To take on board only States in favour, without coercing everyone

Post-Hyderabad blasts, the Centre has once again sensed the urgency of setting up the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Talks are on in the government to take along States that are in favour and not coercing those against it, as was done at the time of approving FDI in multi-brand retail.

While Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has said the government was ready to tweak controversial proposals to break the impasse, some senior Central ministers want to push the NCTC without any delay to ensure that the fight against terror could be more effective.

Government sources said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials were trying to find out whether it was feasible to run a truncated NCTC instead of taking all States on board. While all Congress-ruled States are in its favour, some ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) like Gujarat and non Congress-ruled States like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Odisha are opposing it, accusing the Centre of infringing upon the States’ rights and weakening the nation’s federal structure.

“Whenever the central agencies have decided to crack down against any terrorist organisation or carry out operations, States have always cooperated… The NCTC was meant to make this arrangement more efficient by making timely interventions and preventing any kind of leaks. We are considering the possibility of making the NCTC work in association with States that are with us,” a senior MHA official said.

Significantly, some senior BJP leaders have already said their party was ready to support the NCTC provided that the concerns of their Chief Ministers were addressed. They feel that issues like information gathering and coordinated operations could be done, but are against any kind of unilateral raids and operations by the central agencies without keeping the State government or its police in the loop.

Similarly, on other irritants like keeping intelligence agencies out of the proposed counter-terror hub, Mr. Shinde has assured to take a re-look at all contentious points to make the mechanism work. “We want to implement it… We have received letters from some States not to go ahead in the current form. Today also, we are ready. If intelligence agencies are to be kept out of the ambit, we can… Let us sit together and discuss,” Mr. Shinde said in Parliament on Friday.

Proposed by Mr. Shinde’s predecessor, P. Chidambaram after the Mumbai terror attacks, the NCTC has been conceived on the lines of the counterterrorism agency formed by the U.S. to have a proper database of terrorists and organisations, and efficient sharing of intelligence. During his tenure as Home Minister, Mr. Chidambaram had pushed hard to see that the NCTC proposal went through. However, stiff opposition from the non-Congress-ruled States led to the proposal going into cold storage.

But now some senior ministers, including Mr. Chidambaram, want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene and let the NCTC function, sans States opposing it.

“We have seen in the case of FDI in retail, parties opposed it but we still managed to get it cleared… But we have given the right to implement FDI to States and we are not forcing it on anyone. We want to adopt a similar strategy in the case of NCTC so that we can move ahead in our fight against terrorism. Innocent people should not suffer in a political tussle. Once the opposing States understand the merit of NCTC, they will automatically become a part of it,” a senior minister said.

Explaining how the NCTC could help prevent terror attacks, a senior MHA official said recently all the States were alerted about possible terror attacks, while five cities were given specific inputs.

“However, it seems that the central intelligence agencies and State police failed to join the missing dots as there was no information sharing between our agencies and those in States… It led to blasts in Hyderabad. But in case of NCTC, there would be a central pool of information where all States would contribute… All this will lead to providing more specific information critical in averting any terror strike.”