Five years after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, India’s coastline continues to be vulnerable. As reported in this paper, the Maldivian police managed to detect a Lashkar-e-Taiba plot to repeat another attack using the coastal route. The fact is that terror organisations still prefer the sea route shows that India has not been able to build up deterrent capabilities.
Since 2005, India has attempted to establish a comprehensive coastal security mechanism in several phases. The ministry of home affairs agreed to set up coastal police stations, provide boats, streamline responsibilities between the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard and ensure better intelligence coordination.
The defence ministry, which had started a project to implement 46 static coastal radars, managed to set up 34. All the fishermen were supposed to get biometric identity cards, register their vessels and fit communication equipment on their boats. The government also set up a national committee on strengthening maritime security for quick and effective implementation.
Over time the committee has stopped meeting, the construction of coastal police stations has fallen behind schedule and the boats don’t have adequate fuel for regular patrolling. The responsibility between the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard also remains unclear. The use of special forces like the Navy’s Marine Commando Force also remains sub-optimal. Intelligence coordination among different agencies also remains in a mess.
Post the 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda, the United States created a department for homeland security which would create a plan for securing its coasts. Post 26/11, India has adopted a piecemeal approach, with several components being out of sync. When P Chidambaram was the Union home minister, he had unveiled a major plan to overhaul India’s security apparatus. But partisan politics and a singular lack of vision has ensured that India has failed to move forward from 26/11.