Says the issue is not one of "State versus Centre"
While assuring the States that the UPA government was committed to working with them and providing them all possible help in combating terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centre “is not a State versus Centre issue.”
“It is not our government's intention, in any way, to affect the distribution of powers between the States and the Union that our Constitution provides [for],” he told the Chief Ministers who gathered here for a daylong conference on the controversial set-up proposed to coordinate action against terror. The meeting was convened after stiff opposition from a dozen Chief Ministers to the NCTC plan.
Stressing that the NCTC would supplement and, not supplant, the States' counter-terrorism capabilities, Dr. Singh, in his inaugural address, asked the State governments to work with the Centre in dealing with terrorism.
The primary purpose setting up the NCTC “is to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country, as the Intelligence Bureau has been doing so far. The NCTC should be a vehicle of our combined efforts to reach the shared goal of curbing terrorism and eradicating militancy,” he said.
The antecedents of the NCTC were derived from the Group of Ministers and the Administrative Reforms Commission, beginning with the lessons learnt in the Kargil conflict, Dr. Singh said, defending the proposal. “The NCTC mechanism will give each State agency an ability to see the bigger picture of terrorist threats and thus would enhance their counter-terrorism capability and access to resources to tackle them.”
Drawing the Chief Ministers' attention to the drafts of the Standard Operating Procedures circulated by the Union Home Ministry, he said they reflected the detailed provisions for Centre-State coordination in both the organisational set-up of the NCTC and in its powers and functions.
“But, for the NCTC to function smoothly and effectively, it is important that we have a fairly broad consensus on its powers and functions. We would like the State governments to be with us in this initiative, which we believe would strengthen our counter-terrorism efforts.”
Pointing out that terrorism was today one of the most potent threats to the national security, he said there could be no disagreement on putting in place an effective counter-terrorism regime with efficient mechanisms and response systems at the national level and in the States. “Neither the States nor the Centre can fulfil this task alone. The closest cooperation and coordination is, therefore, necessary to meet the threats that emanate from within and outside our borders.”
It was the “responsibility of the Centre to give form and shape to a cohesive national approach and strategy based on information gathered globally and from all the States of our Union,” Dr. Singh said.
“On their part, the States should use their expertise, knowledge and machinery to secure their own territories and work in coordination with the Centre and other States.”
Referring to the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008, Dr. Singh said that since 26/11, “we have diligently strengthened our counter-terrorism capabilities, both in the States and at the Centre.” The State and Central police and intelligence agencies were working in harmony and in close coordination.
“These efforts have resulted in several noteworthy successes. The State police forces have achieved some excellent results in the recent past. On the whole, there is [a] broad agreement on the strategy and measures that we must adopt to counter terrorism in all its multifarious dimensions in India, including cross-border terrorism, Left-Wing Extremism, terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, insurgency in the northeast and religion-based terrorism. However, much remains to be done.”