Safe Boundaries

As India wakes up to land and coastal safety, there is much to choose from

Dilip Kumar Mekala

Given that India has threats coming from hostile neighbours on a regular basis, border security has become one of the most important challenges for the government. The vast land border, approximately around 15,000 km, and the coastline, about 7,500 km make it all the more challenging. While there was a significant (but not sufficient) focus on land borders for a long time, coastal security was never on the priority list until the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

Defence minister at the inauguration of the Regional Operating Centre, Mumbai for coastal radar network

In the last few years, there were hasty attempts to focus on coastal security. Several projects were put on fast track and the defence minister closely reviewed the progress. In addition, several new patrol vehicles were commissioned with the Indian Coast Guard and new radar projects were kick-started to provide a complete coastal security. Regional operating centres and stations were opened. This led to the shifting of focus; land border surveillance was slightly sidetracked. This is unfortunate given the fact that better surveillance systems top the wishlist of any officer deployed in difficult terrains like the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Line of Control (LC).

Coastal Surveillance
After the attack on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, the vulnerability of the Indian continent via the sea route was out in the open. India can be called a sea-faring country as more than 90 per cent of its trade is carried through the sea. It is essential for the country not only to maintain safe and secure conditions for shipping but also surveillance systems should be in place in order to keep a check on illegal activities such as piracy, smuggling etc.

It is only after 2008 that India seriously planned to beef up the coastal security efforts. An important aspect of coastal surveillance is networked radar systems which can detect, track and at times, classify the target on and above water. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which is a prime contractor in the coastal radar project has inaugurated several Regional Operating Stations (ROS) and a Regional Operating Centre (ROC).

BEL is setting up a chain of Remote Sensor Stations along the coastline of India as part of the coastal radar network. Static sensors such as radars, VHF communication systems, electro optic sensors and meteorological sensors are installed at these Remote Sensor Stations to monitor the coastline. Electro optic sensors provide visual detection and identification of targets. VHF communication system is provided for communication with the targets at sea. Information from multiple radars and information from other sensors like Automatic Identification Systems are co-related to provide a composite picture at operating centres.

A cluster of Remote Sensor Stations are linked to ROS, enabling transfer of real-time data. The ROSs are linked to ROCs, which in turn are connected to the Control Centre (CC).

Defence minister A.K. Antony inaugurated a ROC in Mumbai and ROS at Porbandar on 25 August 2012. Vice Admiral M.P. Muraleedharan, DG Coast Guard, inaugurated an ROS at Kochi on 15 September 2012. This was followed by the inauguration of another ROS at the Indian Coast Guard’s district headquarters at Visakhapatnam by Jitendra Singh, Union minister of state for defence, on 23 November 2012. ROC-Mumbai, ROS-Porbandar, ROS-Kochi and ROS-Visakhapatnam are part of the coastal radar network which has been envisaged to provide security cover for India’s coastline.

The Network Centric coastal radar network developed by BEL provides total scalable surveillance solution. The system presents complete surveillance scenario on digital maps at a centralised Command Centre where the information is processed and archived. The system can also be used as an aid for search and rescue operations. The control centres provide the operator with all the required capabilities to remotely control the sensors on the network, present tactical situation assessment picture, support mission planning such as interception, search and rescue and meet any user specific requirements.

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