Muslim to head India’s domestic spy agency in historic first

Asif Ibrahim
For the first time in the history of India, a Muslim officer has been selected to head the country’s domestic intelligence agency. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), one of India’s most powerful intelligence organizations, will be led by Syed Asif Ibrahim, one of relatively few Muslim senior officers serving in the country’s predominantly Hindu security and intelligence apparatus. It will be the first time that the IB, which was formed in 1877 under British colonial rule, and today operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs, will be led by a Muslim. Formerly a senior officer in the Indian Police Service, Ibrahim, 59, has served for years in the IB’s Directorate of Operations, and recently served as the Bureau’s Chief of Station at the Indian High Commission in London, United Kingdom. His supervisory experience includes roles in the IB’s counter-cyberespionage and counterterrorism units. IntelNews hears that Ibrahim is widely seen by Indian intelligence officers as someone with a “crystal-clear understanding” of Islamic-inspired militancy inside the country. Ibrahim’s appointment was announced late last week by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, a senior government body lead by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Following the announcement, observers noted that at least four IB officials, who had been tipped for the job of director and were above Ibrahim in terms of seniority, were assigned to positions outside the Bureau, ostensibly to clear the way for Ibrahim’s appointment. Mumbai-based news portal Rediff spoke to an unnamed Indian intelligence official, who said that, although Ibrahim is widely seen as a “professional and an outstanding officer with the widest range of experience […], there could be a debate on the issue of seniority”. Specifically, some in the IB believe that the criteria for seniority were used “selectively” in Ibrahim’s appointment. But India’s Muslim community appears to have welcomed the news. Rediff quoted Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, president of the All-India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (the umbrella body of Indian Muslim groups), who sees Ibrahim’s appointment as “a new beginning” and hopes “it will help alter the image f the IB, which is normally seen as a bastion of upper-caste Hindus”. Ibrahim’s appointment is expected to be officially announced today, Monday. Ibrahim will formally succeed the IB’s outgoing Director, Nehchal Sandhu, on December 31. He is expected to remain on the post for at least two years following his appointment.

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