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We shouldn't get terrified

A holistic anti-terrorism mechanism shouldn't stumble over regional politics.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2012 21:49 IST

If politics is too serious to be left to politicians, then it would seem that intelligence in India is too serious to be left to the multitude of intelligence agencies that we have. And, of course, it does not help that politics gets in the way as well. The latest such example is that of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) being put on hold after the states objected to its operationalisation saying it would infringe on their powers. This brings us to the question: can the fight against terror be put on hold until everyone agrees on the right course of action and the right outfit to carry it out?

No doubt the NCTC was set up with the best of intentions. But a closer look suggests that we already had enough infrastructure to fight terror, which was not being utilised properly. So instead of creating more intelligence outfits, all working at cross purposes, what we need first is a holistic framework within which to tackle terrorism. It is over three years since we suffered the worst-ever terror attack in Mumbai. In this time, we have seen both terror experts and politicians breathing fire and brimstone on how we are determined to thwart the evil intentions of terrorists. But today we have a number of agencies from the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) to NCTC to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), all with the avowed aim of fighting terrorism and insurgency but notching up no real progress in joining the dots. The fight against terrorism begins right down the food chain, in local police stations. They are meant to rely on human intelligence to a great extent and pass on information to higher authorities. But is there any coordination among police stations? None at all.

The Centre would have done well to consult the states on where intelligence gathering begins and where it should end. The idea should be to create a seamless network which constantly monitors the local, national and international scenarios, picking up chatter and intelligence on the ground and then, most importantly, interpreting this and formulating a viable course of action to avert the threat if possible. This would be an ideal holistic approach. What we have is a myriad of agencies, all shooting off in different directions with no coordination whatsoever. The Centre-state turf war apart, all these agencies jealously guard the information they have, often until it is too late. George W Bush may have been a bit of a bumbler, but the measures he sanctioned, though draconian here and there, have produced results in keeping mainland America safe. We need real time intelligence and unless the NCTC works through Natgrid with inputs from IB and R&AW with equal coordination among the states and ministries concerned, we can’t claim to even have begun the fight against terror. Our mandarins and spooks are very fond of talking down to us on terror. The fact that the mint-fresh NCTC is stuck suggests that terror strategies are too serious to be left to them.