There have been many arguments in the past couple of months over the contentious National Counter Terrorism Centre. Many state governments have come down heavily on the aspect of shared responsibility and looking at it today it becomes clear that the NCTC will come up but will be watered down.
Speaking to the experts and some officials in the Intelligence Bureau the impression one gets is that the NCTC would emerge as a body filled with legalities rather than practicalities.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that they were enthusiastic about the NCTC, but going by the number of problems that are being faced today it appears that the body would have more hurdles than powers. There are officers who feel that the need for some additional powers while fighting terrorism is the need of the hour. There have been too many lapses and more often than not coordinating with a state agency has always ended up in an ego battle the result of which is that the terrorist gets away.
The experts are however of the view that Home Minister P Chidambaram has dealt with this issue in the reverse. He has often spoken about shared responsibility but not once did he bother to circulate the draft among the states before going ahead with an executive order on the matter. Today what has happened is that there is too much opposition and hence there would be a lot of amends that would have to be made the main ones being placing the body under the IB and also the operational powers of the body.
Former officials in the IB and also RaW feel that there would be no harm in consulting with the states before an operation is conducted. For instance operations in Jammu and Kashmir were always executed after consulting with the state adviser and there has been a lot of success in those matters. That ought to continue even today after the NCTC is operational.
States have elected governments and they do share an equal responsibility in maintaining law and order. The NCTC ought to act in some cases at least in consultation with the state. There are many times that politico-religious leaders have been involved in incidents of terror. An NCTC team which emerges out of Delhi could walk into that state and finish the operation and get out of there. But then it becomes a head ache for the state to deal with the problems that follow. It is more or less like what the Americans did with Osama Bin Laden. They conducted an independent operation and it was Pakistan which had to deal with the chaos which followed later. It could become a similar case if the operational powers of the NCTC are not properly dealt with.
The IB says that over the past couple of years handling terror cases has become a herculean task. We have had to deal with delays and egos and this has become a major hindrance. It is the IB which has to finally assess the intelligence and come to a conclusion even in today set up. Earlier all the intelligence was pooled and it would be reported to the Joint Intelligence Committee. Then there was a change and it was the National Security Council Secretariat which took over the job of the JIC. Today terrorism has become such a huge problem and India is the epi centre. There are not only external issues, but internal and global ones as well. In such a scenario it is important that we have an agency to handle intelligence without any hindrance.
The biggest issue that the IB faces today is that we get the information but are unable to operationalise it immediately as we are dependant on some one else. Take the recent case in which Yasin Bhatkal managed to give the slip. This is a typical example of how ego clashes with the state units can ruin an operation. Hence we need to have our own capability to act without wasting any time. What the NCTC aims at doing is ensuring that it creates a pool of intelligence at the centre and more importantly it is operationalised with immediate effect.
According to former Research and Analysis Wing Chief, C D Sahay, there is an urgent need to marry the many requirements and ensure that there is a broad consensus on the issue. However one must also ensure that the operational capabilities are diluted. While forming the NCTC the main points to be ensured are that they ensure that the factors Urgency and Importance are taken into consideration.
Officials in the IB say that the NCTC should be an independent authority. We need the best brains and young minds to ensure that this organisation functions properly. There should be consultation with the state authorities and a proper code for this needs to be defined failing which every time there is intelligence it could become a debating body.
Sahay points out that the route that has been taken by the Home Minister is all wrong. If at all he was serious about his proposition saying that it is a shared responsibility then he ought to have sent out the draft before going ahead. What is worse is that he taking cover under what L K Advani did in 2001. This is a different government and they ought to take their own decision. Today when I look at how the issue is going it is clear that today the stakes are higher and the positions are polarised. I have my own doubts whether they can bring in the NCTC as it was originally planned out. There are many other issues for the Home Minister. There are elections in some states so they would tend to object harder. Then he also has his own allies in the government troubling him. For every step that the Home Minister takes today every words and every coma will disputed and hence I feel that the road ahead is very tough. Thanks to his own doing ( not consulting the states in the first stage) he has lost out on a very good initiative.