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Narayanan for NSG quality over numbers

New Delhi, Oct. 12: Former national security adviser M.K. Narayanan today differed with former home minister P. Chidambaram’s move to have four hubs for the National Security Guard, arguing that increase in numbers would mean dilution in quality.

“Strength is not in numbers but in getting the bravest of the brave personnel,” the Bengal governor said in his keynote address at an NSG Raising Day function.

“It is a very major mistake to have four hubs. It could have at most two hubs. You can reach anywhere in India within two hours.”

Narayanan suggested the NSG could be given “captive air capability so that you can scramble personnel any time. What is needed is logistics and operational intelligence.”

After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Chidambaram had decided to have four regional NSG hubs in Calcutta (Rajarhat), Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. NSG director-general Subhash Joshi today said these hubs were already operational.

NSG commandos had reached Mumbai several hours after the 26/11 attack began, a delay that was partially responsible for then Union home minister Shivraj Patil losing his job.

Narayanan was then the national security adviser (he held the post from January 2005 till January 2010). He did not specify whether he had opposed Chidambaram’s decisions in 2009.

He, however, emphasised that the NSG would do better to focus on the quality of its personnel and be optimum in its manpower.

The relationship between the home minister and the national security adviser during a part of Chidambaram’s tenure was often a subject of gossip in North Block. Chidambaram’s morning meetings were a must not only for the Intelligence Bureau and RAW chiefs but also the national security adviser.

Narayanan was emphatic that the NSG should be considered the only “special force on the civil side”. State forces such as the ForceOne in Maharashtra are not “special forces”, he said, conceding that he could earn the states’ opprobrium for saying this.

He said India’s security needs had changed nearly 30 years since the force was raised. His vision of a “changed role” included giving the NSG the responsibility of protecting the country’s nuclear programme.

Narayanan suggested a comprehensive re-look at the NSG’s mandate, saying the policy makers appeared unclear on how and when to use the force. He said the NSG too needed to take a “hard look” at what it was doing. “There is doctrinal confusion.”

With the neighbourhood highly volatile and China looking to expand into new areas, the threat from neighbours remained, he warned. In the 21st century, fundamentalism and terrorism were real threats and the NSG would have to decide how it should play its role.

In the audience were Intelligence Bureau director Nehchal Sandhu, Navy chief Admiral D.K. Joshi, Bureau of Police Research and Development director-general Kuldip Sharma and the special directors of RAW and the Intelligence Bureau besides several senior army officers.