Wednesday, December 30, 2009

States Have Important Role To Play To Fight Terrorism In India

The initiatives of Home Ministry of India to streamline and strengthen the National Security and Internal Security of India are praiseworthy. But they seem to be too ambitious to achieve in the absence of both expertise as well as a good Centre-States relationship. It is a bad policy to impose law enforcement and intelligence agencies operations upon the States as they may be “unconstitutional” as per the Constitution of India. In the absence of good legal framework in this regard, the tussle between Centre and States may increase in the future.

The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) proposed by Union home minister P Chidambaram would solve the problem of intelligence integration and dissemination that we discovered during our enquiry into the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Even after a year, there is no indication that the states have understood how to manage intelligence flowing from the Centre. A centralised clearing house to receive, digest and disseminate intelligence with clear directives for ground action is necessary.

However, Indian NCTC’s charter appears to be to be far more ambitious than the American NCTC, created under the US law in 2004. In the US, the NCTC has only a ‘strategic operational planning’ charter including assigning roles and responsibilities to lead US agencies. It does not have the power to ‘direct the execution of any resulting operations’. The Indian version reportedly wants to be singularly responsible for ‘preventing, containing and responding to a terrorist attack’ through intelligence, investigation and operations. Some central organs are to come under the NCTC fold that will oversee the functions of intelligence agencies. All these have to be achieved by 2010-end. This is a gigantic and controversial task.

There is no mention how this will be achieved at the state level. US security architecture allows units such as the FBI, emergency relief bodies and state police to operate according to their legal charter with ground-level coordination by the department of homeland security (DHS).

Beefing up resistance capacity of our state police is not enough, they also have to be in-sync with the thinking on anti-terrorist tactics, especially as our state police officials get rotated every three years. US achieved this by setting up Homeland Security State & Local Intelligence Community of Interest that constantly consult each other.

Our municipal and private bodies that control critical infrastructure and disaster relief have to be brought on board. DHS did this by decentralising public awareness and participation through Community Response Exercises under National Incident Management System with participation of local bodies, private sector and hundreds of Fema’s emergency relief centres under National Infrastructure Protection Plan. If we have to fight terrorism, some of these ideas have to be implemented.