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Anti-terror body an 'important pillar' of India's security: Home Minister

Anti-terror body an 'important pillar' of India's security: Home Minister
New Delhi Advocating the need for setting up anti-terror hub, Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the Centre and State governments have to work together to make the country safe and secure. Addressing the Chief Ministers' conference on the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which is facing stiff opposition from non-Congress Chief Ministers, including UPA ally Mamata Banerjee, Mr Chidambaram said terrorists do not recognise boundaries of countries or states and terrorist threats are taking new dimension going beyond the physical space.

In a bid to dispel fears of some chief ministers that the proposed anti-terror intelligence hub would infringe on their policing domain, he said, "We have to work together. The State Governments and the Central Government working together, the Opposition and the Treasury working together, civil society organisations and government institutions working together, I am confident we can make the country more safe and more secure," he said.

"That terrorists do not recognise boundaries between countries or boundaries between States belonging to a country; That many terrorist organisations have foot prints in several countries and have the capacity to commit terrorist acts across borders or boundaries; that human resources alone are not sufficient to counter terrorism; technology is the key weapon in this conflict," he said.

The Home Minister said India has the obligations to the international community under the Resolutions of the security Council to counter terror threats. He said, 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. India shares 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.

Highlighting a new dimension to terrorist threats, Chidambaram said, security forces have confronted terrorist threats only in the physical space but now, there are terrorist threats in the cyber space, which is the fifth domain after land, sea, air and space.

"Much of our critical infrastructure lies in cyber space. Cyber crimes such as hacking, financial fraud, data theft, espionage etc. would, in certain circumstances, amount to terrorist acts. 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?," he asked.

Explaining the rationale behind setting up of the NCTC and a Designated Authority, the Home Minister said the power to name a Designated Authority under section 2(e) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, under which the NCTC is proposed to be set up, was concurrent.

"Hence, we would welcome it if your State Government also designates its Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) as the Designated Authority of your State," he said.

Chidambaram also drew the attention of the Chief Ministers to paragraph 6.1 of the Order notifying the NCTC which, he said, is the key to understand how the NCTC will discharge its responsibilities.

"Paragraph 6.1 stipulates that the Standing Council shall ensure that NCTC is the single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter terrorism measures," he said.

The Home Minister said following the usual practice when a new body is created, the Home Ministry has circulated two Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) -- one deals with the functions and powers of the Standing Council and the other deals with the Operations Division of the NCTC.

"I sincerely hope that the two SoPs would address all the concerns raised by some Chief Ministers in their letters to the Prime Minister and the issues flagged by the DGP at the meeting convened by the Home Secretary on March 12, 2012," he said.

The Home Minister also referred to the experience and benefits received by other countries, including the United States, through their NCTC. He said in the US, the NCTC has the mandate to conduct counter terror operations involving all elements of national power.

"There is 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). In the Indian context, the NCTC, will be an important pillar of the new security architecture...," he said.

The main task of the NCTC would be to ensure that a wide variety of security organizations in the country work in tandem, at least on issues related to terrorism.

It will also have the power to seek information, including documents, reports, transcripts, and cyber information from any agency, including from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency, National Technical Research Organization, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and all seven central armed police forces including the National Security Guard (NSG).

The body, which will function under the Intelligence Bureau, would be given its own operational wing with powers to arrest and conduct searches under Section 43A of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
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