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The Five Eyes and India

T S Chandrashekar

T S ChandrashekarSep 06, 2021, 12:06 PM IST

The Five Eyes and India

The U.S. House of Representatives wants to include India, South Korea, Japan, and Germany in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. The House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations submitted last month a draft amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for next year.

 

The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States. These countries were parties to the multilateral UK-USA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence. It evolved during the Cold War as a mechanism for monitoring the Soviet Union and sharing classified intelligence. It is often described as the world's most successful intelligence alliance. The FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities during the war on terror, emphasising the monitoring of the World Wide Web. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a "supra-national intelligence organisation that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries." 

Five Eyes processed intelligence is gathered from multiple sources; the intelligence shared is not restricted to signals intelligence (SIGINT) and often involves defence, intelligence and human intelligence (HUMINT), and geospatial intelligence (GEOINT). Backdoor entry into applications like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram so that intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies can access the content in these messengers legally when it comes to public safety issues like human trafficking, sexual exploitation of vulnerable groups and terrorism.

Encryption is vital, and privacy and cybersecurity must be protected, but it should not come at the expense of "wholly precluding law enforcement, and the tech industry itself, from being able to act against the most serious illegal content and activity online." End-to-end encryption means that the messages are visible only to the sender and the recipient, not even to the tech company that provides it, such as WhatsApp or any third party. The U.S. House of Representatives wants to include India, South Korea, Japan, and Germany in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. The House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations submitted last month a draft amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for next year.

The committee directs the director of national intelligence, in coordination with the secretary of defence, to provide a report not later than May 20, 2022, on current intelligence and resource sharing agreements between the United States and the countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom; as well as opportunities to expand intelligence sharing with South Korea, Japan, India, and Germany.

The committee said the threat map has changed significantly since the launch of Five Eyes, and the main threat now comes from China and Russia. It reiterated the importance of closer cooperation in the face of rivalry between superpowers and the need to tighten alliances with other democracies with similar beliefs.

The council's secretariat is at the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Washington DC, United States. In September 2018, India and the U.S. had signed the landmark Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which has led to India having access to real-time American intelligence and vice versa. This intelligence also includes critical intelligence on military deployments by China and Pakistan. India will have a significant presence and usefulness in the Five Eyes network, especially when facing the Two and Half War digital war and next-generation technology. We need to make decisions that are based on present and future threats.

Five Eyes have jointly condemned China's treatment of its Uyghur population in Xinjiang province. They have expressed concern over China's de facto military takeover of the South China Sea, its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and its threatening moves towards Taiwan, which China has vowed to take back by 2049.

At the last one can conclude that given India's bilateral, regional and global sudden geopolitical changes. Pakistan Proxy government in Afghanistan, never fading Taliban and China friendship: Russia's gamble via Central Asia with Taliban and coming together with China and Pakistan, China's everyday threat in all forms surrounding us making global alliances in all forms and with all like-minded countries can be useful for India's geopolitical interest? Though there are questions that there was an intelligence failure to assess Taliban sudden takeover or Mumbai blasts or 9/11 minimum mechanism and an Indian fortress of alliances can be done to deter future course of events. For India, we need alliances, intelligence sharing, a democratic nation's assimilation for the future peace and tranquillity of the world. The alliance has to transcend into a unified, diplomatic or political pressure group so that the democratic world wins and the enemies are contained?

(The writer is a Political Analyst, Columnist, International Affairs & Korea Expert.)

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