Warning that instruments of internal security were in disrepair, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon on Monday made a strong case for setting up of the NCTC bluntly telling its opponents that “events will not wait upon us for a decision.”

Delivering the P.C. Lal Memorial Lecture, Mr. Menon underlined the principle of prevention and pre-emption while dealing with new terror threats and said reacting after an event did not seem to be a “satisfactory response.”

The new threats were “much more potent” for the country’s colonial police structures to cope up with, he said citing the firepower used by the terrorists during the attack in Mumbai in November 2008.

He said the government had made attempts to modernise laws and police structures with considerable progress being made to counter terrorism by setting up the National Investigation Agency and by amending the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

“But when it comes to giving practical effect to the amendment to the UAPA to be able to counter terrorism, we still end up in a huge debate on the NCTC,” Mr. Menon said.

Stressing on the need to act before, rather than after, the event, he said there was a need to evolve doctrines and capabilities and strategies to prevent “unacceptable damage.”

“This would require India to create capabilities that would deter threats and would cause our enemies to desist,” he said.

Mr. Menon pointed out that the UAPA amendments were passed unanimously by Parliament after the Mumbai attacks and they recognise the need to counter terrorism to prevent the commission of terrorist acts before they occur.

Mr. Menon pointed out that the Act passed by Parliament has a provision for establishment of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre.

“But when, three years later, we try to operationalise this provision through an executive order to set up the NCTC, there has been a considerable debate — to put it mildly or politely — about the NCTC taking pre-emptive action even when there is a clear evidence that a terrorist act is being contemplated,” the NSA said.

“We need to bring this national debate to a rational conclusion soon because events will not wait upon us for a decision,” he said.

Mr. Menon said preventive and pre-emptive steps were necessary in counter-terrorism, cyberspace and in the new domain where the speed of operation or the scale of damage could make traditional response “too tardy.”

“I would only hope that a reasoned and informed debate will enable us to move forward to take practical steps that are necessary,” he said.

Speaking on the topic ‘India’s National Security: Challenges and Issues’, Mr. Menon listed out five broad areas including maintaining internal security and a peaceful periphery among the tasks before the nation.

He said some of the instruments of the country’s national security, particularly internal security, were in “disrepair”.

He pointed out that India spent less than one third of what China spent on internal security.

Other challenges were defending the country, maintaining an enabling environment and keeping up the adequacy of institutions in dealing with the challenges.

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