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‘It Was Very Clear in the Government Order That the Responsibility and Accountability for Coastal Defence was of the Indian Navy’
-Vice Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin, FOC-in-C, Western Naval Command (30 April 2009-30 April 2011)   



Vice Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin, FOC-in-C, Western Naval Command (30 April 2009-30 April 2011)
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How do you assess the role of the Indian Navy after 26/11 when it has been made over all in-charge of coastal defence?

After 26/11 following intense deliberations within the navy and between the navy and the ministry of defence, it was decided that coastal defence would come under the purview of the Indian Navy. There would be no separate coastal defence command as was envisaged earlier, but the commanders-in-chief of the three naval commands, namely western, eastern and southern would become C-in-Cs coastal defence in their respective jurisdiction. Coastal security was kept under the Indian Coast Guard and the director general ICG was defined as commander coastal security. What this meant was that the area up to 12nm miles from the coast, which earlier used to be the responsibility of the state marine police, would now come under the ICG.

Therefore, the ICG was to coordinate with the coastal state police and various other agencies for the security of this area. There was a bit of confusion about how to define the roles of the Indian Navy which was overall responsible for coastal defence and the ICG in its new avatar being responsible for coastal security.
The understanding that I had was that the state police and the ICG would take on this job of normal patrolling for policing purposes to see there was no smuggling, landing of contraband and human trafficking along the coast. The Indian Navy would have no role in this. The navy would be responsible for any envisaged threat or intelligence input suggesting an illegal landing. In such eventualities the navy would be automatically responsible for coordinating its ships and aircraft with ICG units. The ICG in turn would coordinate with the state authorities. It was clearly stated that coordination with the state government would be the responsibility of the ICG. For example, the ICG West, where I was posted, would after deliberations with my staff would pass on the instructions to the government authorities. This was felt to be the most workable solution because unlike the navy, the ICG interacts with various agencies like the state police, customs, immigration, port trust and so on, on a daily basis.

This agreed arrangement implied that certain infrastructure needed to be created to make this work. Coastal radar stations were to be established along the entire coastal length of India. The ICG was assigned this job of executing the task of coastal radar stations as well as AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiving stations along the coast, with the DG Light Houses being the contracting agency. The DGs of coast guard and light houses interacted with the defence ministry officials to identify global as well as indigenous companies who could provide this infrastructure. In the interim, the navy was to beef up its existing AIS stations as well as build additional stations wherever possible. The problem was that while all naval and merchant ships are mandatorily equipped with AIS transmitters, the smaller coastal vessels or barges do not have them. The biggest problem, however, was the fishing community and their trawlers. This job of installing the AIS transmitters on such boats was assigned to DG Shipping and the department of fisheries. There was also the need to procure Fast Interceptor Crafts (FIC). Goa Shipyard was to supply these to the state police.

The navy and the ICG separately identified foreign vendors for FICs. The next hurdle, where work started with my taking over as the C-in-C, was to establish a common network between the navy and the coast guard so that areas of patrolling were identified to avoid duplication of effort. As per government orders, Joint Operation Centres (JOC) were set up between the navy and the ICG with facilities available to be manned by the state police, customs, immigration, port authorities and so on. The navy set up the JOCs on a fast track basis within months of the orders being passed. There was no difficulty of any sort between the navy and the coast guard. The problem was the integration of the non-navy and non-ICG assets, for example, the marine police did not exist at all. The police had to nominate people from within for marine duties.

The navy then set up the training facilities to teach them the basics of seamanship. The navy along with the ICG started a detailed awareness programme for the fishing community. The fishing community who are constantly sailing are the first eyes and ears for any intelligence inputs. Specific to the western seaboard, there has been a well-established smuggling network in the regions of Gujarat and Saurashtra. Once the government’s rules for imports changed, smuggling lost a lot of its sheen. These people then started dealing in drugs, which in turn got intertwined with illegal arms sales. It was the job of the ICG to extract this information from the customs and the fishing community to ensure that terrorism premised on illegal acquisition of arms did not take root. In short, after 26/11, the ICG had the additional responsibility of interacting with the police and the non-uniformed community involved in maritime activities.
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