- The 26/11 attack serves as a sobering reminder that coastal security is critical to our national security. The 7,516-kilometer-long coastline of India includes 5,422 kilometres on the mainland and 2,094 kilometres on islands belonging to nine states and four Union Territories.
- The coastline, which includes 3,331 coastal villages and 1,382 islands, accounts for 90% of the country’s trade. The coastline is home to 12 major and 200 minor ports, as well as 95 landing zones, and is increasingly vulnerable to security threats from adversarial neighbours and non-state actors.
- This has necessitated the adoption of a more structured and holistic approach, as well as a long-term strategy, to modernise, update, and strengthen naval surveillance, as well as to close gaps in coastal security architecture.
Vulnerability of India’s Coastal Areas
- The topography of India’s coasts is diverse, with creeks, small bays, back waters, rivulets, lagoons, swamps, beaches, small islands (inhabited and uninhabited), and so on.
- India’s long coastline raises a number of security concerns, including the smuggling of arms and explosives, infiltration, piracy, and so on.
- The lack of physical barriers along the coast, as well as the presence of vital industrial and defence installations, makes the coasts more vulnerable to illegal cross-border activity.
- India’s various coastal borders are close to politically volatile, economically depressed, and hostile countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Gulf countries, making it even more vulnerable.
- Since the 26th of November, there has been a coastal security mechanism in place.
- At the apex of the coastal security institutional setup is the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security.
- It coordinates all maritime and coastal security matters and conducts periodic reviews of coastal security against sea-borne threats with all stakeholders.
- The three-tiered protection of Indian coastal areas has been strengthened, and roles and responsibilities have been clearly defined.
- Indian Navy: beyond 200 nautical miles (NM) o Indian Coast Guard: 12 to 200 nautical miles (NM) o Marine Police: up to 12 nautical miles (NM) from shore
- A coastal surveillance network has been established, consisting of static sensors along coasts, automatic identification systems (AIS), long-range tracking, day-night cameras, and communication devices.
- Installation of Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) radars at all major and minor ports to improve surveillance.
- Commissioning of the Information Management & Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram to facilitate the collection and dissemination of shipping data for increased awareness.
- The Navy established the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at IMAC to facilitate regional commercial shipping information sharing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Maritime activities are now more strictly regulated:
- All fishermen, seaferry services, and coastal villages are given a multi-purpose ID.
- Fishing boat licencing uniformity o GPS and transponders for tracking
- The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is now in charge of port security.
- Additionally, Sagar Prahari Bal was formed as a special force from the navy to protect naval bases.
- Operation Sagar Kavach was launched following the 26/11 attack to improve coordination between security agencies such as the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, and local police.
Other measures taken by the government to ensure coastal security
- Indian Navy’s 2015 Maritime Security Strategy (IMSS): It envisions increased coordination among maritime agencies; securing Indian Ocean sea lines of communication (SLOCs); Maritime Security Operations for current assessments of maritime terrorism, piracy, and other threats; and multilateral maritime engagement, local capacity building, technical cooperation, among other things.
- Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) to strengthen Marine Police Force security infrastructure in coastal states/UTs.
- The Central Marine Police Force (CMPF) protects the sea, coasts, ports, and vital institutions, as well as investigating crimes committed in coastal waters. • Including fishermen in surveillance and intelligence gathering: Fishermen groups, also known as the “ears and eyes” of coastal security, are formed from trained volunteers who monitor the seas and coastal waters.
- Improve Maritime Domain Awareness: This is accomplished through the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I), an overarching coastal security network that collects and disseminates data about all ships, dhows, fishing boats, and other vessels operating near our coast.
- Capacity building-The Navy and Coast Guard have also provided marine police in all coastal states with periodic maritime training.
- An open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues will be provided by the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
Problems that persist
- Manpower shortage: Due to a lack of manpower and interceptor boats, marine police stations are unable to function effectively.
- Inadequate training for marine police: While marine police are responsible for overall coastal security, they are not trained in counterterrorism.
- Lack of a collaborative mechanism: Many agencies, including the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police, and others, are tasked with coastal security. As a result, information sharing and coordination is a major issue.
- Inadequate state-level mechanisms: State-level monitoring mechanisms are deficient.
- Also, replacing state-controlled marine police with a centralised force ignores structural obstacles such as a lack of local intelligence and regional language skills, as well as turf wars between the two.
- Insufficient patrolling: A cumulative shortfall (over 90%) in patrolling efforts, particularly at night, as well as a decrease in physical checks on fishing vessels by the Coastal Police.
Conclusion and next steps
- Greater involvement of coastal police: Using their unique access to fishermen and local communities, state police agencies may be integrated in the detection and capture of criminals at sea, facilitating the flow of vital human intelligence.
- The need for a legislative framework: Comprehensive legislations covering both the shipping and port sectors must be enacted in order to put systems and processes in place to protect India’s maritime infrastructure.
- Coast Guard (CG) Strengthening: The Coast Guard (CG) must be strengthened by removing all ambiguities from the Coast Guard Act. With regard to coastal security, there should be a clear command chain and defined standard operating procedures.
- National Commercial Maritime Security Policy Document: To articulate its strategic vision for commercial maritime security, the government must issue a National Commercial Maritime Security Policy Document.