Long Road Ahead

Coordination between the central ministries and state governments remains a major challenge in coastal security

Dilip Kumar Mekala

In the first week of November, a large scale annual operation exercise of the western naval command of the Indian Navy named ‘Defence of Gujarat’ was conducted off the littorals of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The exercise tested the operational readiness of the western naval command in relation to the littoral combat and the defence of vital offshore assets in the northern coastal states of western seaboard in India. It has been reported that the scale of the exercise was increased substantially by integrating all aspects of the coastal and maritime security operations.

The ICG has increased its fleet strength to 113 vessels and 64 aircraft compared to 61 vessels and 46 aircraft in 2008

More than 30 warships including the latest destroyers, frigates and submarines participated in the exercise along with air assets like fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters. The exercise also saw participation from the Indian Air Force (IAF) with Jaguars and Su-30MKI fighter jets. The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and state security agencies were also involved in the exercise. During the exercise, the defence of the offshore oil production areas was tested and the defence forces got a chance to fine tune the standard operating procedures (SOP) and test new operational concepts for coastal security.

The role of the coast guard has increased significantly in the last few years. The ICG has increased its fleet strength to 113 vessels and 64 aircraft compared to 61 vessels and 46 aircraft in 2008. The ICG has several surface platforms including 50 ships, 45 interceptor boats and 18 air cushion vehicles (hovercraft). In an expanding organisation like the ICG, procurement of vessels is an ongoing process. The acquisition of ships and boats is carried out keeping in view the threat perceptions, strategic concerns and operational requirements. There has been a significant acquisition of ships/vessels for coast guard in recent years. Earlier this year, 34 coastal police stations were operationalised in seven coastal states and Union territories including Goa, West Bengal, Lakshadweep, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The ICG has a total strength of 11,474 personnel in various ranks. It acts on actionable inputs provided by various national and state intelligence agencies. According to government records, the ICG conducted 120 operations from 1 January 2012 to 15 July 2015.

India’s coastal security network is a three tier system involving the Indian Navy, coast guard and marine police, and attempts are being made to improve coordination among the security agencies. As a part of strengthening the ICG, two new regional headquarters have been established at Gandhinagar and Kolkata besides three new district headquarters at Port Blair, Puducherry and Kavaratti. The director general, coast guard has been designated as commander of coastal command and the coast guard has made standard operating procedures (SOPs) in consultation with all stakeholders for better coordination among agencies. Based on these SOPs, several joint exercises have been carried out in all coastal states and Union territories. The National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) headed by cabinet secretary reviews timely implementation of various proposals and other important matters pertaining to maritime and coastal security.

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