the second one from 1904-1914, both of which derived support from the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Colonial Trust and the Jewish National Fund4. During the British mandate, the Zionist underground resistance force, Haganah, had as its information arm, an organization known as Sherut Yedioth. The Sherut later came to be known as SHAI which began its worldwide operations in 1929 until an independent Israel was created in 1948 5. Its task was to collect political intelligence for the sake of Zionist propaganda and to infiltrate the anti-Zionist and extremist groups in Palestine as well as the neighbouring Arab countries6.

Two routes of immigration were open to the Jews to emigrate from Europe, one legal and the other illegal. The legal immigration was allowed by the British but the numbers were small. Between 1939-1944, Britain allowed 75,000 Jews to enter Palestine legally and after that, if it allowed more Jews to immigrate, it would do so only with the Arab consent. The Jewish agency that came into being due to the need for illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine was the Mossad le Aliyah Bet7. This institution at that point incorporated ten people who worked in six countries: Switzerland, Austria, France, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. And it was the duty of these agents to make false passports, arrange escape routes and charter ships to take illegal immigrants to Palestine without being detected by the British authorities8.

Another pre-independence agency that formed the executing arm of the Haganah was Palmach which was military in character, whereas another organization Rekhesh was involved in covert operations and arms smuggling for the underground Jewish forces that had infiltrated the Arab townships9.

The post-1948 agencies: After becoming an independent state the SHAI was disbanded in favour of IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). Its political department was responsible to collect intelligence worldwide. Sherut Bitachon Klali was formed as a general security service for the sake of internal security and counter-espionage, also known as SHABAK or Shin Beth in Hebrew10.

In 1951, Ben-Gurion initiated the Central Institute for Intelligence and Special Duties (Mossad Letafkidim Meouychadim) commonly known as Mossad. Its initial function was to assess operation feasibility of military intelligence and nomination of targets, but after the creation of Military intelligence Agaf Modiin (AMAN) in 1953, it became independent of the Military Intelligence. In 1960, when Shimon Peres was in the ministry of defence, LEKEM (the Bureau of Scientific Relations) was instituted to collect scientific and technical intelligence for technological development, specially in relation to the weapon systems11.


II. The Overall Structure of Israeli Intelligence Services:

With the exception of Mossad and Shin Beth, the overall structure of Israeli intelligence services can be understood as a confederation12. The Israeli case displays a confederation structure at a tertiary level. In the sense that the MI is accountable to the director of military intelligence, who reports to the chief of staff, who in turn is responsible to the Minister of Defence. This bureaucratic chain of command is peculiar in a Confederation-type intelligence organization as in the case of UK. Similarly the Research and Political Handling Center through its own director is accountable to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whereas the Special Division links up to the IG of National Police through the investigation department. And the IG, through the Ministry of Interior reports to the Prime Minister.

It is interesting to note that the Advisers on Intelligence and Anti-terrorism on one hand and the Advisers on Political and Military Matters on the other hand are directly linked with the Prime Minister, with each other and also with the Director General of Foreign Ministry and the Director of MI (See below, Figure 1):

(Source: Foreign Intelligence Organizations, Richelson.)

Adviser on Intelligence  PRIME MINISTER Advisers on Political Matters
Adviser on Anti-Terrorism Adviser on Military   Matters
Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister of  Interior Minister of Defence
Director General Chief of Staff
Inspector General of National Police Director of Mossad (Chairman of Va’adat) MI Dir of MI
Chief Research & Political Handling Center
Investigation Department MOSSAD
Special Division

The organization of Mossad and Shin Beth is a centralized one with no intermediate layer of accountability between the Directors of Mossad, Shin Beth and the Prime Minister.

The Internal Structure of Mossad: The Mossad is based in Tel Aviv with recently estimated number of about 1,200 personnel and until lately, the identity of the Mossad director was a state secret13. Mossad has a total of eight departments. The director oversees, the Research, Technology and Technical Operations Departments. The director also chaperons Operation Planning and Coordination, Manpower Finance Logistics and Security, Training, Collection and Political Action, and Liaison. The latter two conduct single or multiple stations in Central America, South America, Eastern Europe/USSR, Africa, Asia and Ocean, Mediterranean and the Middle East, Europe and North America. Under the Political Action and Liaison Department is known to exist the Special Operations Division which runs highly sensitive covert operations 14. (See Figure No. 2)


(Organization of the Mossad (1971). Source: Foreign Intelligence Organizations; Jefferey Richelson)


Research Technology Technical Operations
Dir. Collection Director Political Action & Liaison Cent. America Director Training Director Manpower, Finance Logistics & Security Director Operational Planning & Coordination

South America Special Operations Divisions

Eastern Europe/ USSR


Asia & Oceana

Mediterranean & the Near East


North America

Intelligence is direction of Field Security Units, Territorial Command Combat Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence and Naval Intelligence15.

Lastly, the General Security Service of Israel is known as Shin Beth, which is primarily responsible for counter-espionage and internal security. Shin Beth is organized into eight operational and functional departments: Arab Affairs, Non-Arab Affairs, Protective Security, Operational Support, Technology, Interrogation and Legal Counsel, Coordination and Planning, and Administration16. The first three constitute the operational division and the rest, Support Divisions. Although there is a deputy director’s office, all of the other departments are also directly responsible to the director.

Coordination of the Israeli Management Structure: The pivotal faculty of Intelligence Community in Israel is known as the Va’adat Rashei Hasherutim or simply Va’adat. The Va’adat consists of the directors of Mossad, AMAN, Shin Beth and IG Police.

It also includes the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director of the Research and Political Planning Center and the anti-terrorist advisers of the Prime Minister, political and military17 both. All the members of Va’adat are supposedly at parity, however, in terms of importance and power, the director of AMAN is known to eclipse the director of Mossad18.


1. Functions of Mossad: Mossad’s essential functions are: human intelligence collection, covert action and counter terrorism. Its primary focus is to do clandestine operations against the Arab countries as well as against other organizations throughout the world19. The Mossad collects information on the leadership, disposition, morale and armaments of the Arab Military forces20. Mossad monitors the Arab commercial activity in relation to weapons acquisition and attempts to sabotage the Arab states’ recruitment of military, economic and political experts 21.

Although exact functional detail remains somewhat abstruse, the largest of the departments with responsibility for most espionage operations is the Department of Collections. The Political Action and Liaison Department is responsible for liaison with friendly states, as well as those states that do not have any diplomatic ties with Israel22. Israeli liaison and manoeuvring between friendly and non-friendly states is amazingly professional.

It exchanges intelligence information not only with countries like the US with whom it has formal ties, but also with states as diverse as Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and India. It provided Pakistan some information on India that was obtained by the Israeli agent in the US, Jonathan Jay Pollard, in return for some strategic information about some other countries. At the same time Israel exchanged information with India about the Pakistan’s endeavours to construct the atom bomb 23.

The Special Operations Division or Metsada conducts highly sensitive assassinations, engages in sabotage, paramilitary operations and psychological warfare projects24. Among the least violent functions of Mossad is its liaison, propaganda and training25. About 10 Israeli agents trained nearly one hundred Sri Lankans in intelligence tactics in order to combat the Tamil Separatists in Northern Sri Lanka26. Among the more violent functions of Mossad are kidnapping and assassinations. Colonel Mustapha Hafez, an Egyptian intelligence officer was killed by Mossad as he was considered a key element in the organization of the Palestinians27. In 1972, in Munich, Germany the Black September faction of PLO kidnapped and subsequently killed ten Israeli athletes in an attempt to recover two hundred Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. This started the most extensive set of assassinations undertaken by the Mossad. The Mossad set up a special unit called the Wrath of God to carry out this operation which it successfully completed by eliminating its targets one by one28.

Lohamah Psichologit or the LAP Department of Mossad operates for its psychological warfare, propaganda and deception operations. The Research Department produces the intelligence in form of daily reports, situation reports, weekly summaries and detailed monthly reports from its different geographical desks29.

One of the very important functions of Mossad besides gathering intelligence is the acquisition of military hardware, the assessment of enemy equipment and the enhancement of Israeli capabilities. One of Mossad’s most successful acquisitions was the theft of highly enriched Uranium from an American company, Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp., located in Apollo, Pennsylvania 30. This took place in 1965. The president of the company stated that 386.1 pounds of Uranium, enough for at least ten atom bombs, was simply lost ! However, the experts believed that it was transferred to Israel.

2. Functions of Shin Beth: The Arab Affairs Department conducts anti-terrorist operations, maintenance of an index on Arab terrorists and it also performs political subversion. Whereas the non-Arab department, which is divided into Communist and non-Communist sub-sections, is responsible for the functions of penetration of foreign intelligence organizations, diplomatic missions in Israel and interrogation of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe31. The Protective Security Branch of Shin Beth functions as the guardian of all the state buildings, embassies, defence related industries, scientific installations, industrial plants and the national airline32.

All foreigners are regarded with suspicion by the Shin Beth, regardless of nationality and religion. Informants are recruited from professions of hospitality industry, educational institutions and trade unions with occupations such as bartenders, telephone operators, secretaries, prostitutes and taxi drivers 33.

3. The Functions of AMAN: The Military Intelligence of Israel produces comprehensive national intelligence estimates for the prime minister and cabinet, which includes communications intercepts, target studies on the contact Arab states in propinquity, and intelligence on the risk of war34. AMAN’s Foreign Relations Department maintains liaison with the foreign intelligence organizations, engages in deep reconnaissance and conducts cross-border operations35.

4. Air Force Intelligence and the Naval Intelligence: The Air Force Intelligence performs the function of data collection by the means of aerial reconnaissance and signals intelligence using a variety of intelligence equipment which also includes the use of RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles), which are recoverable and recyclable after first use36. These devices are excellent for photographic information which can be directly transmitted to the commander’s headquarters who can make immediate decisions regarding troop deployment without sending out the ground reconnaissance 37.

The Naval intelligence is a small service which provides AMAN on a consultative basis, assessments of the sea-based threats to Israel. Its targeting department is also responsible for coastal studies, naval gunfire missions and beach studies for amphibious assaults 38.

Part II. India

Background: The origin of the Indian Intelligence Services lays in the Colonial Period, when the British needed to monitor the internal security of the empire, the information was also gathered from Central Asia for the sake of external security, in order to thwart a military threat from Russia.

The first real organized intelligence collection took place in British India in 1892-93. With the appointment of Major General Charles Mc Gregor, who was appointed as the Quartermaster General of the Indian Army and he accepted the leadership of the nascent Department of Intelligence. Russia had strong imperial ambitions and a special interest in South Asia. The intelligence office in St. Petersburg collected information about the Indian government, and the officers on the borders disguised themselves as the workers of East India Company, to collect information on British Indian administrative, political and military machinery.

Before General Mc Gregor’s appointment, an organization called the Survey of India, located in Dehra Dun, performed the basic intelligence functions. It gathered topographical information, made maps based on the information provided by its agents on the borders and also assessed the fighting order of the Russian military, troop disposition and composition. Until this point the intelligence activities of the British Indian Military were badly organized because of the rivalry among the Political Department, Department of Intelligence and the Survey of India. The Political Department resisted Mc Gregor’s consolidation of Intelligence activities owing to its bureaucratic machinations. While General Mc Gregor thought of the FSOs (Foreign Service Officers) as “faggots serving overseas”, who make this issue as a matter of turf and get in the way of his sensible intelligence collection activities39.

The contemporary intelligence structure of India has its roots, in the state institutions in the British colonial India and its military organization. Its creation was partly the result of the activities of the Russian interests and its well-placed intelligence machinery, and partially due to the domestic needs of consolidation of the British Raj in India. The Department of Intelligence in many ways outperformed the MI-6, the British Military Intelligence in UK, in collection of the most sensitive information within Europe 40.


Minute details about the structure and function of the Indian Intelligence Community are not known, however the Federation of American Scientists’ sources provide the best available analysis of structures and functions of intelligence activity in India and its relation to other ministries of the Indian state.

At the very top of the Intelligence organizations in India is the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which has its own secretariat which is located under the Cabinet Secretariat. In it is the National Security Council (NSC), established 1990, which includes as its members, the Home Minister, Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Defence, and the Finance Minister. The Chairman of NSC is the Prime Minister of India.

Next in the hierarchy of Intelligence community are the Research and Analysis Wing or RAW and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). RAW is the external intelligence agency of India and is considered to be the most powerful one. The Intelligence Bureau on the other hand is the Indian government’s domestic intelligence agency and is also considered the modern world’s oldest intelligence organization 41.

The JIC, RAW and the IB form the very top of the pyramid of intelligence structure in India, however the RAW reports directly to the Prime Minister and bypasses the parliament. Also, RAW has always enjoyed the backing of the Indian governments and the exact structure, system of ranks and pays and the perks enjoyed by RAW officials, are all kept secret from the Parliament. Nonetheless, the network of intelligence collection underneath is extremely extensive and wide ranging from pure Defence to Economics and Commerce. To best understand these structures, they can be grouped under three ministries: The Ministry of Defence, Ministry of State for Home Affairs and the Ministry of Finance.

Ministry of Defence: The Ministry of Defence is the highest authority over any kind of intelligence related to military matters. The Ministry of Defence coordinates the collection and analysis from Army, Navy and the Air Force through the Joint Cipher Bureau. The Ministry of Defence in India is linked to the civilian political authorities for budget and administration, and also for the industrial and policy matters that have the potential to affect the military.

Army, Air Force and Navy Intelligence: Within the Ministry of Defence, the main military intelligence unit is the Army Directorate of Military Intelligence which was reorganized by General Sir Charles McGregor as a coherent intelligence organization. The MI was restructured in 1947 because most of the intelligence was done by the British officers prior to the partition, who either destroyed or took most of the records with them when they left, leaving the Indians with a small database 42.

Other branches of Army constitute the Defence Security Corps which has 31,000 personnel, Special Frontier Force, which has around 10,000 personnel and it was structured with the help of CIA and RAW together. National Security Guards NSG (also known as the Black Cat Commandos) is India’s counter-terrorist force and it came about as a result of the National Security Guard Act of 1986. The NSG is comprised of about 7,500 personnel and subdivided into two groups, Special Action Group (SAG), which is its offensive wing, and the Special Rangers Group (SRG), which is the support group for the SAG which derives its members from central police organizations. Lastly, the Special Security Bureau is also under the Army, which is simultaneously an intelligence agency as well as a commando organization. It is the size of about two battalions.

The Air Force and Naval Intelligence also constitute important sources of intelligence gathering. The Air Force is linked to the Indian Space Programme to enhance the space based imagery and intelligence capabilities. The SIGINT intercepts are routed through the Director of Naval Operations/ Director of Naval Signals as a part of operational tasking. Within the purview of naval intelligence is the Coast Guard (formed 1977), created in response to smuggling and poaching by foreign vessels. The Coast Guard can be considered to be the naval counterpart of the Border Security Force of the Indian Army.

Ministries of Home and Finance: These two ministries have further specialized agencies that have expertise in information gathering to enhance internal security. The Ministry of Home Affairs manages the Indian Police Service, paramilitary forces and the internal intelligence bureaus. Since police is a civil service, the head of police department reports to the Prime Minister at the Union level and to the Chief Minister at the state level. The Ministry of Home comprises of the Central Investigation Bureau (CBI) and the Department of Internal Security. The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Internal Security are both governed by the Home Ministry. Increasing separatist insurgencies and communalism, as well as the growth of intelligence bureaus has given the Home Ministry a more prominent role in regards to law and order matters in the country. The Department of Internal Security has six special bureaus for internal security; These are the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Rapid Action Force (RAF), the Special Protection Group (SPG), Central Industrial Security Force, the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Home Guards. (See Figure 3)

The Ministry of Finance deliberates over the Economic Intelligence Council an the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue is further divided into the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau and the Narcotics Control Board (NCB). The former has four directorates below it, which are Directorates General of Revenue Intelligence (DGRI), Enforcement, Anti-Evasion and Income-Tax Investigation.


JIC: The Joint Intelligence Services is the meridian unit for the analysis of intelligence data that comes from Intelligence Bureau, RAW, the Directorate of Military Intelligence and Directorates of Naval and Air Intelligence. Since its inception in 1990, it has only met once.

RAW: Raw is the most powerful external intelligence agency of India and about Rs. 25 crore (approx. a quarter billion rupees) are spent on the upkeep of Ministry of External Affairs and RAW together. RAW has become an effective apparatus of the Indian national power and prestige. One of its main functions is to lodge disinformation campaigns, espionage and sabotage in the neighbouring countries, particularly in Pakistan. In 1968 India established a special branch of its intelligence service specially targeted on Pakistan43. RAW believed that Pakistan was engaged in training the Sikhs of East Punjab, whereas Pakistan blamed RAW for having supported the Saraiki Movement in Pakistan 44.

RAW has an extensive network of anti-government agents working in Pakistan, in collaboration with several sectarian and ethnic groups in Sindh and Punjab. Published sources purport that as many as 35,000 RAW agents have penetrated Pakistan between 1983-93, and as many as 40 terrorist training camps in Rajasthan, East Punjab, Held Kashmir and UP are run by the RAW’s Special Service Bureau (SSB)45. Allegedly, RAW executed a hijacking of an Indian Airliner to Lahore in 1971 which was attributed to the Kashmiris, in order to bequeath a terrorist label to the Kashmiri national movement46. Similarly RAW has involvement in Bangladesh which is known to date from the 1960s, when it first fuelled dissatisfaction against West Pakistan, then funded Mujibur Rahman’s general election in 1970 and finally provided training and armament of the Mukti Bahini47. More recently however, RAW is busy beefing up the secular forces as well as the Hindu minority in Bangladesh.

Outside of the Sub-Continent, RAW is busy in espionage in the United States. There is an extensive network of Indian operatives, controlled and managed by the Indian Embassy. Some of its covert activities include infiltration of the US long distance telephone lines and obtaining valuable information, is used to blackmail the relatives of the US residents in India in order to achieve its objectives 48. It is also known to covertly fund political candidates running for the elections in the US.

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: Through the 1960s, MI was largely focused on field security services, rather than external intelligence. Main functions of MI are counter-insurgency operations, policing the army, fighting corruption etc. Its external function is to collaborate with friendly states to share data on imagery. During the 1971 war with Pakistan, the Russian satellite imagery gave India information about the Chinese movement and positioning of troops along the western border 49.

The Defence Security Corps perform the function of providing security at the Defence Ministry Sites in India whereas the Special Frontier Force performs espionage to gather foreign intelligence and disrupt enemy logistics behind its lines. National Security guards or the Black Cat Commandos are India’s counter-terrorist force. It provides security to the VIPs, performs anti-sabotage checks and it is accountable for neutralizing terrorist threats to vital installations in the country 50. It has two sub-organizations, SAG and SRG. The former is the offence wing with its members recruited from within the army and the latter’s recruitment is done from within the Central Police and it performs the function of backing up the Special Action Force to isolate the target areas. NSG was established in 1984, in the wake of the Sikh rebellion and the Golden Temple crisis51. And finally, within the army, the Special Security Bureau acts as both, an intelligence agency as well as a commando organization for behind the enemy lines operations.

The Air Force intelligence is responsible for imagery intelligence collection through its reconnaissance aircraft. Currently, the Indian Air Force is focusing on independent space-based imagery and intelligence capabilities. Whereas the Naval Intelligence specializes in Signals Intelligence. By the means of communication equipment, it can intercept signals and analyze them to produce usable information against the enemy. And finally the Indian Navy’s Coast Guard monitors its coast for general security and obtains information on smuggling in and out of India.

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS: The Ministry of Home Affairs has several units that perform a diversified intelligence task. The CBI, which is India’s investigation agency is responsible for a wide variety of criminal and national security matters. The Bofors scandal was investigated by the CBI that linked millions of dollars in pay-offs to Rajiv Gandhi from a Swedish arms company AB Bofors, as the item for sale by Bofors was inferior to that of a competitive French firm 52.

The Special Protection Group provides protection to the Prime Minister, obtains information to stay vigilant about the security matters during transport, functions and engagements. It also provides security to the immediate family of the Prime Minister. Out of its four sub-divisions, the Intelligence and Tours Branch is responsible for threat assessment, internal intelligence pertaining to personnel and verification of antecedents 53.

Another agency working under the Home Ministry is the Central Industrial Security Force. This agency is responsible for the security of all the ports of entry and other transportation facilities. This organization however suffers from bad reputation of harassing its rural population and has been implicated for some human rights’ abuses. Lastly, the BSF has an extensive intelligence network of peacetime surveillance of trans-border crimes. Out of the 180,000 strong BSF personnel, about one third is deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. this is in addition to the more than half a million soldiers and about a quarter million paramilitary forces. BSF is implicated in serious human rights violations; search, cordon, detention, torture and extra-judicial killings constitute the modus operandi of BSF for the purpose of gaining information54. It should be also noted that the security legislation in India authorizes these forces “shoot to kill” and destruction of civilian property.

MINISTRY OF FINANCE: As noted in the nature and scheme of intelligence structure in India, the Ministry of Finance plays an important role in the gathering and dissemination of intelligence relating to commercial and industrial activity. A two-tiered system is established in which the Economic Intelligence Council plays a pivotal role under the chairmanship of the Union Finance Minister and 18 regional Economic Intelligence Committees. The Economic Intelligence Bureau obtains information about the underground economy, foreign exchange and substance smuggling, and to ensure the coordination of the Reserve Bank of India and Intelligence Bureau 55.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence handles custom duty evasion, collection, collation and dissemination of information on smuggling activities. The Directorates of Evasion and Income Tax Investigation probe into matters of evasion of direct taxes, organized search to reveal black money and most importantly the dissemination of information and intelligence collected by passing on the same information to the concerned departments which includes the authorities that carry on the assessment.


The purpose of this paper is to do a comparative analysis of the intelligence services of Israel and India, in their structures and functions. Making comparisons between two entities without a third point of reference is sometimes a futile exercise and doesn’t lead to substantial knowledge. It is more useful to judge similarities or differences from a third platform that is independent of the two entities being compared and contrasted. Therefore, an occasional reference will be made to the UK intelligence structures that are the forerunners of these organizations.

The main point of contrast in the origin of Indian and Israeli intelligence is the nature of contact with the British world. Jews constituted a second class citizenry of the Kingdom whereas the Indians experienced severity of repressive colonial rule like none other place in the world and like no other times in their own history. The European Jews were repressed, and persecuted later, but were never colonized directly. Whereas the Indians went from the status of ‘rulers’ to the ruled’. Worst yet, in the Indian case the psychological colonization of mind and systematic eradication of their institutions (of learning and governing) impaired their ability to create structures for themselves. It is under this light that one can understand institution building or the lack thereof, in Israel and India. European Jews came from the land of ‘modern institution builders’ and imbibed the culture of societies that progressively eclipsed rest of the world. There was much to be learnt from the Western societies, the knowledge of which they used to their own advantage. Their persecution provided them the incentive to create a new state and the techniques they learnt, helped them achieve it. And the already well-developed British intelligence organizations and their efficacy in the strategic arena served as a role model for them.

United Kingdom’s intelligence structure is understood to correspond to the Confederation Type (See Endnote 12). This type has relatively more autonomy vested in the agencies whereas the overall coordination comes from outside of the Intelligence services. There is a stronger concatenation of intelligence agency with the civilian world. The Israeli case resembles this to an extent, especially at the origin, but it deviates in its subsequent development.

The British model is more layered and doesn’t permit an unfettered access to the head of the state by any particular agency, all of whom are ostensibly treated as equals. However, in the case of Israel, and India to some extent, there is a departure from this rule. Mossad in Israel and RAW in India, both have a direct access to the seat of power. In the case of Israel, this evolution particularly took place in 1951. Upon the Coordinator Ruben Shiloach’s return from Washington, he convinced the then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that the CIA was breaking new grounds in the techniques of espionage and that Israel should have a similar agency which has the latitude and independence of reporting directly to the Prime Minister56. Similarly in India the JIC performs the same task that the Coordinator of Intelligence and Security performs in UK. As far as the proximity to the seat of power is concerned, it deviates from the English model in that the JIC includes the Prime Minister whereas the Coordinator of Intelligence and Security in the case of UK, excludes the Prime Minister. Moreover, the RAW, like the Mossad also has direct access to the Prime Minister. The Indian intelligence structure seems to possess more of a cross between the confederation and a federation, an element which is also visible in the case of Israel.

Despite its relative functional clarity, the Israeli intelligence organization, like in any bureaucratic organization, has a duplicity of function. The Shin Beth for example, which is an internal intelligence and security force, has some external functions, whereas the Mossad, which is primarily Israel’s external intelligence organisation, has some internal functions.

In the case of India, there is also considerable overlap in the functions of intelligence community. Due to the paucity of research on Indian Intelligence organizations and their function, there is some ambiguity about the exact functional character of intelligence services in India. MI for example, which was instituted primarily as a field security force, has been implicated in some cross-border operations. However, the Mossad and the RAW are each other’s counterpart in terms of function and character, and the IB in India can be considered as the equivalent of Shin Beth in Israel.

Both Israel and India are parliamentary democracies with a considerably strong nexus between their agencies and the policy makers. In its democratic aspect, India is arguably closer to the British model and has, at least in principle, more diffusion of power in the intelligence community. This similarity is of course merely procedural and being a democracy doesn’t have a direct correlation with the structure of these organizations. Rather there are other factors that are responsible for these differences:

1. History obviously plays a very prominent role in determining these differences. Although both Israel and India became independent around the same time, as a state India existed much longer than Israel. Israel started the state-building from scratch and the Jews of Israel built a state that suited their needs. Whereas in the case of India, a colonial state was left to them as the British abandoned that part of empire. The white ‘Sahib’ left the state apparatus and the brown ‘Sahib’ filled the gap. Even to this day, the state of India has those manipulative and extractive features that reflect the legacy of colonial rule. Indian state institutions exhibit a higher degree of cultural inertia and much less innovation when compared to Israel, the creation of which is a direct result of marvellous intelligence operation and perhaps the biggest success story in the contemporary intelligence history.

2. Another social factor that is responsible for shaping these organizations is culture. The ruling elite in Israel is of the Ashkenazi background, whereas the Sephardi Jews are considered second class citizen whose contribution to the enterprise of state-building is less than the Ashkenazim. “The European Jews founded the Zionist movement, dominated it, and overwhelmed the long-existing Sephardi community in Palestine. They imposed their institutions and values on the politics, society and culture of the yishuv (the Jewish community in the pre-1948 Palestine) and the State of Israel, assuming that the Jews from “backward” non-European areas would simply have to adjust to the established order” 57. Thus the officer elite in the Israeli intelligence is mostly Western/Modern, compared to the Indian elite which is in the process of “westernizing/modernizing”. However, a point of similarity is that in both the cases there is a foreign culture superimposed on a local one, albeit differently.

3. Geography and Strategic depth of the territory in Israel and India is radically different and perhaps it is the single biggest factor that differentiates Israel from rest of the organizations. Israel’s land mass is thin and narrow, surrounded by its hostile Muslim neighbours whose wrath it acquired by dispossessing them of their soil. It was only after creating a credible nuclear deterrent that its position has become relatively secure, nonetheless, it is still dependent on deft and clever intelligence. In the field of comparative intelligence...”Israel represents a special case of intelligence: A small country with considerable wealth ($ 7 million a day in foreign aid from the United States alone)... [which] spends a higher proportion of their national wealth on intelligence than most other countries” 58. The very survival of Israel depends on good intelligence.

India on the other hand is secure by the Indian Ocean in the South and Himalayas to the East, left with part of its border along Pakistani and Bangladeshi territory to worry about. Its trepidation is more immediate and not as far fetched as that of Israel. Israel monitors most of the world in an effort to obtain any piece of information that would complete an incomplete puzzle. In 1981, Israel took the possibility of a nuclear attack against it very seriously, a single one of which might have been enough to impair the whole state. The American intelligence indicated that Pakistan will have an atom bomb by 1982 and Iraq by 1983 59. The Uranium Oxide for the Pakistani nuclear reactor came from Niger via Tripoli leading the Israelis to conjecture that if Pakistan transfers just one bomb to Libya, Gaddafi might use it on Israel. The 1984 destruction of the Osirak reactor in Iraq is a logical step in the same direction to eliminate threat by a pre-emotive strike. The exact precision of attacking the targets was a result of first class intelligence.

4. Lastly, another salient feature of difference that is instrumental in distinguishing between the Israeli and Indian agencies is the threat environment. The security predicament of Israel is primarily external, while that of India is internal. Israel, despite its diversity is a consolidated nation. Its identity is rooted in religion and thus much clear as compared to that of the Indians, who belong to a highly fragmented society. India’s perceived threat comes from Pakistan and the hostility with Pakistan is deep rooted as it was once the part of the British India. India, which is predominantly a Hindu state, still adheres to the ideology of Akhand Bharat or “One India” and only reluctantly accepts Pakistan. The creation of Pakistan is a function of India’s failure to exist as a consolidated society. The same threat of its large and uneasy minorities looms large even today, 51 years after its independence. The rise of fascist movement in India, religious intolerance and movements of irredentism, all pose a grave internal threat to the internal unity of India.

The challenge to these and all intelligence organizations of the world is how to modify their structures to match the ever changing process of intelligence. This itself varies with the physical environment, cultural moorings, available resources and need. These elements are much more efficiently integrated in the Israeli intelligence agencies than the Indian. n

1. Muslims in India are persecuted every now and then. The cultural clash is not between the tra-ditional/rural Hindus and Muslims but the modern/urban ones. The identity of the “modern Hindu” is constructed in opposition to the Muslim who is often blamed along with his heritage and history, as a problem in the society. Such trend is more visible in the conservative factions of Hindu society as in the followers of Bharatiya Janta Party. In case of Israel, all opposition from its most immediate vicinity comes from the Muslims. Their resistance and call for justice comes in the name of Islam as a response to tyrannical practices of the Israeli state, accompanied by its gross violation of Human Rights.
2. Harry Ellis, The Dilemma of Israel. (US Interests in the Middle East Series). American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1970, P.12.
3. Ibid. P.12.
4. Ibid. P.14.
5. Jeffrey Richelson, Foreign Intelligence Organizations, Ballinger Publishing. Massachusetts. 1988. P.191
6. Ibid. P. 191.
7. Richelson, P.192.
8. Ibid. P. 192.
9. Ibid. P. 192.
10. Ibid. P. 193
11. Ibid. P. 194.
12. A rough typology that exists to understand structures of Intelligence systems can be divided into four categories: Federation, Confederation, Centralized and De-centralized types. The fed- eration type organization usually has its director appointed from within the Intelligence community (as in the case of the US), whereas the head of confederation-type comes from outside of the intelligence community (as in the case of UK). In the Centralized type, all intelligence functions are grouped under one chief (example: USSR, Turkey) and conversely, in the Decentralized one, all agencies work independently accountable directly to the head of the state (example: Nazi Germany, Iraq).
13. John Pike, Federation of American Scientists. Dec. 1, 1997.
14. Richelson, Pp. 196-197
15. Ibid. P. 210
16. Richelson, P.222
17. Ibid. P. 229
18. Ibid P. 229
19. Pike, FAS. Dec. 1, 1997. http://www. fas.org/irp/world Israel/mossad/
20. Richelson, P. 195
21. Ibid. P. 195
22. Pike, FAS. Dec. 1, 1997. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/Israel/mossad/
23. Richelson, P. 223
24. Pike, FAS. Dec. 1, 1997. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/Israel/mossad
25. Richelson, Pp. 203, 204
26. Ibid. P.204
27. Ibid. P. 206
28. Ibid. Pp. 208-210
29. Pike, FAS. Dec. 1, 1997. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/Israel/Mossad
30. Richelson, Pp. 210, 202.
31. Pike, FAS. Dec. 1, 1997. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/Israel/shin beth/index.html
32. Ibid.
33. Richelson, P. 224
34. Pike, FAS. Dec. 1, 1997. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/Israel/shin-beth/index.html
35. Ibid.
36. Richelson, P.217, 218
37. Ibid. P. 218.
38. Ibid P. 220
39. Sir Charles Mc Gregor, Excerpts from The Defence of India. 1884, “The Intelligence Department of the British Indian Army: An Analysis of its Beginnings” The http://users.deltanet.com/~llambert/historical. html
40. Willard Hardman, Notes from the Independent Study.
41. Pike, FAS. May 24, 1998. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/ib/index.html
42. Bhashyam Kasturi, “Miliary Intelligence in India: An Analysis” Papers from the Indian Defence Review. 1997. Lancer Publishers and Distributors. http://www. bharat-rashtak. com/LANCER/idr0001.htm
43. Pike, FAS. May 24, 1998.- http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/raw/index.html
44. The Saraiki Movement was an ethno-linguistic movement within the province of Punjab to create a separate province for the speakers of Saraiki language. Saraiki language is a hybrid between Punjabi and Sindhi, spoken mostly in the Southern and Western parts of Pakistani Punjab.
45. Pike, FAS. May 24, 1998 http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/raw/index.html
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid.
49. Bhashyam Kasturi, “Miliary Intelligence in India: An Analysis” Papers from the Indian Defence Review. 1997. Lancer Publishers and Distributors. http://www. bharat-rashtak. com/LANCER/idr0001. htm
50. Pike, FAS. May 24, 1998.- hittp://www. fas.org/irp/world/India/mod/nsg.htm
51. Ibid http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/dsc/htm
52. Ibid. http://www. fas.org/irp/world/India/cbi
53. Ibid. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/spg.htm
54. Ibid http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/bsf.htm
55. Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, National Informatics Center.
Http://www. nic.in/ceib/cieb.htm (Official Homepage)
56. Richelson, P.193
57. Alan Dowty, The Jewish State: A Century Later. Univ. of California Press, 1988. P.144
58. Loch Johnson, Secret Agencies: U.S. Intelligence in a Hostile World. Yale, 1996. P.125
59. Stanley Blumberg & Owens, The Survival Factor: Israeli Intelligence from the World War I to the Present, New York, 1981. P.13


Israel’s Secret Wars : The Untold History of Israeli Intelligence / Ian Black and Benny Morris. New York : Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.
Every Spy a Prince : The Complete History of Israel’s Intelligence Community / Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
The Survival Factor : Israeli Intelligence From World War I to the Present / Stanley A. Blumberg and Gwinn Owens. New York : Putnam, 1981.
Ben-Gurion’s Spy : The Story of the Political Scandal That Shaped Modern Israel / Shabtai Teveth. New York : Columbia University Press, 1996.
Histoire Secrete d’Israel / Jacques Derogy and Hesi Carmel.1st ed. New York, Grove Press distributed by Random House, 1979.
Reuven Shiloah : The Man Behind the Mossad : Secret Diplomacy in the Creation of Israel / Haggai Eshed ; translated by David and Leah Zinder 1997.
Israeli Intelligence Agencies (World Intelligence Agencies) / Federation of American Scientists, Intelligence Resource Program. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/Israel/index.html 1998.
The Israeli Secret Service / Richard Deacon, New York : Taplinger Pub. Co., 1978, 1977.
By Way of Deception: The Making and Un-making of a Mossad Officer / Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy. New York : St. Martin’s Press,1990.
The Mossad Inside Stories : Israel’s Secret Intelligence Service / Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, Eli Landau. New York : Paddington Press, 1978.
The Spymasters of Israel/ Steven Stewart. New York: Baltimore Books, 1982.
An Iraqi Jew in the Mossad : Memoir of an Israeli Intelligence Officer / by Joshua Horesh. London ; Portland, Or. Frank Cass, 1997. Series: [BESA studies in international security].
The Other Side of Deception : A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad’s Secret Agenda / Victor Ostrovsky. 1st Edition. New York, NY : Harper Collins, 1994.
Israeli Strategy After Desert Storm : Lessons of the Second Gulf War / Aharon. London ; Portland, Or. Frank Cass, 1997. BESA Series.
Intelligence Intervention in the Politics of Democratic States : The United States, Israel, and Britain / Uri Bar-Joseph. University Park, Penn. Pennsylvania State University Press, c1995.
Country Profile. Israel, The Occupied Territories / EIU, the Economist Intelligence Unit. Israel, London : The Unit, c1994.
Secret War Against the Jews : How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish people / John Loftus and Mark Aarons. 1st Edition. New York. St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
Dangerous Liaison : The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship / Andrew and Leslie Cockburn. 1st Edition. New York, NY : Harper Collins Publishers, c1991.
Assault on the Liberty : The True Story of The Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence Ship / James M. Ennes. New York : Random House, 1979.
The Jewish Mind / Raphael New York. Scribner, 1977.
The Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870/ C. A. Bayly. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
The Intelligence Department of British Indian Army: An Analysis of its Beginnings .http://users.deltanet.com/~llambert/historical.html
Indian Intelligence Agencies (World Intelligence Agencies) / Federation of American Scientists, Intelligence Resource Program. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/India/index.html 1998.
India Business Intelligence/ The Economist Intelligence Unit. Hong Kong, EIU 1997.
“Military Intelligence in India: An Analysis”/ Bhashyam Kasturi Indian Defence Review. Lancer Publishers and Distributors. 1997.
“The Game of Foxes: J-K Intelligence War”/ Manoj Joshi, Times of India. July 16, 1994.
“Indian Espionage Said to be Linked to European Nations”/ Javed Naqui. Reuters, December 6, 1994.
“Beyond the Vohra Report”/ Inder Malhotra, The Hindu. August 5, 1995
“Who Decides Whose Phone is to be Tapped?”/ Vir Sanghvi, Rediff on the Net. 1997
“Anatomy of a Witch-Hunt”/ Praveen Swami, Frontline. Vol.14, No. 24. Nov.-Dec 1997.
“Reckless Revelations”/ Manoj Joshi, India Today. December 8, 1997
“Time for Hard Decisions”/ Manoj Joshi, Times of India. October 24, 1993
“Aiming for a Secure Social Environment”/ PIB Feature, India Image 1997.
Bharat Rakshak; Consortium of Indian Military Websites http://www.bharat-rakshak.com