Asian Five Eyes project: Is it viable?


Asian Five Eyes project: Is it viable?

While racism has ended at global level but an exclusive ‘white club’ still exists in the intelligence domain. It is known as Five Eyes project. Under this project five countries - US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand are integrated into one intelligence and signals sharing platform.

While racism has ended at global level but an exclusive ‘white club’ still exists in the intelligence domain. It is known as Five Eyes project. Under this project five countries - US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand are integrated into one intelligence and signals sharing platform. The five countries which are exclusive members of this unique project share critical data through different platforms integrated into one information repository. Guided by BRUSA agreement {later known as UK-US Agreement} this provides the platform for US and UK to share closely guarded secrets, share intelligence data and information about signals intercepts on a real time basis. While the Cold war agreement has been debated in the current context but it is seen as an exclusive club with spinoff benefits to countries which are either allies or have quasi alliance system with either NATO countries or the US. As an auxiliary and supporting system there exists Nine Eyes network and Fourteen Eyes network too (involving select European countries). 
More recently there has been proposals of a Five Eyes countries economic pact to end excessive reliance on Chinese products. Further, under the aegis of the US it is being proposed that Japan, South Korea and India can be integrated into the five eyes intelligence framework with both economic and strategic aspects addressed under this rubric. However, whether the three Asian countries would get equal sharing of information or would be just providers of data. Therefore, the possibility of Asian Five eyes might be the better answer.
The utility of Asian Five Eyes Network (AFEN) would be to scrutinize data, develop intelligence coordination mechanisms and sharing of data related to various regions across Asia. One must acknowledge the fact that the Asian five eyes project can also be created given the intelligence, signals and satellite network that many countries in Asia have. Of course, China would be excluded in the network given its record of spoofing and also launching cyber-attacks through its cyber army. Then the big issue is who would be the five countries which can have the confidence and a flexible structure to build such a network. The Asian five eyes would be based on the National Security Adviser level dialogues among the countries and territories. The five countries/territories in Asia which have relevant and technologically superior capacities are Japan, Israel, India, Taiwan and South Korea (JIITS). The interesting part is that these five countries have intelligence sharing platforms or regular security dialogues. Even the NSA level interaction usually happens among these countries. Interaction with Taiwan has been largely closely guarded secret because of diplomatic and political repercussions.
India can be the architect in this regard and the mandate for this project should be on sharing of terrorism data, Chinese activities, terror financing, drug syndicates and sharing of information of nuclear proliferation networks. Among the five countries/ territories the technical expertise and independent satellite network in quite impressive and would be said to be second to none. How would such an arrangement would work given the lack of any alliance system in between the countries and Taiwan is a matter to be addressed.
The whole edifice for the Asian Five Eyes network can be based on the template of global security and intelligence sharing partnership between the five stakeholders. The annual intelligence chiefs meeting along with National Security Adviser level dialogue would enhance the cooperation and build mutual trust. However, countries like India, Japan and even Israel would not like to antagonize China because of integration of Taiwan in this network. Therefore, the initiative need to be purely on operational basis without much media hype. The functional platforms still exist between Taiwan and many countries in Asia. The regional responsibility can be demarcated as like the Five Eyes, India can look after South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia as well as China; Japan can look after China, North Korea and Russia; South Korea can provide vital data and inputs related to nuclear proliferation and North Korean syndicates; Israel can provide information and intelligence related to North Africa, West Asia/ Middle East and terror groups operating in the region while Taiwan can be entrusted with hard intelligence related to China’s maritime activities as well as information related to mainland China.
The operational aspects in which every country have something to contribute and share can be done through mutual agreement on encrypted sharing of intelligence and signals data on a grid network. Also, there can be a high level dialogue among the chiefs of intelligence agencies as well as National Security Adviser (NSA) level dialogues. How the edifice can be constructed can work in five basic fundamentals. First, creating an office for the AFEN. Second, developing a sophisticated encrypted network. Third, real time sharing of data, signals and intelligence. Fourth, regular annual interaction at highest level and lastly, developing a better synergy between Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) and human intelligence (HUMINT). The biggest drawback of the five eyes network is their HUMINT has been lagging because of too much dependence on TECHINT. To realize this AFEN there is need for collaborative network among counterpart institutions and developing a common fund for this idea.
Author: Panka Jha, Centre for Security and Strategy Studies
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