Need for a Stronger Coastal Security Strategy –
India has a 7516 kilometers long coastline 5422 kilometers of mainland coastline and 2094 kilometers of island coastline. It includes nine states and four Union Territories. The Indian coastline accounts for 90% of the country’s trade which spans 3331 coastal villages and 1382 islands. The Indian coastline is home to 12 major and 200 minor ports, along with 95 landing centers, and is increasingly facing security challenges from India’s immediate neighbors and non-state actors. Pakistan is the origin for the terrorism which is allowed to operate from its soil against India. The main example of this is the Mumbai Terror attacks on 26/11.
The main targets for maritime terrorism are ports, harbors, ships, coastal energy facilities. In addition to terrorism, piracy and armed robbery also pose major threats to coastline security. Smuggling and trafficking of arms, gold, narcotics and many more including the influx of illegal migrants into India are also among the major threats to India’s coastal security. Also, the straying of fishermen into Indian coastal waters presents an additional challenge to India’s coastal security.
Subsequent to the Mumbai incident on 26/11, coastal security has been thoroughly reviewed by Govt. of India. The coastal States and UTs were asked to carry out vulnerability and gap analysis in consultation with the Coast Guard. There are various Govt. initiatives for improving coastal security such as National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security headed by Cabinet Secretary, Indian Coast Guard and Marine police working in coordination with the Indian Navy which has primary responsibility of guarding India’s coastal waters. Also, National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I) was setup to provide electronic surveillance and prevent the intrusion of unknown vessels.
Although significant progress has been made by the Govt. to ensure coastal security, serious challenges remain. Some of these challenges include lack of coordination between different agencies, Lack of clarity among various stakeholders about their roles, lack of training, discontent among the fishermen communities, and difficult seasonal weather patterns among others.
Improving the coastal security is a continuous process for the Govt. of India. There has to be further coordination among various stake holders like the Indian Navy, Indian Coast guard and Marine Police, along with better coordination between the central and state governments. There also has to be increase in the number of ships and aircraft available to both the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard to more effectively ensure India’s coastal security.