Ex-IB chief is Prime Minister’s special envoy on counter-terror

Move marks growing clout of intelligence over Ministry of External Affairs

June 04, 2015 02:02 am | Updated 02:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

Signalling its growing concern over IS terror and radicalisation, the government has appointed the former Intelligence Bureau Chief Asif Ibrahim to a key post in the Prime Minister’s office.

Mr. Ibrahim, who retired in December 2014, will be the PM’s ‘Special Envoy on Countering Terrorism and Extremism,’ with a charter to liaise with governments in West Asia, Af-Pak and South East Asia, senior officials told The Hindu . “Mr. Ibrahim is one of the most well-informed officials when it comes to the Islamic world and its political structures,” an official, who confirmed the appointment, told The Hindu , “His role will include both the international and domestic dimensions of countering international terrorism, which is of great concern to the government.”

As Director IB, Mr. Ibrahim started work on the government’s new counter radicalisation strategy in 2014, which was triggered by the Islamic State takeover of parts of Iraq and Syria, after it emerged that at least a dozen men of Indian origin had joined the terror group. He is also known to have negotiated with the top leadership in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia on terror cooperation.

Information on terror groups

Commenting on his appointment, former diplomat and PM’s special envoy Rakesh Sood said “Given his experience, Mr. Ibrahim will be well versed with setting up channels for the exchange of intelligence and information on terror groups, but will face challenges when it comes to the engagement with governments in situations as diverse as the Gulf, Af-Pak region and south-east Asian Islamic countries.” In his new role, Mr. Ibrahim will report to NSA Ajit Doval and work out of the National Security Council Secretariat.

The appointment also marks the growing clout of the IB over the MEA in the Prime Minister’s secretariat. The previous UPA government largely appointed diplomats with a few exceptions, like Dy NSA Nechal Sandhu who was IB chief, and IFS officers in the National security set-up included NSA Shiv Shankar Menon, Cyber envoy and Deputy NSA Latha Reddy, Special Envoys on Climate Change Shyam Saran and Disarmament Rakesh Sood.

In contrast, the current dispensation has NSA Ajit Doval from the IB, Cyber Security coordinator Gulshan Rai from the Department of Electronics and IT, and now Special Envoy Asif Ibrahim. Even Deputy NSA Arvind Gupta, who is a retired Foreign Service officer, worked prior to this as Director of the government think tank Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis and was the Joint Secretary of the National Security Council Secretariat. Another key appointment being watched closely is for the next Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, which was disbanded in January and is yet to be reconstituted. The previous board chairman was former Foreign Secretary and special envoy Shyam Saran. “Compared to the past there seem to be fewer Foreign Ministry people who have the Prime Minister’s ear at present,” Mr. Sood said.

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