The PM should announce the withdrawal of the NCTC notification and set up a small group of experts to come out with a fresh draft without adding to friction between the centre and the states
Individual states can control regional terrorism or insurgency with a limited spread. We have had success stories as in the case of Al Ummah in Tamil Nadu.
But terrorism or insurgency of a pan-Indian spread is a different kind of threat like that of the Indian Mujahideen or insurgency of the Maoists. The whole of India is their theatre. And target. No individual State police, however professional and competent, can deal with the threat on its own.
We are on the threshold of other and more deadly mutations of terrorism such as maritime terrorism. Global terrorist organisations have been on the look-out for weapons of mass destruction material that they can use. From global, such threats are likely to become national.
Only the government of India can deal with these mutations and prevent them from operating in our territory. No individual State Police has or will ever have the expertise and capability to prevent and neutralize them.
Our internal security problems are inextricably entwined with our external environment. The non-state actors of today—whether terrorists or insurgents—copy-cat States in their ability to use modern technologies and new means of causing death and destruction.
Protecting ourselves and our nation from these ever-changing threats is the business of all of us— whether the central agencies or the State Police. When our Constitution was framed more than 60 years ago, our internal security tasks were simple —dealing with dacoities, robberies and insurgencies of the Telangana kind. Our founding fathers had the confidence that the States can deal with any internal security threat alone. In their keenness to preserve and protect our federal State, they made the Police a State subject.
Threats have changed today. Beyond our worst imagination. No single government or agency or police force can cope with the threats of today by operating from an island of its own imagination. The island mentality and the island techniques in the management of internal security have to give way to a co-operative and co-ordinated way of managing internal security.
Federalism is no longer the ability to act alone. It is the willingness and the ability to act together. Terrorists and insurgents are increasingly acting together at the regional, national and global level. But we in India are not. We find it easier to co-operate with other nations, but not with each other.
The current controversy over the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) between the centre and the states illustrates the continuing prevalence of the island mentality in dealing with pan-Indian internal security threats.
The concept was borrowed by P. Chidambaram, the union home minister, from the US where its NCTC has played a useful role in preventing terrorism. Normally, there should have been no controversy but Chidambaram’s action in seeking to make the NCTC a part of the Intelligence Bureau with executive powers of arrest and search has rightly alarmed the opposition-ruled states.
In the US and elsewhere, such instruments function independently and not as a wing of the intelligence agency. They have no powers of arrest and search. The IB is a clandestine instrument. Fears of likely misuse of such powers by it are legitimate. They have to be addressed.
We used to have good habits of co-operation in the past when the same political party was in power in the centre and the states. These habits are withering away due to the emerging multipolarity of our political landscape in which everything is getting politicised.
We need new instruments to deal with the threats of today. Yesterday’s instruments are out of date. To oppose the new instruments under the pretext of threats to federalism is short-sighted and will prove to be suicidal.
We have to think of new ways of interpreting and protecting federalism that would strengthen our ability to maintain internal security without jeopardizing our federal structure. Dogged, unthinking opposition to new, much-needed structures such as the NCTC will prove counter-productive.
The centre cannot escape blame for the current controversy. It should have realized that it cannot deal with internal security without the co-operation of the State Police. Instead of consulting the states on equal basis and encouraging them to get into the same boat, it has added to their suspicions by playing games that politicians play unmindful of national interests. Its action in avoiding political consultations on the NCTC before issuing the notification on its creation is haunting it now. Instead of making the states more flexible and responsive to ideas of pan-Indian counter-terrorism management, it has made them more distrustful of the centre.
It is time for the Prime Minister to come to the forefront, take over the leadership role in this matter and remove the suspicions and apprehensions of the states. How can India have internal peace if the institutions of individual states decay and how can individual states have internal peace if the central institutions are thwarted from functioning as they should ?
The Prime Minister should announce the withdrawal of the notification already issued and set up a small group of experts from the centre and the states to come out with a fresh draft of how the NCTC will function without adding to friction between the centre and the states.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies