The National Security Guards (NSG), a brainchild of Rajiv Gandhi, was raised in 1984 after then PM Indira Gandhi's assassination. The first combat elements of the NSG were operational by April 1985 at Manesar, Haryana. Regional hubs were envisioned during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure but never implemented.
The pain of this was experienced during 'Operation Vajra Shakti' (when the Akshardham temple at Ahmedabad was attacked in 2002) and, more recently, during 'Operation Tornado' when they [terrorists] attacked Mumbai on 26/11.
The 26/11 attacks steered political will towards executing the mandate for the NSG. Four NSG hubs at Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata were inaugurated in June and July. It was probably an act of providence or the Prime Minister's foresight that he appointed Mr. P. Chidambaram at the helm of the ministry due to which these NSG hubs were set up.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was also established to facilitate the activities of intelligence agencies. Induction of latest weapons and equipment into the NSG armoury should now be done without bureaucratic interference.
Externally inspired internal threats should be tackled across borders, particularly when we have assured intelligence regarding locations and intent. Unfortunately, international pressure and our soft state ethos do not allow us this stance.
We must strengthen our borders to curb access, or eliminate intruders by proactive action through sound intelligence [the 26/11 attackers breached the international border to reach Mumbai].
A proactive approach is better than a reactive one. The first responders to any terrorist incident are usually the state police or specialist forces like the Anti Terrorism Squad. But these forces do not have the skills to tackle counter terrorist, hostage or counter hijack situations.
It is time to empower the NSG to proactively respond to such situations at least until the first responders become operationally proficient.
The NSG is a powerful tool. It has to be proactive. After its first few operations the NSG slipped into a reactive stance due to the lack of real time intelligence.
Our success in preventing terror attacks depends on our ability to gather and analyse intelligence and ensure its timely dissemination.
The forward positioning of the NSG will enhance access to intelligence that can be acted upon and reduce response timings.
However, these directives can bear fruit only if the NSG is given real time intelligence and the authority to act on it.
Brigadier (retired) Rajan Oberoi, PPMG, VSM, was the founder member of the NSG. He raised the first combat elements of the 'Black Cats' in 1985 and went on to become the Force Commander. He has the distinction of being decorated thrice for gallantry. He is MD of Peregrine Guarding Pvt Ltd