The common purpose

Coordination between agencies leading to Bhatkal's capture points to the necessity of the NCTC.

The story of the arrest of the alleged kingpin of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), Yasin Bhatkal, may well offer lessons on the potential of inter-agency, Centre-state collaboration on counter-terror operations. Bhatkal and Asadulla Akhtar, an IM operative, were reportedly tracked for six months before their arrest on Wednesday night, in a joint operation involving the Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Bihar police. As reported in this newspaper, behind this elaborate operation, lay an extensive collation of information from various state police forces by dedicated Central teams, eventually leading the agencies to the India-Nepal border, where IM operatives had become active. The NIA's mandate apparently helped collate the information, which the IB acted on.

For years, Bhatkal had eluded the authorities, also taking advantage of their lack of coordination. The Kolkata police had put him in jail in 2009 but let him go because they did not know who he was. Although he had built a reputation for near-last-minute escapes, in a high-profile botch-up, Bhatkal escaped arrest in Mumbai in January 2012 because of a lack of communication and rivalry between the Delhi police and the Maharashtra ATS. Failures of coordination, turf battles and one-upmanship between agencies have undermined and weakened India's fight against terror. The Hyderabad blasts in February again saw the return of the same sorry spectacle of pointscoring, instead of the projection of common purpose.

Bhatkal's successful apprehension further underscores the need for an umbrella agency like the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) to streamline intelligence collection and collation, bypassing the labyrinth of competing bureaucracies. The proposed entity in its latest form is a shadow of the original vision, which the Centre had unilaterally announced earlier. States and parties continuing to oppose the NCTC because of politically convenient spectres of federalism-in-danger must now act upon the urgent need to resuscitate the project.

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