National Counter-Terrorism Centre A Non-Starter?
Politics which is the bread and butter of the politicians is getting inextricably linked with the national issues that the nation is facing. The problem is that of distrust that whatever any party does, does with a partisan angle—the latest casuality is that of National Counter-Terrorism Centre. Twelve Chief Ministers have opposed it for the reason that it is an encroachment on their turf as laid down in the Constitiution
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik referring to the statement of the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, which said: “Security of the country is shared by the Centre and state governments. The Constitution of India assigns law and order to the state governments and also assigns the Centre to protect the country against external aggression or internal disturbance,” pointed out: “If security is the shared responsibility of the Centre and states, then I am surprised that they (home ministry) are not sharing vital information with state governments. It is a matter of surprise that they can send heavy bills, as the cost of renting out CRPF and BSF to the state government (for dealing with terrorism of Maoists and Naxalites) but not the important notification issued on February 3… They have not shared information regarding the constitution of NCTC, its functioning and powers…We are not informed about the new anti-terrorism body to be operational on March 1. It seems very peculiar.” Replying to Chief Minister a bureaucrat said: “There was no need to consult the states prior to notifying the NCTC. It has been formed for better coordination among (security) agencies to fight terror better.” This contradicts what the Finance Minister of India has said that Government of India will have to take note of the concern of the Chief Ministers.
How does it stand to any logic that fighting terrorism or internal disturbances by the Maoists and Naxalites is a shared responsibility, when like a shopkeeper or a landlord the government charges the states for the manpower it lends them?
While the idea of the Counter Terrorism is excellent, but is it essential to ignore the institutions which were earlier created for the same purpose, and which have been rendered moribund? Public memory is short about the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the Government of India, which was entrusted with the duty of analysing intelligence data from the Intelligence Bureau, R&AW and the Directorates of Military, Naval and Air Intelligence. The JIC has its own Secretariat that works under the Cabinet Secretariat. Instead of strengthening and rectifying what we have, as a nation, we keep on creating new institutions, thus duplicating and triplicating the same body or bodies, but in different names.
There is also a National Security Advisory Board, which is presumed to consist of persons of eminence outside the government with expertise in external security, strategic analysis, foreign affairs, defence, armed forces, internal security, science and technology and economics. But actually, they are mostly retired officers, who are generally arm-chair theoreticians. Taking action on any recommendation and translating it to a reality is the responsibility of the Central government or governments of the day in the state.
The stark reality remains that we are a soft state, following the policy of “willing to strike, but afraid to wound”. India is truly incredible, where there is a total mismatch between intentions and deeds. As a soft State we have not learnt any lesson from numerous terrorists attacks, which have killed thousands, some of which are listed in the table.
There is, no doubt, that terrorism is a big problem in India. But will setting up a Counter-Terrorism Centre be enough, without the will to fight it? So far as the Government of India is concerned, it has proved itself totally inept, bungling and hopeless in tackling this problem. In this age of fast-moving cars, we are competing with them with bullock carts of 18th and 19th Century. I mean by this analogy the archaic laws for dealing with terrorism. We are tackling terrorism with the laws framed in 1861, when terrorism in the present form did not even remotely exist.
What the whole world knows, our mighty Government of India does not know. USA’s State Department’s annual Congressionally mandated Country Reports on Terrorism for the year 2009 says: “Although clearly committed to combating terrorism, the Indian government’s counter-terrorism efforts remained hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems.”
What shall the government do with the best of intelligence, when it is not willing to act strongly against terrorism? It is true that there are no easy solutions to the problems of terrorism. But nowhere, in the world has terrorism even been conquered by sermons and speeches and condemnations. With laws of 1863, we cannot win a victory on terrorism. The laws must be changed with the times, as in hardly any case, there will be any witness to such a crime. Even if there is one, any witness will be foolhardy to depose and put his life and limb in danger.
Terrorists understand only that language, which they use on others. Government should bear in mind that the price of greatness is responsibility and it should be discharged, by willing to work against terrorist, rather than letting them to have an upper hand.
By Joginder Singh
(The writer is former Director, CBI)