A New Spook at the Agency

Rediff.com is reporting that Sumit Ganguly will soon take over as head of the South Asia Bureau in the National Intelligence Council:

Sumit Ganguly, who currently holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations will soon be appointed the first National Intelligence Officer of the newly-formed South Asia Bureau in the National Intelligence Council, an appendage of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Ganguly, also a professor of political science and director of the Indian Studies Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, is the first Indian-American to serve in the NIC.

The NIC is the intelligence community’s centre for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking.

Its National Intelligence Estimates on behalf of the Director of National Intelligence (the head of the CIA) are the most authoritative written judgments concerning national security issues.

Yes, intelligence estimates are quite useful (when the analysis isn’t pre-ordained at least). Well good.  It makes sense to have someone of South Asian heritage actually head this new branch.

His most recent work, published by Columbia University Press and Oxford University Press (New Delhi), is entitled Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947. He also recently published The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and Washington, D.C.: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1999). His research and writing have been supported by grants from the Asia Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace. He has also been a guest scholar and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (New York) and the International Institute of Strategic Studies (London). Professor Ganguly serves on the editorial boards of Asian Affairs, Asian Survey, Current History and the Journal of Strategic Studies. He is also the editor of a new journal, The India Review, published by Frank Cass and Company. [Link]

Earlier, Rediff did an interview with Ganguly about his book, in which it further probed him on his views about the conflict in Kashmir.  These views will almost certainly influence U.S. policy in the region:

Q: Do you endorse India’s position of ‘no talks until concrete results are seen?’

A: Yes, I do. That said, India, for its own reasons, should move with much greater imagination, dexterity and skill in terms of winning back the hearts and minds of its deeply disaffected Kashmiri Muslim population. Merely harping on “cross-border terrorism” makes India’s decision-makers look foolish and disingenuous in the eyes of scholars and serious policy-makers alike.

21 thoughts on “A New Spook at the Agency

  1. I’m sure pakistanis will love this guy:

    Virtually every institution in Pakistan, thanks to unscrupulous politicians and feckless military dictators, is in a state of decay. Despite the general’s putative fondness for Scotch whiskey, Pomeranians and faulty English syntax, I do not know that he has the necessary qualities of head and heart to tackle some of Pakistan’s most enduring woes. It may well be in the interest of the United States to sing his hosannas, but it is far from clear to me that General Musharraf can undertake a series of profound reforms to rescue the Pakistani polity from its near-decrepit state.
  2. Funny; I know this guy. He’s ambitious. That’s a not meant to be a slight, just a description. However, I had no idea he had this kind of juice.

  3. Bengalis in da house!

    I’ve seen this guy on the News Hour on PBS, and he has been a frequent guest on WBEZ, the Chicago NPR station, on issues related to the subcontinent. He is hard-headed, looks at the facts on the grounds. No question that he does not trust the Paksitani government (since it only does what the army tells it to), but he is not a neo-con – he was opposed to the Iraq war.

  4. it gets better…

    There are a number of individuals in the Pakistani Army for whom Kashmir remains an idée fixe because of the humiliating defeat of their forces in 1971 at the hands of the Indian Army. These individuals have an irrational, unreconstructed hatred of India and they also wield power within Pakistan. Musharraf can ignore them at his own peril.

    Finally! he sounds like someone who has the courage to speak the truth without being infected by South-Asianitis…

  5. An interesting appointment. I had to read a number of his books/papers in grad school as representative of the “Indian position”. Although he is an accomplished scholar, I often found myself surprised at how one-sided his analysis was. I’m curious to see how much of his influence will trickle down into a shift in policy.

  6. Although this was from a number of years ago, Ganguly was a guest on the Diane Rehm Show on 1/9/2002. You can listen to the program in its entirety on the WAMU website. It is good intro on how he approaches security issues in South Asia.


    While digging through the audio archive, I also came across another Kashmir-related program, this one aired on May 28, 2002. On that show, I managed to get through and pose a question to the panel, without doing the multi-part question format that Bengalis are notorious for. I called in at the 46:57 mark:


  7. Nice. I had the privilege of taking one of Professor Ganguly’s classes at UT Austin (when he taught there). He’s a great lecturer and full of very interesting personal anecdotes. This guy pulls no punches – which seems to be precisely what the NIC wants.

  8. I think its especially impressive that Sumit Ganguly got this job considering the fact that he has an accent and looks ‘foreign’.

    Appointments like these will go a long way in making Indians a part of the mainstream.

  9. ” I think its especially impressive that Sumit Ganguly got this job considering the fact that he has an accent and looks ‘foreign’.”

    Henry Kissinger aka Dr. Strangelove, and Madeline Albright – both have accent and look foreign. So do the terminator in California, Arnie.

    I might have met Sumit Ganguly at IU. Not sure….

    It all comes down to “mojo”. Concentrate on getting mojo rather than accent, looks, etc – waste of time. On a serious note, it is a matter of clout (what do you bring on the table?), nobody gives a damn about accent, etc.

  10. His “accent” actually sounds British.

    His accent sounds more bizarra than british.

    Henry Kissinger aka Dr. Strangelove, and Madeline Albright – both have accent and look foreign.

    No,they dont look foreign and Albright does not have an accent either. Arnold and Kissinger of course have accents but they dont look foreign. None of the above 3 have both an accent and a foreign look.

    nobody gives a damn about accent

    It does matter.

  11. If Zalmay Khalilzad can be US Ambassador to Iraq (and before to Afghanistan) than why not Sumit Ganguli for this analysis post. And from name Khalilzad seems Iranian.

  12. Although he is an accomplished scholar, I often found myself surprised at how one-sided his analysis was Are the scales FINALLY tilting towards India!?

    He gave a guest lecture for one of my classes, EVERYBODY loved the guy, even the unabashedly pro-pakistan professor. He is brilliant and rational.

    And I dispute the proposition that he’s pro-India, he’s very balanced. For instance, he made it very clear that India comitted human rights violations in Kashmir in 1989. At the same time he didn’t lose sight of all the obvious transgressions of Pakistan-backed militants dating from 1947.

    I’m glad he’s working for the G…effecting change from within and whatnot…

  13. I had a chance to interview / chat with Dr. Ganguly on the phone and via email for my blog sometime ago and I can verify that he is indeed FOBer than FOB. For those interested… http://www.indophile.net/s9y/archives/30-Three-Questions-with-Dr.-Sumit-Ganguly.html#extended

    Conflict Unending was important because as he mentions in the introduction – the majority of the widely circulated books on the topic are written by Westerners. It was particularly exciting to see an Indian (Shout out to Bengal in particular) provide this too often ignored perspective.

    The books provides a justification for India’s actions in Kashmir, and the liberation of Bangladesh. It clearly outlines the pervasive political sentiment in Pakistan that led to these wars. And most importantly, he doesn’t write very stodgy like the standard Indian write (“Since Time Immemorial…etc”)

    Makes me feel proud to be Bengali.

  14. I took a few courses with Dr. Ganguly at Hunter College in New York City in the 1980’s. He is an accomplished scholar. While I didn’t always agree with his views, his arguments were for the most part cogent, and very persuasive. Indeed, NIC will benefit from his appointment.