Senior officials from some two dozen of the world’s major intelligence agencies gathered for a secret, closed door meeting in Singapore over the weekend on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.
Numerous sources named U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines as an attendee while China was among the other countries present, despite the tensions between the two superpowers, Reuters reports.
Samant Goel, the head of India’s overseas intelligence gathering agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, also attended, an Indian source said.
“The meeting is an important fixture on the international shadow agenda,” one person with knowledge of the discussions told the outlet.
“Given the range of countries involved, it is not a festival of tradecraft, but rather a way of promoting a deeper understanding of intentions and bottom lines.
“There is an unspoken code among intelligence services that they can talk when more formal and open diplomacy is harder — it is a very important factor during times of tension, and the Singapore event helps promote that.”
Five sources who revealed the meetings to Reuters declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
A spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Defence said that while attending the Shangri-La Dialogue, a major Asian security summit held annually in the city-state, “participants including senior officials from intelligence agencies also take the opportunity to meet their counterparts.”
“The Singapore Ministry of Defence may facilitate some of these bilateral or multilateral meetings,” the spokesperson said. “Participants have found such meetings held on the sidelines of the [dialogue] beneficial.”