Indian and United States intelligence services began a three-day meeting on Monday, the first high-level dialogue between the two countries since the crisis sparked off by the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in December. Led by Joint Intelligence Council chief Ajit Lal, an Indian delegation met officials from the office of the Director of National Intelligence for the latest in a series of discussions on regional security and strategic issues.
“The latest round of the dialogue is focussed on events in Afghanistan leading up to the United States drawdown in 2014,” a highly-placed Indian government source told The Hindu . “The United States is extremely concerned at Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s delay on signing a security agreement, and hopes India will be willing to use its influence to persuade him to do so.”
Peter Lavoy, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, had visited New Delhi last month for scheduled discussions on the situation in Afghanistan, following President Karzai’s visit to New Delhi. However, key defence, intelligence and diplomatic officials declined to meet Dr. Lavoy following Ms. Khobragade’s controversial arrest in New York.
Last week, two senior U.S. officials, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal postponed their visits to New Delhi.
External Affairs Ministry sources in New Delhi declined to comment on the JIC-DNI meeting, saying they could not comment on intelligence issues.
Eleven rounds of dialogue have been held between the DNI and the JIC, with the two organisations meeting each June in Washington, D.C., and in New Delhi in January. No details were immediately available on the composition of the United States’ delegation.
“It is important for India that the intelligence dialogues continue, irrespective of problems that will from time to time crop up in the relationship with the United States,” former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval told The Hindu . “Both countries have vital interests which need to be discussed at the highest level.”
Founded in 1998, the JIC is mandated to provide the government with big-picture assessments of strategic issues. Its secretariat, which reports to the Cabinet Secretariat, produces papers and strategy documents based on analysis of information from the Research and Analysis Wing, the Intelligence Bureau, and the directorates of military, naval and air intelligence.