With the new Government in power, National Security and Internal Security Projects and Initiatives were on the cards. However, none could have anticipated that they would be taken up so early. In some positive developments, the efforts to strengthen the Internal Security of India have already been started. The appointment of the duo of Mr. Nripendra Mishra and Mr. Ajit Kumar Doval was the most crucial step in this direction.
The present efforts to streamline the establishment and running of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) Project of India is another step in this direction. As per media reports, the contractual term of NATGRID CEO Mr. Raghu Raman have come to an end as his tenure has not been extended by the Government. However, avoidance of the establishment of a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) of India is a major setback for India’s Internal Security. Similarly, Indian Cyberspace must also be protected on a priority basis that has been neglected for long.
The NATGRID Project of India is a very ambitious Intelligence Gathering and Processing mechanism. NATGRID Project of India has gone through numerous stages and finally it is ready to be rolled out. However, from the very beginning NATGRID Project has not been implemented in a coherent and systematic manner due to internal turf wars and bureaucratic hurdles.
There is no doubt that NATGRID Project of India is of tremendous importance for the National Security of India on the one hand and Law Enforcement and Intelligence Requirements on the others. In fact, NATGRID is an essential part of the Law Enforcement Technologies in India.
NATGRID Project of India is not by itself “Intelligence Related Project” but a Project to facilitate Law Enforcement and Intelligence related inputs. Its purpose is to transform raw intelligence information and inputs in a more meaningful “Intelligence Lead”. The present times is a time of do or die for NATGRID Project. This is more so when its counterpart Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Project of India is performing much better.
NATGRID may be a good platform for India to strengthen its Intelligence and Law Enforcement Initiatives. However, it cannot survive in the absence of “Political Will” to make it an effective and responsible tool. With the benefits of NATGRID come the issues of “Accountability and Fairness” in its operation. India must formulate adequate “Safeguards” before making NATGRID functional. NATGRID is an essential requirement for robust and effective Intelligence Agencies and Law Enforcement Functions in India. The only requirement is to ensure that its “Abuses can be Anticipated, Prevented and Remedied”. The NATGRID project must not die like the other projects handled by India from time to time. NATGRID would also require skilled workforce and for that Skills Development for Intelligence Workforce is need of the hour. This would also be required to perform Open Source Intelligence through Social Media Platforms and Internet.
However, above all we have to make necessary changes at the Policy and Legislation Levels. For instance, the National Security Policy of India and Telecom Security Policy of India must be Techno Legal in nature that must “Balance” the National Security and Civil Liberties Requirements in India. There must be “Severe Punishment” for Illegal Phone Tapping that is rampant in India. The Intelligence Agencies of India Need Parliamentary Oversight and the Intelligence Infrastructure of India needs Transparency and Strengthening. There should not be any “Legal Immunity” to Intelligence Agencies of India in the absence of Parliamentary Oversight and the system of “Using Executive Orders” to confer “Legitimacy” upon Intelligence Agencies must be abandoned as soon as possible by the Government.
Enough time has already been wasted for the implementation of NATGRID Project and it is high time to deliver results. Once this is successfully done, the way to constitute National Counter Terrorism Centre of India would also be clear. I hope and wish that NATGRID Project of India would be operational very soon.