Ex-NSA Narayanan not in favour of 4 commando hubs



New Delhi: West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan on Friday expressed reservations about establishing four regional hubs of the elite National Security Guard (NSG), one of the issues that created a chasm between him, in his previous avatar as National Security Advisor (NSA), and then home minister P Chidambaram following the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

Delivering the first lecture of a series initiated by the NSG to mark its raising day, Narayanan also said that he was concerned over moves to increase the strength of the force.

"I am concerned on the current emphasis on increasing the size and numbers of the NSG. I also have reservations about the establishment of the four regional hubs," the former NSA said here, admitting that he was speaking against conventional wisdom.

"The NSG is an elite special force intended to meet a specific situation and not intended to confront a normal law and order situation. Its strength does not lie in its numbers," he said at the event, attended among others by Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi, Intelligence Bureau director Nehchal Sandhu and NSG director general Subhash Joshi.

"Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it consists of the bravest of the brave personnel having a great virtue and ability; specially trained for undertaking the most difficult of tasks; and provided with the best equipment available in the world," Narayanan said.

"The increasing numbers, to my mind, is bound to dilute both the quality and capability of the force," he emphasised.

Narayanan's reported differences with Chidambaram in the aftermath of the 26/11 strike is said to be the reason for his being shifted out as the National Security Adviser to the gubernatorial post in the Kolkata Raj Bhavan.

Narayanan was NSA from 2005 to 2010 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The four NSG hubs at Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, that have been set up since 2010, were born out of criticism during the Mumbai attacks after the elite commando unit reached the megalopolis only the next morning, almost six hours after the attack began.

The former NSA noted that the elite commando unit could reach any place in India within two hours and for that purpose favoured "captive" air assets to fly them to the place of need.

At present, the NSG relies on the Indian Air Force (IAF) to airlift it to the place of operation. But it also has powers to requisition aircraft from civilian airlines whenever required.

Narayanan also noted that the NSG, being a specialised unit, used by the government as a last resort to handle extraordinary crisis situations, should be "leaner and agile" and capable of carrying out operation with "speed, precision, along with covert capability"

"An important attribute of the NSG, if not vital, is the nature of its personnel. It is the men who contribute to the force being different," he said, emphasising that NSG is the "only civilian special force" in the country and refusing to call other commando units of paramilitary and police forces, be it from the centre or states, as special forces.

He also suggested that the NSG, being a counter-terrorism special force, should begin its own research units to have prior information on terror outfits and its operatives that pose a threat to national security.

He also asked the force to have a "re-look" on its recruitment strategy as it draws from both the armed forces and the police-paramilitary forces of the country.

Narayanan also wanted the NSG, and the government security establishment, to consider if the force needed to build counter-proliferation and nuclear-security capability.

IANS