INTELLIGENCE MEN OUT OF SECURITY TEAM 

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By FROM CHANDAN NANDY
  • Published 8.12.00
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New Delhi, Dec. 8 :    New Delhi, Dec. 8:  In a startling move with ramifications for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's security, the Prime Minister's Office has abandoned a time-tested mechanism and procedure for advance security liaison by Indian intelligence with foreign hosts whenever the head of government undertakes visits abroad. On December 5, the PMO issued an order saying Vajpayee has "approved" a proposal to revise the composition of the advance security liaison team for all foreign visits of the Prime Minister. The order was issued less than a month before Vajpayee leaves for Vietnam. Although the order says revision of the composition of the liaison team was approved by the Prime Minister, government sources are wondering who mooted the proposal in the first place. Officials are questioning the wisdom behind removing the intelligence component of the team. The sources pointed out that according to the December 5 order, signed by a joint secretary in the PMO, the team would henceforth consist of the joint secretary of the "territorial" desk dealing with the particular country or region, director of the Special Protection Group (SPG) responsible for the Prime Minister's proximate security, personal secretary to the Prime Minister or deputy secretary/director in the PMO, the deputy chief of protocol in the ministry of external affairs and the officer on special duty responsible for external publicity in the foreign office. The joint secretary of the territorial desk will head the team. The sources said before the latest order, the liaison team consisted of senior officials of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the foreign ministry and the foreign office's own security personnel. RAW and IB officials, along with those of the foreign ministry, used to liaise with their counterparts in the security set-ups of the host countries to prepare the Prime Minister's programme. The December 5 order does not give security-specific reasons for downgrading the team. The change seems to have been "dictated by considerations of compactness and single representation for each area of responsibility". The order says on any visit, the joint secretary of the territorial desk will be in charge of the political and economic parts of the Prime Minister's programmes. The SPG chief will be responsible for "all aspects of security". Before a state visit, the SPG director will take briefings from RAW and IB on the Prime Minister's security and the threat perception. He will be entitled to share intelligence inputs with security officials of the foreign governments. SPG sources admit that the head of their organisation is not qualified for the task set for him by the PMO order. "He neither has the specialisation nor the mandate to liaise with intelligence and security officials of the host countries," an SPG official said. "Now IFS officials have every reason for jubilation." Intelligence sources said there are specific officials who liaise with their counterparts abroad at least a month before the Prime Minister's tours.