Eight years after the gruesome Mumbai terror attacks, the Indian coastal regions continue to be full of loopholes which can be potentially exploited by infiltrators, says Maritime Security expert Abhijit Singh.
Speaking to Newsnation in an exclusive interview, Singh, who is former naval officer and currently heads the Maritime Policy Initiative at a renowned international security research organisation, said that Indian coastal security has seen a significant upgrade since the Mumbai terror attacks, but several loopholes remain to be plugged.
The security gaps, he said, can be attributed to coastal states’ unwillingness to contribute and upgrade security architecture. “While Tamil Nadu has done a commendable work in upgrading the security along its coasts, Mumbai and Odisha are still causes of concern,” Singh said.
India’s upgraded naval security infrastructure
Explaining the steps taken to upgrade maritime and coastal security after the attacks, Abhijit Singh said that India has strengthened the three-tier coastal security architecture, introduced a coastal security scheme, set up a National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network and founded an Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.
- Three tier coastal security architecture: In place much before Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, the three-tier system for Indian coastal security was strengthened at a war footing after the incident. It included reinforcing and adequately implementing the territories of Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police.
While Indian Navy is over all in charge of India’s maritime and coastal security, it is also exclusively responsible for the outer/deeper waters in the Indian waters.
Marine Police guards the shallow waters near land and Coast Guard maintains security of the intermediary sea.
- Coastal security scheme: The scheme, originally introduced in 2005, was given cash influx by Centre and state government’s after the unfortunate incident of Mumbai terror attacks. Singh says that funding for technical equipment, training and personal has strengthened the security architecture significantly.
Within the scheme, Coast guard police has added surveillance infrastructure like radars and automatic identification systems to help track any enemy boats in the Indian waters.
- National Command Control Communication Intelligence network and Information Management and Analysis Centre:
National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network is India’s state of the art naval intelligence network which tracks the ships in real time. The Information Management and Analysis Centre is the central hub of NC3I network, which can track 30,000-40,000 ships on a daily basis.
Taking feeds and inputs from multiple sources ranging from coastal radars to satellites, the IMAC located in Gurugram fuses, correlates and analyses them to assess threats at sea.
Existing challenges to Indian coast security
According to maritime security expert Abhijit, the challenges in security India’s border are still plenty, namely:
# Sheer number of boats on Mumbai coasts is makes tracking and checking for infiltrators a humongous task
# Fishermen community largely avoids installation of AIS or small transponders in their boats, which can identify and send back the information of nearby vessels, because it opens them up to tracking and persecution in case of transgression outside Indian waters.
# Nature of threat is evolving very fast. According to Singh, while India is upgrading its system at a steady pace, the infiltrators are now very well equipped and trained in high maritime security architectural knowledge.
# Extensive support from Pakistan to militants or smugglers attempting to cross the borders from sea routes increases the challenges to Indian coastal security services
Owing to Pakistan’s involvement, Sir Creek has become is the favourite cross over region for the smugglers, Singh revealed.
The number of abandoned boats found in the tidal estuary on the border of India and Pakistan are also indicative of the fact that smugglers might still be using the region to transfer contrabands in India through this region.
Thus, he said, it is crucial for states like Maharashtra to increase the engagement in improvisation of security on India’s sea routes and coastal regions.