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Maldivian terror alert spurs coastal security review

india Updated: Nov 24, 2013 22:15 IST
Harinder Baweja
Harinder Baweja
Hindustan Times
2008 Mumbai attacks

Five years after Ajmal Kasab and nine other Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists sneaked into Mumbai via sea from Karachi and wreaked the havoc of 26/11, a Maldivian alert has prompted an intense coastal security review.

A few months ago, the Maldivian government shared precise information that they had arrested eight of their citizens lined up by the Lashkar to mount a terror attack in India. What’s more, the Lashkar had trained three of these eight recruits in Pakistan.

“The Maldivians passed on information that eight of their nationals had been tasked to go to India via the sea route and land in a South Indian city for a spectacular attack,” a senior home ministry official told HT. “There are other inputs indicating that the Lashkar is planning a big strike.”

The Maldivian high commissioner to India, Mohamed Naseer, declined to comment on the matter.

Following the intelligence inputs, a team of officers from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence wing, went to Maldives to question the eight Lashkar recruits.

A thorough coastal security review was also set in motion to prevent another terror attack like the one seen by Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The bloody attack claimed 166 lives.

In an address to police chiefs from across the country earlier this week, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, while underlining the importance of coastal security, warned terrorists could infiltrate South Indian shores.

A senior intelligence official who was present at the meeting told HT Menon stated that not much had been done to plug the vast gaps along the coast despite the Mumbai attacks.

Confirming the gaps, Commodore Uday Bhaskar, former director, National Maritime Foundation, said, “In the intervening five years, various policy initiatives have been pursued. While some progress has been made, the structural deficiencies that allowed a 26/11 to happen, alas, are yet to be effectively redressed.”

In Gujarat, a recent Comptroller and Auditor General of India report pegged the shortfall in sea patrolling between 78 and 91%.

In Tamil Nadu, marine police stations have been set up but the sea frontage they cover is too wide. In Maharashtra, some interceptor boats have been purchased, but the government has not allocated enough funds for fuel.

The Maldivian input only confirms intelligence already available with agencies regarding, what one official termed, “Lashkar’s continued focus on India”.

According to a senior intelligence official, coastal security remains an area of grave concern. “The cooperation from Maldives nipped one effort but there are other credible inputs pointing to the possibility of an attack via the sea route.”

Minister of state for home RPN Singh told HT, “We continue to receive inputs and are constantly reviewing coastal security. In 2011, the ministry released Rs 15,179 crore to nine coastal states and four union territories.”