After years of discussion and preparation, India has announced the ambitious setting up of its own anti-terror body – the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Modeled on the U.S. body of the same name, the center is expected to be operational from March 1, 2012.
“NCTC will prescribe counter-terrorism priorities for each stakeholder and ensure that all agencies have access to and receive source intelligence support that is necessary to execute counter terrorism plans and accomplish their assigned tasks,’’ the order for the center said.
The NCTC will prepare daily threat assessments and disseminate them to the appropriate central and state government departments, according to The Hindu. However, the center has been given a lukewarm reception in some quarters, with some pointing out that the NCTC will only be successful if states and union territories are fully engaged and willing to share real time data with the new agency. If not, there are fears that the center will end up sidelined, as has been the case with other security apparatus.
The idea for a national counterterrorism body dates back at least a decade, when the National Democratic Alliance government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee raised the possibility of establishing such an organization. However, the plan was scrapped as many Indian states felt uncomfortable with the idea of the center encroaching on their territory in the name of security.
A further challenge for the NCTC is that it will have to be operationally supported by a plethora of existing central agencies, and critics point to the Kargil War as an example of competing security interests and one-upmanship clouding the state’s ability to respond to security threats.
The NCTC will be empowered to carry out operations, make arrests and conduct searches and seizures as part of its mandate to be the country’s main counterterror agency. NCTC will combat terrorism by collecting and analyzing threats, sharing information with other agencies and converting this into actionable data. It will be located in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) under the control of the union Home Ministry and will headed by an additional director rank IB officer whose designation will be director. It will also reportedly maintain dossiers on terrorists, terror outfits, terror modules and their network – operational as well as financial.
The government intends to give the NCTC sufficient teeth to secure information from all agencies nationwide through whatever means necessary, whether documents, reports, transcripts, or interrogation reports of arrested terrorists.
However, given the federal structure of India, if the states don’t provide real time information, there are fears that NCTC will simply end up being seen as a way for the powerful Indian Police Service (IPS) to increase the number of top posts for IPS personnel.