|Source :NewsBharati Date :26-Nov-2018|
The 10th anniversary of 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai is the right time to review the status of coastal security in the country. This article will analyse the challenges to India’s coastal security, present status and the way ahead.
Terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad may be planning to attack Indian warships using deep sea divers.The intelligence report, on November 2018 processed by India's Multi Agency Centre in that coordinates intelligence between security agencies, indicates that a group of Jaish terrorists are presently trained in deep sea techniques in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, and may be planning to "target strategic assets on the coast."
Navies around the world acknowledge the threat posed to capital warships when they are in port or anchored out at sea. India's Naval bases and ports have a multi-layered security grid with sonar systems deployed on approaches to harbours which are specifically designed to detect deep sea divers.
Since last 10 years, the Indian government undertaken a number of proactive measures to restructure coastal security and push the defensive perimeter further away from the coast into the seas. The focus was on building national maritime domain awareness (NMDA) grid via a number of organisational, operational and technological changes. It has set up the National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network that hosts the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC).
It connects radar stations located along the coast and on the island territories, and helps collate, fuse and disseminate critical intelligence and information about ‘unusual or suspicious movements and activities at sea’.
The IMAC receives vital operational data from multiple sources such as the AIS and the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT), a satellite-based, real-time reporting mechanism for reporting the position of ships. This information is further supplemented by shore-based electro-optical systems and high-definition radars. Significantly, maritime domain awareness is also received through satellite data.
There are 74 AIS receivers along the Indian coast and these are capable of tracking 30,000 to 40,000 merchant ships transiting through the Indian Ocean. The AIS is mandatory for all merchant ships above 300 tons DWT and it helps monitoring agencies to keep track of shipping and detect suspicious ships.
The radar chain ‘provides real time surveillance cover up to 25 nautical miles around the areas of high sensitivity and traffic density along our entire coast line.
Analysis Evolution of Coastal Security
Coastal radar chain, NAIS is helpful in tracing only those vessels fitted with AIS transponders and not the fishing vessels. Also, the spoofing of AIS would always remain a possibility which could undermine this surveillance method.Hence boarding operations of suspicious ships by Indian Coast Guard (ICG)/Police is the only real solution. The ICG should carry out boarding operations based on intelligence input’s or if there is suspicion.
Policy Level Recommendations.
Various government agencies such as “Parliamentary panel on defence”, “The Public Accounts Committee”,the CAG have held the Home Ministry bureaucracy ,Indian Navy(IN), ICG,Police responsible for 26/11.They have made many pragmatic recommendation.These must be acted upon.
Monitoring the movements of thousands of fishermen and their fishing boats/trawlers which venture into the sea everyday is essential to ensure foolproof security of India’s coastal areas.
In addition to the six monthly exercises, one time thorough check has to be carried out by the security forces led by the ICG to carry out physical check of all suspicious fishing vessels. All documents must also be linked up to Aadhar cards.
NAIS will be helpful in tracing only those vessels fitted with AIS transponders and not the fishing vessels.
Distress Alarm Terminals (DATs) are being provided to fishermen so that they can alert the ICG if they are in distress at sea.The fishermen have to be educated to utilize them.
Monitoring compliance measures as per ISPS code could be given to ICG. Similar powers could be granted to the IN.
There have been proposals for forming National Maritime Council as single window for all maritime security issues, to be headed by a Maritime Security Adviser (MSA), on the lines of National Security Advisor (NSA).
It is recommended that suitable experienced, retired officer above the rank Rear Admiral (and equivalent)of ICG/IN /other security forces should act as a MSA.
The IN is geared for conventional war but unsuitable for stopping infiltration taking place in small boats/fishing vessels in shallow coastal waters. The IN requires being force structured appropriately.
The IN and the ICG have been carrying out anti infiltration operations named OP TASHA and OP SWAN on the western and Tamil Nadu coast line. Have correct lessons been drawn from them now?
It is acknowledged that the container can be used by terrorist organizations to illegally transport a nuclear weapon, dirty bomb, arms or ammunition. The containers should be scanned thoroughly under X-ray machines to ensure 100 per cent security. Explosive-detection bulk and trace scanners should be installed at various key points on ports, to minimise security breaches".
It is not enough to have a contingency plan for oil spills, to respond to devastating emergencies .The focus needs to be on monitoring movement, augmenting information collection, proper training and ensuring that the ICG is well-equipped to handle such situations along with other government agencies. The ICG must be supported through appropriate statutory backing and proper funding. Parliament must pass the amendments to the Merchant Shipping Act to ensure compliance to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001.
All Government agencies deployed on the coast should be held responsible for obtaining own actionable intelligence. Each state should raise Home Guards and “Intelligence Battalions based on fishing community and locals residing on the coast line to gather actionable intelligence and perform coastal security duties.
Increasing radicalization in Maldives is likely to have effect on Lakshadweep Islands. This has to be watched carefully.
The coastal areas are under threat as it is a preferred route for supply of ammunition to NAXALS/ LWE/LWT/Maoists as per media.
The government should register all vessels and issue identity cards to all coastal population. Establishment of coastal Radar chain and AIS should be completed without further delay.
AIS is recommended for all minor boats up to 5 tons including fishing trawlers. The cost of the AIS should be subsidized by the Government. Adequate light weight power source to run the AIS should also be provided.
Under the name of security, livelihood of fishermen should not be taken away. Regular interaction to understand their concerns should be carried out.
The IN and the ICG can gain combat experience by cross attachment with Army units carrying anti terrorist operations in Kashmir( as is being done by Indian Airforce). Garuds are attached with R R Battalions in Kashmir valley. Three of them have been martyred in action up till now. Combat experience matters in terror attacks, crisis situations like 26/11.Cross attachment within police/ICG/IN is also recommended to learn best practices from each other.
The news papers and TV Channels have reported many cases of corruption, inefficiency and dereliction of duty by security agencies .All such reports of investigative journalism should be investigated further and corrective action taken if found guilty. Reports by investigative journalists are generally looked into. What is needed is publishing the findings if not impinging on security on website by the concerned agency.
Sunderban marshy land is a safe haven for Inter Services Intelligence Agency of Pakistan(ISI) agents both because of difficult terrain and vote bank politics of the state government. They must be kept under constant surveillance. The ICG, which has a presence in the area, does not have the mandate to patrol the creeks of the Sunderbans as they lie inside the shoreline and these form part of internal waters Relaxed patrolling and surveillance of the coastal waters during the rainy season also raises security concerns.
All vulnerable areas, vulnerable points have to be mapped .All road axes have to be marked on terrain maps in the state police control rooms, ICG district HQ control rooms and Joint Operational Centres.
Coastal States are the major stakeholders in coastal security of the nation, because the critical elements that impact coastal security, as mentioned earlier, fall under the jurisdiction of the State. Law of the land, which is a State subject, is applicable within 12 nm seaward zone (territorial sea). Elements impinging on coastal security operate within this zone. Success of Coastal Security measures would therefore be a direct function of the level of involvement of the Coastal State. Recommendations for coastal security should therefore prioritise on empowering the Coastal State in order to quickly reach an acceptable level of coastal security preparedness.
It is hoped that government will implement additional raising of ICG and police in a time bound manner . It is reported that very small percentage of funds for the Police under planed expenditure are utilized every financial year.
26/11 has prompted the Union and State Governments to announce a series of policy measures intended to modernise and improve the coastal security apparatus. Regrettably, past experience has shown that implementation remains tardy and inefficient, leaving many gaps which the terrorists have exploited. It can only be hoped that the biggest gap in India’s security – the inefficiency of administration – will be overcome this time around, and that a measure of urgency will attend the implementation of current plans for a stronger coastal security system.
The ISI and Pakistan Army in particular is actively involved in aiding and abetting various fault lines in the Indian society. The need of the hour is joint man ship between IN , ICG , Police , Intelligence agencies and various Government ministries . The glass is more than half full but we still have miles to go to achieve full proof coastal security.