In the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008, several measures were announced by the government to strengthen coastal and maritime security along the entire coast. The Indian Navy was designated as the lead agency for coastal security and has been entrusted to co-ordinate joint efforts in conjunction with the Coast Guard, Marine Police and other Central and State agencies. Due to dedicated and coordinated efforts, both infrastructure and response mechanisms have evolved and overall, the Coastal security arrangements are much stronger than before.
The West Coast has witnessed a surge in intelligence inputs, which have placed these production platforms and other offshore assets of vital national interest, as ‘under constant threat’. Some of the threats to ODA perceived on the basis of incidents that have occurred in the global arena in such areas and inputs received from various organisations are “Hijacking of vessels in ODA”, “Attack by Explosive laden crafts”, “Attack by sub-surface crafts”, “Damage to underwater pipelines”, “Occupation of platforms” and “Deliberate collision by ships on to platforms”. Some of the other concerns to ODA are dense fishing activity in the area, merchant traffic crossing the ODA, dense hydrocarbon environment which is a fire hazard. Threats to these strategic installations are multidimensional and no aspect therein can be ignored by security agencies.
At the apex level, the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security(NCSMCS), headed by the Cabinet Secretary, coordinates all matters related to Maritime and Coastal Security. Joint Operations Centres (JOCs), set up by the Navy as Command and Control hubs for coastal security are fully operational at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair. These JOCs are jointly manned 24×7 by the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Customs and Marine Police. The Indian Navy has also established the ‘Sagar Prahari Bal’, a force dedicated to waterfront security of Naval installations, comprising over 1000 personnel and 90 Fast Interceptor Craft. Coastal patrolling by the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police has been stepped up remarkably over the last few years. By maintaining constant presence, at sea and in air, our entire coastline is under continuous surveillance by ships and aircraft of the Navy and Coast Guard. In addition to continuous patrolling, modern technology has been harnessed to enhance coastal surveillance, by installing a chain of 74 Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers, for seamless cover along the entire coast. This is complemented by a chain of overlapping 46 coastal radars in the coastal areas of our mainland and Islands. A second phase of 38 coastal radars is also being implemented. As a result of these initiatives, maritime domain awareness has been substantially enhanced and correspondingly, the response mechanisms have been strengthened. The Honourable Raksha Mantri, Shri Manohar Parrikar, inaugurated the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I) in November 14.This extensive coastal security network collates electronically gathered data aboutships,dhows,fishing boats and all other vessels operating near our coast, from multiple sources including AIS and coastal radars. These inputs are fused and analysed at the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurgaon, which disseminates this compiled Common Operating Picture for coastal security to 51 nodes of the Navy and Coast Guard located across the coasts.
Various measures have been instituted to maintain a continuous surveillance and patrolling in the offshore development area. These include a 24 X 7 electronic surveillance of the ODA using VATMS system. Regular aerial surveillance of ODA is also undertaken by aircrafts of IN and ICG on a daily basis. In addition to these surveillance mechanisms, peripheral patrolling efforts of ODA are undertaken by Naval and Coastguard ships and dedicated patrolling for safety of assets inside ODA is undertaken by Naval warships and other support vessels manned by armed naval personnel.
The past few years have also seen dedicated efforts by Navy and Coast Guard to sensitise coastal communities and increase general awareness levels towards security. Issue of ID cards to all fishermen with a single centralised database, registration of over 2 lakh fishing vessels operating off our coast, vessel colour coding, and equipping fishing vessels with suitable equipment to facilitate vessel identification and tracking are also being implemented to enhance coastal security. Fishing communities have been encouraged to function as the ‘eyes and ears’and thereby play a constructive role in ourcoastal security architecture. This has been achieved by spreading awareness in these communities through sensitization campaigns, and informal interactions with the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, across the coastal districts of the country.
The Navy and Coast Guard have also provided maritime training to Marine Police in all coastal states as per requirement. In order to create a permanent police training facility, a National Marine Police Training Institute has also been recently approved by the Government.
To enhance readiness against a 26/11 type incident from the sea, the Indian Navy, along with the Coast Guard and other stakeholders frequently conducts various joint exercises. Inter-agency coordination between nearly 15 national and state agencies has remarkably improved due to these “coastal security exercises”. Since 2008, over 100 such exercises have been conducted till date, considerably strengthening coastal security. These exercises provide all stakeholders opportunities to fine tune SOPs and test new operational concepts for coastal security.
The Navy remains ever vigilant to asymmetric threat from the sea. Even as the ‘silent service’ remains committed to the traditional military role, to deter external aggression, it is ever alert to the new genre of unconventional threats and challenges, and has invested a substantial capital in bolstering the overall preparedness against the same.