The writer is an
analyst and the
President of all
US defense budget that suggests expanding the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement consisting of the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada to include Japan, South Korea, India, and Germany. The nature of insights that each of these countries may be in a position to contribute and identify the risks associated with expanding intelligence-sharing arrangements, and needs to expand cooperation as the US no longer can rely solely on the post-World War II intelligence structure centered on the English language. Five Eyes intelligence-sharing pact is a World War II relic that needs updating to better keep tabs on China. It has also introduced an amendment in the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for the year 2022 to formalize the House committee’s proposal. The NDAA is meant to authorize the defense spending by the American government and NDAA 2022 is the first during the presidency of Joe Biden. It has proposed a budget outlay of at least $715 billion as defense spending for the current fiscal year. The proposal by the House committee acknowledges that the threat landscape has vastly changed since the inception of the Five Eyes arrangement, with primary threats now emanating from China and Russia.
The US clearly wants India to play the role of a security facilitator in the Asia-Pacific region. If India does become a part of the intelligence-sharing network, it will be a natural extension of the enhanced defense cooperation between the US and India, especially in recent years. India, Australia, the US, and Japan are already cooperating under the Quad framework. On the other hand, adding India to the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing club would hurt US-Pakistan relations as Islamabad tries to coordinate a regional response to a growing Afghanistan terror threat.
If we analyze then it can be seen that Five Eyes is becoming outdated. South Korea, has better assets in China and in Asia that the US could be working with, but the US doesn’t have that relationship where it can share as much information as the US does with Australia or New Zealand, or Canada. At the moment, it’s not expected that the Five Eyes becoming Nine Eyes at this point. The difficulties with moving to a Nine Eyes are almost entirely different to come up with a process in which you can appropriately share intel with a very limited number of Diet members. A mechanism, like in the US, where members of Congress receive intelligence briefings under strict confidentiality, will be necessary. It is true that multiple countries are approaching Japan’s intelligence community for insight into the region’s countries. Japan shares cultural similarities with China and North Korea and more countries seem to be appreciating its analytical capabilities. Japan lacks a full-fledged agency equivalent to the US Central Intelligence Agency, and Tokyo’s intelligence-gathering activities pale in scale. Despite the technical issues, the likes of Japan and South Korea offer elements that the Five Eyes lack.
But if more countries joined Five Eyes, there would be layers of sharing based on the sensitivity of the intelligence. It isn’t that the five nations automatically get all the information. Even the Five Eyes had different restrictions on information that was being shared. The most sensitive is human intelligence, or HUMINT, gathered by spies on the ground. Every country would be very hesitant to share specific information about human sources because people’s lives are at stake. The Five Eyes may limit sharing based on geography as Japan would need to know less about Europe than Germany and based on sensitive collection systems. The US might share imagery and signals intelligence only with partners that have the same capability, especially if a system is newly developed. Each nation has its own intelligence agencies and collection capabilities, and different nations may be very good at niche targets. Clearly, South Korea has very good capabilities against North Korea because of the common language and culture and advantage with HUMINT.
Five Eyes membership will give India the support it desperately needs to push back against the People’s Liberation Army’s massive military power: New Delhi’s ability to harvest and decrypt Chinese strategic communication, as well as its pool of language and regional expertise, has long been anemic. Like all deals, though, this one involves hidden terms and conditions—some of them less than attractive. The United States spent an estimated 70% of its gargantuan intelligence budget on technological means, but the Soviet Union achieved more using old-fashioned human espionage. Soviet intelligence services we’re able to recruit spies in the heart of the United States’ nuclear weapons program, as well as its communications intelligence technologies and operations. The lesson isn’t that intelligence technology isn’t useful—just that it has limitations. Even as India thinks through the prospects and perils of joining Five Eyes, it needs to be working harder on addressing the chronic deficits that plague its own intelligence community.
For Pakistan more alarming thing is that India in Five Eyes reflects America’s increasing reliance on New Delhi for strategic cooperation. The cooperation includes intelligence gathering, surveillance, and maritime domain awareness. The US clearly wants India to play the role of a security facilitator in the Asia-Pacific region. If India does become a part of the intelligence-sharing network, it will be a natural extension of the enhanced defense
cooperation between the US and India, especially in recent years. India, Australia, the US, and Japan are already cooperating under the Quad framework. On the other hand, adding India to the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing club would hurt US-Pakistan relations as Islamabad tries to coordinate a regional response to a growing Afghanistan terror threat. The US already has asked Pakistan not to recognize the Taliban, and so Pakistan is taking its time and looking for a regional consensus on the issue of legitimizing the new government in Kabul, bringing in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Iran, and possibly others. If India ultimately joined the Five Eyes group, Pakistan would place new limits on what it shares with the US. But the move would hurt US-Pakistan ties, which could affect coordination on Afghanistan policy. It’s a recipe for a new Cold War, a recipe for a new divide, and if you are going to have that, the lines will be drawn.