The huge cache of arms, including plastic explosives and suicide jackets, recovered from a suspected LTTE boat last week off the Tamil Nadu coast in Park Bay has triggered concern about such illegal activities thriving in the Indian Ocean.
The government has decided to deploy more assets and strengthen surveillance in the 1,800 nautical mile zone this side of the Sri Lankan maritime boundary to thwart the designs of "subversive elements" and inflow of deadly arms targeted at "destabilising the country".
Defence Minister AK Antony, who conducted a fleet review of the Indian Coast Guard off the coast of Mormugao on Sunday, said the government had decided to take "emergency measures" to pack more punch into the country's maritime capabilities. Referring to the latest seizure, he said: "We are always looking at ways and means to refine the intelligence gathering mechanism. But the sea is vast and such incidents can happen. We were able to recover the arms due to our vigilance."
In less than a week of the massive arms cache, the Coast Guard has intensified patrolling and deployed more vessels in Park Bay and Gulf of Mannar to pre-empt arms and explosives smuggling from Sri Lanka.
Coast Guard director general Vice Admiral Rusi Contractor told Hindustan Times that intelligence reports had underscored the need to step up vigil to check the menace of terrorism at sea. Just last week, Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had warned in New Delhi that the Indian Ocean Region had emerged as a hub of global terrorism.
Intensifying Operation Tasha, launched by the Navy to protect the Tamil Nadu coast from infiltration by LTTE, the Coast Guard has deployed additional inshore patrol vessels and stepped up aerial surveillance with Dorniers flying more and longer sorties daily.
Inspector General Coast Guard (East) Rajendra Singh told HT that interceptor boats and hovercrafts had also been placed on high alert at Coast Guard stations in Mandapam and Tuticorin. Singh added that the fishing community in coastal areas was being roped in to strengthen intelligence. As per its charter of duties, the Coast Guard is the lead intelligence agency for coastal borders.
"There was a time when land borders were paramount. But in today's emerging scenario, maritime security is equally critical," Antony said, after the fleet review which saw the participation of 14 ships of different classes. The fleet review gave the Coast Guard an opportunity to showcase its expertise in responding to oil spills, dealing with maritime pollution, search and rescue operations and the
utility of its assets like advanced offshore patrol vessels, fast patrol vessels, interceptor boats, hovercrafts and helicopters.
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