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Analysis

Status of India’s Coastal Security 13 Years After 26/11:  Challenges ,Concerns & Way Ahead

Brig Hemant Mahajan

Brig Hemant MahajanNov 26, 2021, 07:06 AM IST

Status of India’s Coastal Security 13 Years After 26/11:  Challenges ,Concerns & Way Ahead

Current Scenario 

Since last 13 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. 

Drugs worth thousands of crores have been seized along the Western coastline in recent months.

The Home Minister during the DGP conference on 17-20 Nov said that Central forces, state cops require better coordination on tackling security challenges such as cyber-crime, left-wing extremism, narcotics trafficking, coastal security and border area management.

National Maritime Security Coordinator 

With the focus on “Blue Economy’’ and securing 7,516-km coastline including island territories and a two million sq km exclusive economic zone, the government has decided to have a national maritime security coordinator (NMSC).

The officer who will hold this position will either be retired or serving Vice Admiral Rank from the military and will coordinate between the military and civilian agencies. He will be responsible for coordination among various agencies including various Central Ministries like the Ministry of External Affairs, Defence, Home, Fisheries, as well as others. He will also coordinate with State governments along the coastline, Intelligence agencies, Navy, Coast Guard, Customs and Port authorities.

Setting of NC3I and IMAC

Govt  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. 

The aim of this article is to review the present challenges & concerns & recommend what else should be done to improve coastal security  further.

Analysis 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 and physical checks by Indian Coast Guard (ICG)/Police is the only real solution. 

Non-traditional threats have been increasing. These include maritime terrorism, piracy, natural disasters and regional crises. 

The involvement of several organisations in coastal security has led to various coordination problems among them. The tendency of each of the concerned organisations to zealously guard its own turf, reluctance to work under or along with other organisations citing differing organisational culture and goals, and propensity to hold on to intelligence, have all prevented the coastal security arrangement from working effectively. Although a number of measures such as the formulation of standard operating procedures, conduct of joint coastal security exercises, establishment of joint operation centres and setting up of coordination committees have been undertaken, these have not proven adequate for overcoming the strong forces of dissonance among these organisations.

Monitoring The Movements Of Thousands Of Fishermen

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 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 Fishing Traffic 

Fishing operations worldwide are undertaken as per the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries(CCRF), which includes registration, proper equipping and manning, and installation of position reporting equipment. India, though a signatory of CCRF, suffers from poor implementation of this code. While several measures have been initiated, the sheer numbers of fishing vessels, coupled with a certain amount of inertia makes their implementation difficult. Therefore a there is need  for a fool proof system that can account for all fishing boats at sea. Such a system must be able to enforce physical compliance of regulations. 

There is also the need to consider punitive measures to ensure enforcement of ID and registration-related measures for fishing vessels. This would need the support of committees of local fishing harbours who, along with the Marine Police and Fisheries department, could ensure compliance to equipment fit, especially position reporting equipment, movement of boats, and so on. Non-compliance could be penalized by withholding of diesel subsidy and cancellation of license, among other measures.

Creation of ‘modern’ fishing harbours will reduce the number of landing points along the coast, thereby reducing surveillance challenges. Diesel subsidy should be linked up with compliance of fisheries regulations. Fisheries Department should be made responsible for fisheries control and monitoring.

Fishing Boats to have Tracking Devices 

The government is all set to install tracking devices in small fishing vessels free of cost, to monitor their movement and curb security threat along the coastline.  The ministry has estimated the cost of each transponder at about Rs. 16,800, and sought funds to the tune of Rs. 336 crore for installing two lakh transponders in small boats.  

The home ministry will bear the entire expenditure on transponders while the project will be implemented by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries under the Agriculture Ministry.  Technical assistance would be given by the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL) under the Shipping Ministry.

The Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) and NAIS keep track of the country's maritime security. However, for meaningful surveillance efforts, there is also a need to tag the fishing boats and small coastal vessels with identity and other details. At present, even though our radars can detect these vessels, we have no way to ascertain their identity.

The AIS (P) can be implemented through the National Automatic Identification System (NAIS) —a set-up connecting 74 AIS sensors installed on lighthouses along the entire coastline—connected with six regional control and two coastal Control centres, besides one national data centre and having monitoring stations at IN, ICG and other centres. To increase the distance of tracking, ISRO is also close to launching a space segment for AIS (P). The ministry has also identified 20 islands out of a total of 1,382 offshore islands that will be developed to help track fishing vessels and boats. 

Let us hope that it will be fully be implemented by 2022.

Conclusion

The coastal security strategy will continuously have to be reviewed and refined, in relation to developments in the security environment, so as to remain contemporary and relevant.

The newspapers and TV Channels have reported many cases of corruption, inefficiency and dereliction of duty by security agencies .Please refer to the videos on coastal security shot by the TV channels ,especially, on yearly anniversary of 26/11.All such reports of investigative journalism should be investigated further and corrective action taken if found guilty. 

The ISI and Pakistan Army 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.

Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing is one of the biggest non-traditional  maritime security threats.
 

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