'Military Installations are Being Targeted by Terrorists… This is Very Challenging as it Takes a Lot of Effort to Remain Alert Day and Night. Over all, People and Field Units are Busier than Before'

Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra’s office is made in such a way that he gets a vantage view of what moves in and out of his territory; literally so. Overlooking the naval dockyard, he gets the view of the newly-commissioned destroyer INS Chennai from his office window. Perhaps, that was in the fitness of things as FORCE met up with him a day after the commissioning of the new warship, which is the latest addition to his armoury

Girish Luthra On INS Chennai
Chennai is the third and last of the Kolkata Class Stealth Guided Missile Destroyers, designed by Directorate of Naval Design and built by Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL), under Project 15 A.

Chennai is a modern, potent and versatile destroyer with new generation machinery, equipment, sensors and weapons. She also has a state-of-the-art Combat Management System, which enables operations in a highly digitised and networked environment. The new systems provide us with co-operative engagement capability. Her commissioning will significantly enhance the overall combat capability of our Fleet.

On Coastal Security
Our mandate for coastal security comes from the Cabinet Committee on Security’s decision of January 2009, which nominated the C-in-C, Western Naval Command as C-in-C, Coastal Defence on the western seaboard. Under this, the overall responsibility for coordination of coastal security was also given to the navy.

We conduct two kinds of coastal security operations. The first one is the inputs or intelligence-based operation in which we pursue a lead given to us either by the intelligence agencies or through our own intercepts. The second one is event-based operations in which we step-up coastal security for the duration of that event. For example, the coastal security operations that were undertaken during the BRICS Summit. Both these conditions call for the launch and termination of the operations, which is the responsibility of the C-in-C.

Depending upon the nature of the operation, we build in the role of all other agencies. The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) then takes the lead and coordinates with all agencies. We coordinate with each other at the appropriate levels. Since coastal security involves multiple agencies, we also liaise closely with the chief secretaries of the respective states for better synergy between all parties, including customs, fisheries department, coastal or marine police, Port Trusts, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the state police in some cases.

The Joint Operations Centres (JOC), which have representatives from all these agencies are now working well. Besides, coastal states have also nominated an Inspector General rank officer for coastal security. So, there is enhanced inter-agency cooperation. At the national level, the National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security oversees the larger picture on progress of Coastal Security related issues. Basically, over the years and with experience, we have been able to work out our roles. For instance, as far as patrolling is concerned, up to five nautical miles from the coastline is the responsibility of the state marine police. Up to 12 nm is the responsibility of the ICG. Thereafter, the navy shares the responsibility with the ICG. It is not correct to say that the ICG remains within 12 nm or patrols the entire EEZ. This depends upon the threat perception and the operations. However, we both have clearly delineated areas of patrolling so there is no duplication.

Twice a year, we conduct coastal security exercises. Earlier we did these with one state at a time. But now we are also aiming to bring two neighbouring states together. Ideally, it should be a multi-state exercise, because the threat doesn’t recognise our state boundaries. We are gradually moving towards that.

On Coastal Security Bill
The proposal for the Coastal Security Bill was mooted to get everybody on the same grid. Compliance would then be easier. Moreover, the navy does not have legal powers in some cases, for offences committed at sea. The draft Bill seeks to address some of these issues. Due to several related aspects, it was decided that the proposal would be examined and steered by the ministry of home affairs (MHA).

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