Security experts are blaming Home Minister P Chidambaram for his handling of the important NCTC legislation. They now believe that the legislation, which has come under scathing attack from various states, would eventually lack any sting. Vicky Nanjappa reports
There have been many arguments over the past couple of months on the contentious National Counter Terrorism Centre with many state governments coming down heavily on the aspect of shared responsibility.
Officials in the Intelligence Bureau told rediff.com that the impression one gets is that the NCTC would emerge as a body filled with legalities rather than practicalities.
IB sources say that they were enthusiastic about the NCTC, but going by the number of problems that the anti-terror law has been facing 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.
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, 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 the Research and Analysis Wing 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 the state advisor. 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 headache 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 that followed. 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's set up. Earlier all the intelligence was pooled and it would be reported to the Joint Intelligence Committee. Then the National Security Council Secretariat took over the job of the JIC.
But in today's scenario, experts say, it is important that we have an agency to handle intelligence without any hindrance.
According to IB sources, the biggest issue today is the inability to operationalise the information received
They quote the recent case of Yasin Bhatkal, who reportedly managed to slip off the agency's radar due to ego clashes with state units. What the NCTC aims at doing is ensuring that it creates a pool of intelligence at the centre.
According to former RAW 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.
IB officials 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,' they say.
"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 is 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," he says.
"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."