India’s coasts have always been vulnerable to anti-national activities. Numerous cases of the smuggling of goods, gold, narcotics, explosives, arms and ammunition as well as the infiltration of terrorists into the country through these coasts have been reported over the years. The Government had been aware of the activities that are carried out through the country’s coasts and had been implementing corrective measures from time to time.
Q. What is the Need for Coastal Security?
The physical proximity of India’s coasts to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Gulf countries adds to its vulnerability. India has been facing cross-border terrorism for decades. However, over the years, with the increased deployment of security forces and surveillance equipment as well as the construction of fences, security along the land borders has been sufficiently tightened. On the other hand, security over the ocean domain with the sea routes remaining poorly guarded.
The Indian coasts also have a number of strategic installations such as naval bases, nuclear power plants, satellite and missile launching ranges, and ports. The eastern, western, southern, and far eastern naval commands are located in Vishakhapatnam, Mumbai, Kochi, and Port Blair respectively. In addition, India’s largest naval base, with a capability of housing 30 warships, is being built at Karwar along the Karnataka coast. Several nuclear power plants, such as at Tarapur, Kudankulam, Kalpakkam and the proposed plant at Jaitapur have been established close to the sea. Satellite launching and missile testing facilities such as the Satish Dhawan Space Centre and the Wheeler Islands missile facility are also located along the coast. Furthermore, India has 13 major ports which handle 90 per cent of the country’s maritime trade. These strategic installations are vital for the security, development and prosperity of the country, but they are also high value targets for the terrorists.
Q. What are the issues in Maritime domain?
Maritime terrorism: hijacking, attacking, and sinking ships, taking hostages, sabotaging pipelines, and attacking cities and strategic installations like naval bases and petrochemical storages.
Attacks on commercial centres: the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai in 2008
Attacks on Ports and other strategic facilities: ports handling large volumes of traffic especially oil and other goods and having a large population centre in its vicinity are most valued targets for the terrorists.
Attacks on Ships: ships are soft targets for the terrorist groups as, except for their enormous size, they have practically no means of protection.
Piracy and armed robbery pose a major threat to sea navigation.
Shallow waters of the Sunderbans have been witnessing acts of violence and armed robbery.
Smuggling and trafficking: Indian coasts have been susceptible to smuggling of items such as gold, electronic goods, narcotics, and arms.
Infiltration, illegal migration and refugee influx: large scale refugee influxes over the decades have resulted in widespread political turmoil in the border states.
The frequent straying of fishermen into neighbouring country waters has not only jeopardised the safety of the fishermen but has also raised national security concerns.
Q. What is the Coastal Security System?
There is a multi-tier arrangement for protection and maritime security of the country involving the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police of the coastal States and Union Territories. The surveillance on the high seas is carried out along the limits of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by the Navy and the Coast Guard. In the territorial waters, the Coast Guards protect the Indian interests with vessels and through aerial surveillance. Coastal patrolling close to shallow waters is done by State Marine Police. The State’s jurisdiction extends up to 12 nautical miles in the shallow territorial waters.
This has necessitated the adoption of a more structured and holistic approach with a long-term strategy to modernise, update and strengthen naval surveillance and to plug loopholes in coastal security architecture.
Q. What is Government Initiatives in Coastal Security Infrastructure?
National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security headed by Cabinet Secretary coordinates all matters related to Maritime and Coastal Security.
Indian Coast Guard: custom marine organization was merged with the India coast guard and was entrusted with the following responsibilities:
Law enforcement in India’s jurisdictional waters
Safety and protection of:
Installations and other structures and devices in any maritime zone
Fishermen and providing them assistance at sea while in distress.
Assisting the customs and other authorities in anti-smuggling operations.
Marine Police Force: under the Coastal Security Scheme (2005) marine police force was created with the aim to strengthen infrastructure for patrolling and the surveillance of the coastal areas, particularly the shallow areas close to the coast.
The marine police force was required to work closely with the ICG under the ‘hub-and-spoke’ concept, the ‘hub’ being the ICG station and the ‘spokes’ being the coastal police stations.
Q. What are Initiatives After 26/11 Mumbai Incident?
Subsequent to the Mumbai incident on 26/11, the coastal security arrangement have been thoroughly reviewed by the Government of India.
The coastal States/UTs were asked to carry out a vulnerability/gap analysis in consultation with Coast Guard to firm up their additional requirements for formulation of Phase-II Scheme of the Coastal Security.
The existing multi layered arrangements have been further strengthened, and other initiatives like:
National Investigation Agency, was set up in 2009 to deal with terrorist offences.
National Security Guard have been created to ensure rapid response to terror attacks.
The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has been constituted to create an appropriate database of security-related information.
A three-tier security grid was installed with the Indian Navy, the coast guard, and the marine police jointly patrolling India’s near-seas.
Electronic Surveillance: National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I) has been launched to provide near gapless surveillance of the entire coastline and prevent the intrusion of undetected vessels, the coastal surveillance network project. It comprises:
Coastal radar chain
Automatic identification system (AIS)
Vessel traffic management and information system (VTMS)
Q. What are some of the other Remedial Measures taken?
(i) The Indian Navy has been designated as the authority responsible for overall maritime security which includes coastal security and offshore security. The Indian Coast Guard has been additionally designated as the authority responsible for coastal security in territorial waters including areas to be patrolled by Coastal Police .
(ii) Training to Policemen deployed in coastal police stations is imparted by Indian Coast Guard.
(iii) The Government of India has decided to set up Marine Police Training Institute (MPTI) one each on the East Coast and the West Coast in order to impart training to Marine Police Personnel .
(iv) Ministry of Shipping has been mandated to streamline the process of compulsory registration and identification of all types of vessels.
(v) Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries has been mandated to issue biometric ID cards to all the fishermen.
(vi) The Coast Guard has been mandated to create a chain of radar sensors along the Indian coastline.
(vii) Navy has set up 4 joint operation centres at Mumbai, Viskhapatanam, Kochi and Port Blair under the charge of existing naval Coastal Defence.
(viii) A Sagar Prahari Bal with a special force comprising of 1000 specialized personnel and 80 Fast Interceptor Crafts for force security protecting of naval bases has been raised.
Q. What are the Issues yet to be resolved?
Lack of coordination: The involvement of different agencies and ministries at centre, state and local level invariably leads to coordination problems although several efforts have been made to create greater synergies between them like:
Formulation of Standard Operating Procedures.
The Conduct of Joint Coastal Security Exercise.
Setting up of coordination committees.
Lack of clarity among various stakeholders about their roles in ensuring coastal security.
Acute shortage of manpower in police stations, (only 25% of the sanction).
Poor Training: Lack of a dedicated training academy for the ICG.
Discontent in fishermen communities interferes with the effective functioning of the coastal security architecture as fishermen are considered the ‘eyes and ears’ of the coastal security architecture and, therefore, an integral part of it.
Difficult terrain, seasonal weather patterns, administrative lapses, etc. all contribute towards introducing gaps in surveillance and the monitoring mechanism.
Delays in land acquisition and support infrastructure, such as barracks and staff quarters at several locations.
Low infrastructure creation (only 31%):
Below par state-level monitoring mechanisms.
Q. What is the way forward?
Review of the coastal security apparatus in the country is a continuous process. A three tier coastal security ring all along our coast is provided by Marine Police, Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy. Government has initiated several measures to strengthen Coastal Security, which include improving surveillance mechanism and enhanced patrolling by following an integrated approach.