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India's coastal security plan yet to take off
Bureaucratic hurdles, procurement delas and turf wars between
securit agencies are said to have delaed the maritime defence
plan
Submitted on 11/25/2011 - 11:10:19 AM
By Sarwar Kashani
New Delhi: India's much hyped maritime defence plan remains hurdled by procurement delays
and turf wars, three years after 10 Pakistani terrorists sailed into Mumbai undetected, exposing
the holes in the country's coastal security.
The government had decided to go for a comprehensive overhaul of the coastal security
architecture and had drawn a blueprint of the proposal.
This included installing coastal radar surveillance network, a chain of automatic identification
system (AIS) stations, setting up a special security force Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB), issuing
fishermen identity cards and creating a maritime intelligence network NC3IN or the National
Command Control Communication and Intelligence.
But all these proposals are nowhere near becoming operational, leaving India's 7,600-km long
coastline as vulnerable as it was during the Mumbai terror attack.
The maritime border runs through nine states Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka,
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal and four union territories:
Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
An official pointed out that inordinate delays in execution was the reason why there were
incidents like "abandoned vessels or ghost ships" breaching the three-tier security ring of the
Indian Navy and almost reaching India's shores.
The official was referring to the August episode of MV Pavit, which drifted to the Mumbai
shore undetected. The Panama-flagged vessel had sunk after it was abandoned off the Oman
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coast June 29 beIore getting grounded oII Juhu Versova beach.
Indian Coast Guard, the principal agency Ior maintaining security in the maritime zones, is
operating at virtually halI its required strength.
The Iorce has only 65 per cent oI the required Iorce-levels oI ships and vessels, and 48 per cent
in terms oI aircraIt and helicopters.
This has even drawn Ilak Irom the Comptroller and Auditor General's report oI 2011.
The government, as per its coastal security plan, also wanted continuous monitoring oI 3,331
designated coastal villages, tens oI thousands oI Iishing boats and securing major and non-major
ports and harbours.
For this, the government had proposed to issue biometric identity cards to all Iishermen. This is
being handled by state governments. This initiative was being Iunded by the Union Home
Ministry.
It had also proposed to register sailing vessels. Boats larger than 20 Ieet already need an AIS,
without which they would be treated as potentially unIriendly vessels.
The DeIence Ministry had requested to make this compulsory even Ior boats below 20 Ieet.
The proposal is being studied by the Ministry oI Shipping.
The joint operation centres oI the navy and the Coast Guard at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi
and Port Blair are also under-staIIed.
"Till everything is set in place, adequate manpower, Iorce-levels, equipment, we cannot claim to
have a Iully secured coastline," a senior oIIicial said.
He said the navy and Coast Guard had stepped up their sea patrolling by 60-80 percent and
aerial surveillance by 100 percent.
However, the aerial and sea patrolling need to be backed by continuous electronic surveillance
to make supervision really eIIective, the oIIicial said.
For this the navy and Coast Guard had sought static coastal radar surveillance network. They
had asked Ior 46 radars, 36 on the mainland, six in Lakshadweep and Minicoy and Iour in the
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Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The project worth over Rs.602 crore was cleared b the Cabinet Committee on Securit in
Februar 2009. But the contract is et to be inked, the official admitted, saing bureaucratic
hurdles were delaing the project.
The fate of the proposed AIS stations is no different. The AIS is aimed at locating and tracking
merchant and fishing vessels.
The NC3IN intelligence network that would link 51 nodes of nav and Coast Guard is also
hanging fire. The Defence Ministr has claimed that the project would be completed b 2012.
The SPB was supposed to have 98 officers, 902 sailors and 80 fast-interception boats for
securit of naval bases. This is also et to take off.
So far onl 11 officers and some 250 sailors, with rented boats, have being positioned. Officials
said the first four fast interception boats were likel to be delivered b the end of this ear.
The onl thing that went right after the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people is coast policing.
The government has been able to establish nearl 100 coastal police stations. This is being paid
for b the central government.
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