BY BRIG HEMANT MAHAJAN, YSM, (RETD)
Disinterested politicians, powerful bureaucracy building its own kingdoms, generic intelligence, corrupt customs & excise, inept Police and Coast Guard and Navy with unsuitable boats & surveillance for coastal waters complete the dismal picture of coastal security in India.
Lethargic Govt response
Addressing the issue in the Parliament, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in that there were "reports about terrorists of various Tanzeems (groups) being trained and (the) likelihood of their infiltration through sea routes". Again, addressing the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament), the then Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal stated that Pakistan-based terrorist groups, particularly the LeT, were exploring possibilities of infiltrating their agents, arms and ammunition into India through the sea route.
A number of arrested LeT terrorists have also revealed the infiltration of militants using the sea route to target vital economic and strategic installations. Police at Kutch in Gujarat arrested two LeT cadres, identified as Abdul Khaliq Tayyab and Abdul Gafoor Qasim Chaba, both Pakistani nationals, with INR 2.4 millions in fake Indian currency and a Global Positioning System device. The duo confessed during interrogation that their trip was part of a series of dry runs on the Karachi-Mandvi and Karachi-Jhakhau sea routes being conducted by their handlers. They also disclosed that their handlers had established a network of local fishermen who were paid INR 500,000 each time they landed a consignment on Indian shores.
The defence of the coast in India is the responsibility of the Navy and Coast Guard operating under the Ministry of Defence, but, as one commentator notes,…formulating maritime policy is lost in a bureaucratic labyrinth. In addition to the eight coastal states and four Union territories, there are currently 12 ministries and eight departments of the Central Government involved in maritime-related policy formulation and implementation. This results in overlapping responsibilities and inability to provide quick decisions and responses.
After 26/11 exposed such gaps in coastal security, the Union Government, on February 28, 2009, designated the Navy as the central authority responsible for the country's overall maritime security. "The Navy will be assisted by Coast Guard, state marine police and central agencies for the coastal defence of the nation," Defence Minister A. K. Antony said at Kochi, "Against the backdrop of multiple agencies involved in coastal security, and the resultant problems of coordination, the Navy has been designated as the authority responsible for maritime security." The Government has also reportedly decided to set up Joint Operation Centres at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair under the charge of Naval commanders-in-chief. Antony also said a national command control communication and intelligence network, for real time maritime domain awareness between the operations rooms of Navy and Coast Guard, would be established at both the field and the apex levels.
It is not clear whether these steps will address the glaring weaknesses in the implementation mechanism of coastal security. Reports indicate that the Union Government has tried to enforce the Marine Fishing Regulation Act (MFRA) since 1993-94, allocating INR 251 million between 1995 and 2007, to procure 26 patrol boats for patrolling exclusive fishing zones in the first 12 miles of the coastline of eight States. After 15 years of the launch of the MFRA plan, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report submitted to the Union Government in October 2008, declared that the plan had been largely unfruitful.
What should be done?
The Central government needs to:-
(a) Clearly spell out the areas of jurisdiction and responsibilities of different agencies
(b) Establish effective command and control system.
(c) Streamline processes and procedures of procurement.
(d) Ensure the Navy and the Coast Guard perform their tasks at sea under appropriate legislative powers.
Formation of Coastal Command
The Multilayered system has proved ineffective. Is there a case for concentrating all resources on to one tactically viable single tier line for better surveillance &better probability of interception .Forming National Maritime Council as single window for all maritime security issues , to be headed by a Maritime Security Adviser (MSA)will help . Chief of Naval staff should be the MSA, The Coast Guard should be placed under operational command of the Navy for increasing their efficiency and accountability.
The Indian Navy today is geared for conventional war but unsuitable for stopping infiltration in shallow coastal waters. It has to be force structured appropriately. The Navy and the Coast Guard need to be combatized to perform effectively in emergency situations by carrying out cross attachment with Army units in combat in J & K & North East
Formation of Coastal TA Battalions
Defence Ministry forwarded a whopping Rs 15000 crore plan for setting a Coastal Command under Coast Guard .Are these resources adequate ?While the requirement of equipment is adequate, the man power requirement appears to be inadequate.ie Maharashtra is expecting 950 Police Men to guard 720 KMs coast line. A broad appreciation based on the existing deployment on the LOC and the IB would indicate a requirement of one to 1.5 lacs of additional Police Men to guard 2500 KMs coast. In order to reduce the cost, the Military service should be made compulsory for 2 -3 years for all Government Employees. The concept would be to form Citizens Army to protect the long coast line on the lines of army’s TA Battalions with command & control provided by the coastal police.
Coastal Intelligence Battalions
Intelligence is the first line of defense against infiltration from the sea .All Government agencies deployed on the coast should be held responsible for obtaining own actionable intelligence. Multi Agency Center (MAC) should be setup in each state for carrying out assessment and co-ordination of intelligence . Each state should raise “Home and Hearth Security Battalions” (H&H) based on fishing community, locals, retired army, navy, Coast Guard should be formed to gather actionable intelligence.
Making Coastal Police More Effective
A police force of 50,000 could not stand against 10 terrorists as they lacked combat training, leadership and ethos to fight. No action has been taken for qualitative improvement of police training. 75 policemen carrying Ak-47’s, were killed by Naxalites without killing one Naxal in 2009 in Maharashtra. Qualities of courage, Bravery, Fighting Spirit have to be inculcated in the Police . The police need to be combatized. Advanced training should be carried out with Army units deployed for stopping infiltration on the LOC. All Police men should have compulsory tenure in Naxal affected areas before being deployed in cities. Administrative duties should be outsourced. The focus on creating a fortress mentality of guarding few favorite spots like Police HQ’s, VIPs, and cricketers, cricket stadiums leaving common man vulnerable should be curbed. Retired personnel from the NSG , Special forces, infantry ,and other arms, Navy ,Coast Guard should be recruited in Police to improve their combat potential.
Security of containers
"Today, 70-75 % global cargo is containerized. the container is the most likely means for terrorist organizations to illegally transport a nuclear weapon, arms or ammunition . The containers should be scanned thoroughly under X-ray machines to ensure 100 per cent security.
In the new security environment, in which coastal security has become important, an entirely war fighting role for the Navy can no longer be sustained; it must assume coastal security duties, & counter terrorism role especially on the coast line. The entire spectrum of maritime security, has now been assigned to the Navy and joint control rooms set up in Mumbai and elsewhere but Coast Guard is not under command.
All maritime security forces must be placed under Naval control. The designation of the DG Coast Guard as head of a Coastal Command is cosmetic. Measures to augment resources needed for coastal security have been initiated but these will take some time to materialize fully. How will the security be ensured in the intervening period? The problem is more in their use rather than in their numbers; the terrorists could come in so easily not because we did not have enough forces but because they were badly trained, inefficient, never been under enemy fire & were not exploited coherently. A fully empowered organization must be put in place urgently, which will direct & control, rather than merely coordinate, all aspects of coastal security. Otherwise another Navy Chief will be pleading “systemic failure”. After, one year are, we better prepared to safeguard our coastal security, the answer is, emphatic no.
We are living in troubled times. The ISI and Pakistan Army are actively involved in aiding and abetting various fault lines in the Indian society. There should not be a paralysis because of over analysis by the experts. The need of the hour is joint man ship between Navy, Coast Guard, Police, Intelligence agencies and various Government ministries. It is time to do and not procrastinate. After all can we afford another 26/11?
About Brig. Hemant Mahajan
Brigadier Heman Mahajan (YSM) joined armed forces since 1973. Started his military life as an officer with the ‘7 Maratha Light Infantry’. Brig. Mahajan has served in the most sensitive areas like Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, North Eastern states. Importantly Brig. Mahajan had an experience of serving his duty in highest and tough warzone like Kargil, handling peace situation in furious Punjab after the ‘Operational Blue Star’ and the Ayodhya region. Along with ‘Youth Seva Medal’, Brig. Mahajan is recipient of various Military awards for his excellent track record.