India Needs National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC)


State governments ruled by non-Congress party opposed the formation of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) due to the apprehension of dominant authority and unilateral action of centre over states using the agency would challenge their authority. Consequently, Indian Government has planned to draft a more transparent and accountable proposal of NCTC to pacify the opposition, that the NCTC is kept out of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and states be given major role in counterterrorism activities. 


The formation of NCTC is highly justified to coordinate counterterrorism efforts all the way through a vast country like India. Counterterrorism is shared responsibility of centre and states as terrorists do not distinguish between boundaries of states.  As a nodal agency NCTC would operate closely with other law enforcement and investigating agencies and also state governments in seeking to counter terrorism threats from the neighbouring countries primarily from Pakistan and Bangladesh based terrorist groups; countering home grown Islamic extremists; internecine and separatist threats from north eastern states; threats from Maoist insurgency and last but not the least, nascent vigilantism from fringe Hindu groups. To undermine the ideological motivation, operational and strategic capabilities of terrorist groups, coordination between state and central agencies are very important. States have no such capacity and capability to weaken and destabilize the terrorist networks and their logistic lines within India. States are not also able to handle the terror activities with their imperfect and inadequate security infrastructure and of course with inherent lack of political will.  For that reason NCTC is crucial and key to prevent perplexity and disorder concerning intelligence efforts, and also to ensure that it would be a focal point where intelligence is analyzed and draws operational conclusions.


The worth and significance of NCTC stems from three main drivers --- gathering and analyzing the intelligence; coordinating the different intelligence and other security agencies and carrying out operations. The role of NCTC in gathering intelligence is the central and decisive in combating terrorism in India.  The NCTC would play a key role in pr-emption and disruption of terrorist activity; in post-incident investigations; and its inputs to shielding and defensive security measures.  Consequently, NCTC would get outlook --- to identify those engaged in terrorism at all levels of involvement; to reveal their hide outs and resources of recruitment; tracking their weapons and channels of supply; to discover their methods for funding terrorism; warn against future attacks and thus prevent them; manage crisis situations by transmitting the information decision makers require; provide information necessary to carry out counterterrorism actions; disrupt terrorist organization’s communication networks.


Coordination between intelligence agencies and security forces is a key to counter terrorism.  According to counterterrorism experts, the plan‘s success relies not only on the type of intelligence obtained it’s quality, but also on effective circulation in the shortest time possible among all agencies involved.  Accordingly, NCTC has to come forward as an accommodating, supportive and centralized organization to allow for efficient and expeditious collection, analysis and dissemination of information regarding terror threats and terror activities to all the intelligence agencies and security forces involved.   For this purpose the NCTC ought to be tasked with collecting intelligence in real time, to optimize intelligence flow and to coordinate between different agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), National Information Grid (NATGRID), National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), etc. intelligence agencies of states and union territories and security forces involved in field operations.


The NCTC was granted the power to call for the services of the National Security Guard (NSG) or any other Central special forces. The new proposal envisages that state governments would also be able to apply for  not only NSG, but also the Marine Commandos of the Navy, Para Commandos of the Army, Garud of the Air Force as well as the Special Frontier Force under RAW. However, it would be the most responsive, insightful and complicated ingredient of NCTC is to create an operations wing of its own, because without such operations division, NCTC would be fragmentary and incomplete.  The operations division should develop elite special force similar to SEALS of United States (US) or Sayeret Matkal of Israel. 


The operational methods to counter the terror threats NCTC must be investigating including collecting, collating, analyzing and assessing secret intelligence pertinent to the threat; stand-in to countering the threats, keeping the central and states governments and other important agencies informed about the threats; advising on the correct countermeasures, including protective security; and assisting: supporting other agencies and state governments.  As far as investigation is concerned National Investigation Agency (NIA) would have to be brought under the overall control of NCTC. 


NCTC certainly needs charismatic and dynamic leadership both at executive and political level.  Indian Government should focus on revamping the counterterrorism architecture by making the NCTC an independent institution with executive powers working under the direction of an honest and robust executive, accountable to the country on all matters relating to internal security, whether from a military or police service must be one who has impeccable professional credentials and the capability to oversee intelligence, investigation and operations.    In order to be accountable to Parliament, it would be coherent and rational to place the NCTC under a new Ministry of Internal Security, by appointing a highly qualified professional with vast experience in security related matters to direct and coordinate counterterrorism efforts.


The NCTC will integrate and explore intelligence pertaining to terrorism; track or direct other agencies to pursue the different leads; and coordinate with the existing agencies for an effective response. However, recognition and assurance of the human rights by the NCTC has been essential to keep population away from terrorists and their promises. 

Author Note
Dr. R. Bhanu Krishna Kiran is an independent researcher on International Law & Strategic Affairs.