Secret meeting of world's intelligence chiefs held in Singapore

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US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines attends the 20th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 2, 2023. —Reuters
US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines attends the 20th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 2, 2023. —Reuters

In a highly secretive gathering, senior officials from approximately two dozen major intelligence agencies worldwide met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security meeting in Singapore over the weekend.

The Singapore government has been organizing such meetings discreetly at a separate venue alongside the security summit for several years, but their existence has never been reported until now.

Among the countries represented at the meeting were the United States, with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines leading the American intelligence community. 

China, despite tensions with the US, was also present, alongside other participating nations. India's Research and Analysis Wing, represented by Samant Goel, head of the overseas intelligence gathering agency, was confirmed to have attended.

An individual familiar with the discussions described the meeting as a significant fixture on the international shadow agenda. While it does not primarily focus on tradecraft, the gathering serves as a means of fostering a deeper understanding of intentions and bottom lines among participating countries. 

The source emphasized that intelligence services often engage in dialogue when formal and open diplomacy becomes challenging, highlighting the meeting's vital role during times of heightened tension. The event in Singapore plays a crucial role in promoting this type of communication.

All five sources, who shared information about the secret meeting, chose to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject matter. A spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Defence acknowledged that while attending the Shangri-La Dialogue, participants, including senior officials from intelligence agencies, take the opportunity to hold meetings with their counterparts. 

The ministry further stated that it facilitates some of these bilateral or multilateral meetings, which have proven beneficial to the participants.

The US Embassy in Singapore stated that it had no knowledge of the meeting, while requests for comments from the Chinese and Indian governments remained unanswered at the time of reporting.