Preparing the Ground for the New Security Set-Up

There’s been a reshuffle of state governors this weekend, which means some gubernatorial families have some moving to do. But the real story is the sidelining of national security adviser M K Narayanan, the 76-year-old former spy who has held the post since 2005. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh doesn’t usually get rid of close confidantes like Narayanan, but this is all about a departmental land-grab that has been in the offing ever since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008.

Home Minister P Chidambaram has been nagging the Congress leadership for the past year to bring all the internal security bureaux under his single supervision and set up a coordinated US-style National Counter-Terrorism Centre, also under his purview. His energetic self-promotion, combined with the failings exposed by the Mumbai attacks, appear to have succeeded.

Narayanan has been bundled off to West Bengal, which he doesn’t seem over the moon about: “The powers that be probably think that I need a quieter life,” he told The Times. A successor has yet to be named, but as India Today points out, the three front runners are all career diplomats who would be well-suited to the sort of role that Chidamparam wants the national security adviser to become: dealing with diplomatic engagement and nuclear security and leaving the hard security threats to him.

The plan is to make the NSA more of a strategist and less of an executive role. Control of intelligence and related security forces will shift to the Home Office and leave the new NSA to do the advising that their job title suggests.

As The Hindu argued this week, however, a major part of the revamp must be in the police force. Chidambaran has already stated that 400,000 new constables need to be recruited, but they also have to be tied much more closely to other security agencies if they are to be effective. This is the lesson from the UK, which radically increased the interaction between Scotland Yard and MI5 over the past decade. In the words of the The Hindu:

In India, the process is just beginning — and at a pace which would put a tortoise to shame … The key problem is not the lack of institutional arrangement for the management of India’s counter-terrorism response but system-wide deficiencies in skills and capabilities. Vision and hard work will be needed to address them.

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