Proposing a bold, thorough and radical restructuring of the security architecture at the national level, Union Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday suggested bifurcation of the Home Ministry.
He said subjects not directly related to internal security should be dealt with by a separate Ministry or brought under a separate department in the Home Ministry itself and handled by a Minister independently.
“The Home Minister should devote the whole of his/her time and energy to matters relating to security,” Mr. Chidambaram said. In his view, given the imperatives and the challenges of the times, a division of the current functions of the Ministry of Home Affairs “is unavoidable.”
To counter, prevent and contain a terrorist attack and respond to it should one take place, India must set up the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) by the end of 2010, he said while delivering the 22nd Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment lecture here. In his 40-minute address, he touched upon the situation post 26/11 terror strikes and the state of India’s police. He outlined the tasks that lay ahead to ward off crises like the hijack of IC-814 or another catastrophe like the Mumbai terror attacks.
Referring to the proposed NCTC, Mr. Chidambaram said: “Such an organisation does not exist today and it has to be created from the scratch. I am told that the United States was able to do it within 36 months of September 11, 2001. India cannot afford to wait for 36 months. India must decide now to go forward and India must succeed in setting up the NCTC by the end of 2010.”
He said NCTC must have a broad mandate to deal with all kinds of terrorist violence directed against the country and the people. “While the nature of the response to different kinds of terror would indeed be different and nuanced, NCTC’s mandate should be to respond to violence unleashed by any group — be it an insurgent group in the North East, the CPI (Maoist) in the heartland of India or any group of religious fanatics anywhere in India acting on their own or in concert with terrorists outside India.”
“NCTC would, therefore, have to perform functions relating to intelligence, investigation and operations. All intelligence agencies would therefore have to be represented in the NCTC. But I am clear in my mind that without ‘operations,’ NCTC and the security architecture that is needed will be incomplete. It is the proposed ‘operations’ wing of the NCTC that will give an edge — now absent — to our plans to counter terrorism,” he said.
Mr. Chidambaram said the Ministry of Home Affairs now performed a number of functions that had no direct relation to internal security, which included a division dealing with freedom fighters though it did not have even a desk for dealing exclusively with forensic science.
“There are other divisions or desks that deal with Centre-State relations, State Legislation, Human Rights, Union Territories, Disaster Management, Census etc. These are undoubtedly important functions and deserve close attention. However, internal security is an equally, if not more, important function that deserves the highest attention.”
Venturing after a year in office to outline the new architecture for India’s security, Mr. Chidambaram identified two enemies of change. “The first is ‘routine.’ Routine is the enemy of innovation. Because we are immersed in routine tasks, we neglect the need for change and innovation. The second enemy is ‘complacency,’ ” he told top police and intelligence officials that included National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Director IB Rajiv Mathur.
Striking a note of caution, Mr. Chidambaram said there was no time to be lost in making a thorough and radical departure from the present structure. “If, as a nation, we must defend ourselves in the present day and prepare for the future, it is imperative that we put in place a new architecture for India’s security.”
He also announced the commencement of two more projects — the first to overhaul the Foreigners Division at a cost of about Rs. 20 crore and the second to adopt mission mode project on immigration, visa and foreigners’ registration and tracking — with the objective of creating a secure and integrated service delivery framework for facilitating legitimate travel and strengthening security. It would network 169 missions, cost Rs. 1011 crore and take four-and-a-half years for full implementation.