New Delhi: Home Minister P Chidambaram Saturday strongly defended his pet project, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which he said would be an "important pillar" of the country`s security infrastructure.
In a bid to dispel fears of some chief ministers that the proposed anti-terror intelligence hub would infringe on their policing domain, the home minister stressed that countering terrorism "is a shared responsibility" of central and state governments.
"I wish to assure you and the people of India that counter terrorism is a shared responsibility. That is what the constitution says, that is the practical and prudent way forward," Chidambaram said in his address to chief ministers here on the controversial NCTC, whose formation has been put on hold following vehement opposition from non-Congress ruled states.
Chidambaram said the government in collaboration with states had neutralised 21 terror modules in the past one year but there were cases related to "jihadi` terrorists" and Maoists, where, despite inputs regarding the presence of terrorists, the security agencies did not act "either due to lack of capacity or lack of a timely decision".
"What should the central government do in such cases?" he asked, and stressed that the NCTC "will be an important pillar of the new security architecture" of India that will enhance the counter terror capabilities of states as well as the central government.
Chidambaram said the anti-terror agency was based on models of the NCTC in the US that has the mandate to conduct counter terrorism operations involving all elements of national power.
"There are also the FBI and the Secret Service with nationwide jurisdiction. In Germany, there is the GTAZ (Joint Counter Terrorism Centre) and the GIZ (Joint Internet Surveillance Centre)."
The minister said: "When the state governments build more capacity and inter-state cooperation becomes more effective, I suppose the central government can - and will - step back."
Till then, he said, "We have to work together. I am confident we can make the country more safe and more secure."
Chidamabaram said the NCTC was needed because "terrorists do not recognise boundaries between countries or boundaries between states belonging to a country and that human resources alone are not sufficient to counter terrorism. Technology is the key weapon in this conflict.
"Given India`s 7,516 km coastline, 15,106 km of international borders with seven countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar) and a number of international gateways, state anti-terrorist forces would have to necessarily work with a number of agencies of the central government, especially when there are threats in the domain of sea, air and space," he said.
He said terrorist threats in the cyber space lies where "our critical infrastructure lies in cyber space" in a new threat.
"Our counter terrorism capacity must be able to meet the threats in cyber space. Since there are no boundaries in cyber space, how will the central government and the state governments share the responsibility to face the threats in cyber space?"