Terror Politics

Politics is dreadful. It not even spares the fight against terrorism. Politics which is devoid of collective strength cannot check anti social and terrorist activities. Using this loophole in the Indian politics, international terrorists penetrate into the Indian soil coolly. Apart from the political will the confused governance at the centre and among the states are the big contributing factor in rising terror activities in the country. The recent announcement of National Counter Terrorism Centre and its opposition by the states is an example for India’s lack of political will to fight terrorism.

Shankar Roy Chowdhury writes in The Deccan Chronicle

Elections have just concluded in several states and with general elections to follow in 2014, almost every conceivable issue in the entire country has been emotionally and politically charged to very high voltages.

Personalities on either side of the political divide are attempting to develop controversies on all possible issues to extract whatever mileage can be squeezed out of it. But what is new and disturbing this time around is that even matters pertaining to core issues of national security like the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) have come into the zone of political crossfire.

India is located in a disturbed and unstable neighbourhood, which is rocked by tremors emanating from a variety of hostile organisations, internal as well as external. The main threat is from the jihadi fundamentalists sponsored by the covert warfare branches of the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and its Indian offshoot, the Indian Mujahideen. Other extremist groups like Naxalites and tribal guerrillas also contribute to the quantum of overall threat.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is the designated nodal agency in India for counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence, but the terrorist invasion of Mumbai on 26/11 graphically highlighted many serious deficiencies in Indian intelligence and security systems. It re-emphasised, once again, the need for refurbishment of the national counter-terrorism effort.

The proposal for creation of such an agency at the national level to collate, analyse, integrate inputs from all intelligence sources at Central as well as state levels and plan coordinated counter-terrorist and counter-espionage operations had been amongst the important recommendations of the Kargil Study Group set up in 2001 to analyse the conflict and draw lessons from it.

The initial steps to improve coordination to counter terrorism was the establishment of a Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), but its logical extension into an integrated NCTC has not been formalised to date. The MAC was created out of existing resources without any additional accretions and is not fully effective because of shortages of resources and personnel. Part of the reason for these deficiencies and delays in implementation are internecine turf battles between various government bureaucracies competing for control of the proposed centre.

The recent proclamation by the Union home minister P. Chidambaram of establishing a fully functional NCTC with effect from March 1, 2012, had perhaps not allowed for the ground realities of politics in the Indian environment, which have now entered the process.

There are misgivings amongst the Opposition parties in Parliament, that the proposed NCTC, like some of its predecessors, might again become an intelligence agency of the government, to spy on domestic political opponents rather than externally supported hostile entities.

Given the history of misuse of the IB and the Research and Analysis Wing by various governments during their time in office, there is substance in such conjectures.

Meanwhile, assorted politicians (particularly chief ministers of states ruled by Opposition parties) have drummed up an agitation against the creation of NCTC, on the grounds that some of its functions would impinge on the federal structure of the country and is therefore unconstitutional. Some amongst them have even questioned the requirement for such a Centre at all. But however it may be viewed from differing perspectives, there should be no doubts that an NCTC is undoubtedly an important operational necessity to preserve the country.

Opposition to the NCTC is illogical and even somewhat ridiculous to the point of absurdity. However, it is not yet clear whether these objections are merely uninformed criticism, or may have darker ulterior motives not expressed as yet, but waiting to emerge subsequently. Nevertheless, the divisive debate on such a vital issue provides yet another instance of the immoral political cynicism, which attempts to exploit every public concern for perceived electoral advantage.

The NCTC proposed as a model for India is based on the American system, which Mr Chidambaram had the opportunity to examine during his four-day visit to the US in September 2009. Much of the organisational and legislative infrastructure required to establish NCTC already exists in India within the MAC, which can be expanded and redesigned as required.

Internecine departmental rivalry amongst intelligence services regarding the sharing of information is a ground-level obstruction in India as also in other countries but if NCTC is to succeed what really requires to be firmly overcome is the prevalent mindset of reluctance towards constructive mutual cooperation.

The NCTC in the US was created in May 2003 in the aftermath of the attack on the WTC on September 11, 2001. In India, the trigger event was the terrorist attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 by sea-borne terrorists from Pakistan. The attacks resulted in 164 Indian citizens killed and upwards of 308 injured. After the attack, the Maharashtra government instituted a committee of inquiry under Ram Pradhan, a former Union home secretary.

The report drew attention to the inter-agency lapses very similar to those experienced by the US during and after the 9/11 attacks. On his return from the US, Mr Chidambaram had recommended the establishment of an NCTC in India based on the US model. But it will be a non-functional lame duck right ab initio unless it functioned in tandem with a National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), a centralised databank pertaining to all aspects of known or suspected terrorist activity in India as well as worldwide.

Though Natgrid is the backbone system it has already run into major difficulties with many departments outside the home ministry flatly refusing to provide information that they consider confidential. How all this will ultimately play out remains to be seen, but one thing certain is that the security of the nation cannot be dragged into political games any longer.


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