It is time the National Security Advisor was shown the door

Published: December 3, 2008 - 15:51 Updated: January 6, 2009 - 14:46

Hardnews Special

Immediately after the horrific Mumbai terror attack that left 200 dead and many more badly injured, a bizarre blame game is on in the government. The whole exercise is quietly acquiring the form of the theatre of the absurd.Otherwise what was the reason that the National Security Advisor, M K Narayanan, the top gun of the security establishment who is the recipient of all the intelligence inputs from different spy agencies has been allowed to carry on with his job after the embarrassing whereas the Home Minister, Shivraj Patil and Maharashtra deputy CM, RR Patil, are eased out?

If the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh really wanted to give meaning to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s demand to fix responsibility then he should started from his office itself and jettisoned the NSA, who has been sticking to his chair like a leach. NSA, for those who do not know is the official who gets reports regularly from the Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB), an officer handpicked by him, and the external intelligence agency, Research& Analysis Wing (R&AW). It is NSA again who decides what he should inform the PM and what he should hold back. Prioritizing and then guiding intelligence are some of the tasks that NSA has been performing to everyone’s discomfort.

An officer of 1955 cadre, who retired in 1991, he is out of synch with the times. Narayanan has had to suffer the professional ignominy of being the head of IB when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Sreiperumbudur. Gandhi was expected to return to power. The IB under him, subsequent enquiries, showed had prior information of the assassins moving for the kill( Rajiv), but for some reasons they did not do enough to stop them in their tracks.
During the Mumbai terror attack, too, this bizarre pattern has been repeated. Now all the intelligence agencies are claiming that they had tipped off the PMO (read Narayanan) and other security groups, but no one moved. Even the US government is claiming that they had warned the Indian government, too, of the possibility of seaborne attack by terrorists, but no one paid heed. A local daily attributes a statement to a senior IB official where he says that all the intelligence was provided to PMO and NSA, but there was no follow-up action. Quite clearly, the NSA did not have the right reflexes to prevent such a happening or maybe he was busying chasing other things.

It is learnt that after the Congress Working Committee meeting, NSA was forced to tender his resignation. For a while, the national channels kept on “breaking news” that he his resignation has been accepted. Intriguingly, shortly thereafter reports began streaming in that there was no basis to these reports. Hardnews learns that the NSA managed to extricate to wriggle out from this tight spot by leveraging his considerable clout with Sonia Gandhi, who has been behind his appointment. Even the new Home Minister, P Chidambaram, is believed to be close to the NSA.
Be that as it may, NSA’s survival has outraged many in the political class, who believe that the blame of Mumbai has been carefully deflected onto them through use of the television media and clever spin-doctoring whereas it is the bureaucracy that is really guilty. “ Poor Home Minister Shivraj Patil had nothing to do with intelligence failure as the IB does not report to him, “ claimed a hurt Patil supporter. For the time being NSA may have survived, but country’s response to terror would remain cosmetic till it gets down to the task of fixing responsibility and that means ousting the NSA.