The agency was set up in 1941 (then as part of the British Indian Army) to generate field intelligence for the army. The agency is based at Sena Bhavan in Delhi. MI was initially tasked with generating only tactical or field intelligence in all countries bordering India. Its geographical mandate was set to 50 km from the border. These limits were quickly crossed in the mid-1990s when the organisation began playing an increasing role in countries within the subcontinent and its outer periphery. MI's mandate also includes counter-terrorism in the north and North-east and generating pinpoint intelligence for small team operations. It is also tasked with counterintelligence in the army, which entails detecting spies in military areas.
History[edit | edit source]
The agency was set up in 1941 to generate field intelligence for the Indian army. After India gained independence in 1947, it became a small army department primarily that investigated corruption within the force. Little is known about its activities.
In 1978, the directorate was embroiled in the Samba spy scandal, wherein it was later found that the directorate had falsely implicated three Indian Army officers as being Pakistani spies.
The agency gathered momentum in the 1990s especially after the Kargil conflict with Pakistan. The army had to handle the poor quality tactical intelligence provided by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and R&AW. Hence the MI's mandate was ultimately boosted.
MI operatives moved into Tajikistan and later Afghanistan in support of the Ahmad Shah Massoud-led Northern Alliance that overthrew the Taliban in 2001 with aid of US-led coalition forces in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the subsequent War On Terror.
MI was also active in Myanmar, which nurtured insurgent groups. In 1998, an MI operative impersonated a Khalistani terrorist and infiltrated a gun-running Myanmarese insurgent group. He led them into a death trap in the Andaman islands. Operation Leech, as the operation was called, marked the start of the Indian Army outreach to the Myanmarese junta in the 1990s. It also aimed to offset China's expanding footprint on India's eastern border.
MI Has carried out operations in Bangladesh too because of safe sanctuaries provided to insurgent groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the United National Liberation Front of Manipur (UNLF) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation of Assam. Within months of the Hasina government taking over in 2009, the entire leadership of the ULFA and UNLF was handed over to Indian authorities.
MI officials say these 'third country operations' allowed the agency to peep into countries of their immediate interest besides furthering national goals.
In January 2012, the MI warned Sheikh Hasina, the then prime minister of Bangladesh, about a coup brewing in the Bangladeshi Army which was ultimately foiled.
Organisation[edit | edit source]
The organisation comprises just over 700 officers, including women officers, and over 3,000 men. It is still tiny when compared to R&AW and IB, whose staff is over 25,000. MI's operating budget, too, is a tiny fraction of the well-entrenched IB and R&AW, though all three agencies have somewhat overlapping mandates vis-a-vis trans-border tasks.
The director-general, MI, a lieutenant general-rank officer who reports directly to the army chief, is indispensable when it comes to furthering Indian Army's diplomacy and exchanging intelligence with friendly countries like Myanmar, Israel, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
Post-Kargil Changes[edit | edit source]
Indian Intelligence agencies have been often embroiled in turf wars, with the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing locked in constant power struggle. The MI too has lost turf to two new intelligence agencies, the National Technical Research Organisation and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), created in the aftermath of the Kargil Conflict to address the intelligence failures that led to massive cross border infiltration. Defence Intelligence Agency took away some of its signal monitoring capabilities and foreign military attaches who used to report to the MI.