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Will a counter-terror apex body add more confusion?

December 21, 2011 16:32 IST

Home Minister P Chidambaram indicated that the National Counter Terrorism Centre of India, the umbrella body which would deal with terror threats within the country is expected to get the cabinet nod within the next 15 days.

Once in place, the NCTC would comprise the Intelligence Bureau's Multi Agency Centre, apart from the Joint Intelligence Committee, National Technical Research Organisation and the National Security Guards.

In addition, it would also have control over the National Investigating Agency. This agency would be part of the Indian home ministry, and would also be answerable to Parliament.

The NIA, set up after 26/11 attacks was aimed at reducing the confusion of multiple agencies probing terror. While the NIA is settling down, there still remains the issue of 'ego' between police officials. This results in multiple agencies probing the same case.

Police and NIA sources say that it would take a while for the idea to sink in and it would become soon mandatory that only the NIA would probe cases of terror while other police departments would only assist it and not launch individual probes.

Post 26/11, it was found that intelligence was one of the biggest worries. Speaking of intelligence failures in the country, it has been found that at times, information is passed on and not acted upon.

"There are too many agencies to deal with, and more often than not information does not reach the department. The NCTC aims at solving this problem, and if put in the right place all our intelligence worries could end," points out an expert.

The primary job of this agency would be to warn and pre-empt terror strikes. It would act as a collection hub for information, with a panel of experts, who would analyse it.

While the anti terror wing of the IB would be under this agency, it has also been decided that even the Research and Analysis Wing would have to pass on information relating to terrorism to this agency.

While the agency on paper shows a bit of promise as it aims at wiping out the confusion in information sharing, there are also apprehensions among various officials.

"We already have many agencies in the country and some of them exist only on paper. Most work continues to be done by the local police and the intelligence and hence the creation of such an agency could add to more confusion," says an official.

"There has been talk for a long time that the police force needs to be beefed up instead. However the home minister has decided to go ahead and set up a new agency even as the local wing of the police remains weak," he adds.

Some officials argue that instead of the IB and the RAW reporting to the NCTC and providing information, they rather tip off the local police who actually carry out the job of thwarting terror strikes.

"Passing on information to the NCTC would only mean an additional procedure which could delay things," the official adds.

However these officials say that once the NCTC is set up, the role and responsibility should be handed over only after the system is in place.

"It would not be advisable to commence work immediately. There is a need to have properly trained staff and only once their capabilities are up to the mark should the entire burden fall on the agency," he adds.
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru