Coming clean on “problems of coordination” between the navy and Coast Guard that led to the Mumbai attacks, the government on Saturday revealed a comprehensive plan to plug the holes in India’s vulnerable maritime security.
The government’s plan centres on bestowing more powers on the navy — some taken away from the Coast Guard — and making it accountable by naming it the sole authority responsible for maritime security.
After laying the keel for the largest warship to be ever built in India, the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said at the Cochin Shipyard Limited that the navy would control all maritime operations, including those of the Coast Guard, to stave off threats from the high seas. “This eliminates the possibility of any blame game such as the one witnessed between the Navy and the Coast Guard after 26/11... We are also setting up joint operations centres under the navy in Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair,” Antony said.
In a recent report tabled in Parliament, the Standing Committee on Defence had blamed lack of coordination between the navy and the Coast Guard for 26/11.
Till now, the Coast Guard was solely responsible for policing over 2.01 million sq km of India’s exclusive economic zone. It was also the principal agency for the protection of nearly 1,200 islands, offshore installations and a coastline of 7,517 km.
The navy’s top admirals have been given more authority by re-designating them as commanders-in-chief of coastal defence. The lethality of the navy’s fleet is being sharpened with 80 fast interceptor boats and a new specialised force called ‘Sagar Prahari Bal’ with 1,000 personnel.
The Coast Guard will mainly be responsible for coastal security in territorial waters extending to 12 miles off the coast.
Despite some dilution in its autonomy, the Coast Guard’s force levels are being bolstered. The government has sanctioned 20 per cent increase in afloat units for the Coast Guard, which has a fleet of over 75 warships and 50 aircraft, apart from 30 per cent increase for shore support and intelligence.
Also in the pipeline are nine new Coast Guard stations for better surveillance along both seaboards that will be covered by a static radar chain. A new regional headquarters would also be set up to secure the coastline of Gujarat, Antony said.
The government is also establishing a national command, control, communication and intelligence network by linking the operations room of the navy and Coast Guard for better coordination.