NSA's role will be redefined as Narayanan exits

NSA's role will be redefined as Narayanan exits

 M.K. Narayanan. File PhotoNarayanan, a former Intelligence Bureau chief who has now been appointed West Bengal governor, had been holding the critical post in the country's security apparatus since January 2005 - and many felt he sometimes overstretched his brief exercising all functions relating to external and internal security and intelligence coordination.

Narayanan's mandate was huge as he presided over vast territory that included defence, internal security, nuclear energy and foreign policy. In addition he was active in Jammu and Kashmir affairs, the Maoist threat and principal interlocutor for talks with countries of strategic importance including the US, France, Russia, China and Pakistan - no doubt with the endorsement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“That huge canvas made him a key figure in the PMO and doubling up as the internal security boss made him one who exercised authority and influence not associated with anyone for a long time,” a close associate of Narayanan said not wishing to be named.

“The result was obvious. There was not enough attention devoted to internal security and this was evident in 2008-09 where the country witnessed a huge number of terror attacks. Over 750 civilians were killed.”

With Home Minister P. Chidambaram taking on the role of the internal security boss after the 26/11 terror strikes and making his ministry exclusively responsible for the management of internal security, it will end the duality that saw intelligence agencies caught between the home ministry and NSA in taking their cues.

Former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra believes the role of the NSA must change in the current geopolitical climate.

“Now that internal security is with the home ministry where it rightly belongs, the NSA's role is confined to two things - external security and the nuclear command authority. Nothing else,” Mishra told IANS, refusing to comment on Narayanan's tenure.
“In my view the National Security Council (NSC) is not necessary as the Cabinet Committee of Security is effectively the NSC. The job of the NSA must be to advice the prime minister on external threats.”

The office of the NSA has been in existence for over a decade now and was first created by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998 who appointed Mishra to the job. Vajpayee had used Mishra, a former diplomat, as his special envoy for talking to the Americans, the Pakistanis and the Chinese.

Refusing to comment on Narayanan's role because of his long association with him, strategic affairs analyst K. Subrahmanyam says the new NSA should shed his various administrative responsibilities.

“I welcome the move of the home minister to set up the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) by the end of the year. But I don't think the role of the NSA should be confined. It should be expanded to deal with national security challenges,” Subrahmanyam  said.

“He has to be a thinker and planner of national security and not a hands-on administrator.”

In Subrahmanyam's reckoning, Narayanan did not create his job but was forced to move into it. “Let's criticize the system and not the person.”

In 2004 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had two NSAs' - Narayanan (internal security) and J. N. Dixit (external security). When Dixit died in Jan 2005, Narayanan was given both the jobs.

With India taking its position in the world as a power to reckon with, the NSA's role will be one that articulates the government's viewpoint not only on strategic affairs but also encompassing security concerns.

“He should be like the US NSA that does not deal with internal or external security but acts as a coordinator,” adds Subrahmanyam.

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