COASTAL SECURITY OF INDIA
Introduction: What is the status of India’s Coastal Security?
India is surrounded by waters on three sides.
It lies in the crucial maritime route between Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Malacca.
India’s subcontinental expanse and growing economic clout make it an important player in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
It has a vast coastline of 7516.6 km including island territories to protect.
Indian coasts are vulnerable to maritime terrorism, smuggling and trafficking due to their proximity to politically volatile gulf countries and economically depressed East African countries.
Indian coasts are highly indented and poorly developed.
This makes them an ideal location for landing illegal arms, explosives, contraband by smugglers and infiltration by terrorists.
The IOR is the busiest maritime trade route, hence, Indian coasts are witnessing a constant rise in range and number of vessels.
Regulating these vessels and their monitoring offers a big challenge to the security forces and law enforcement agencies.
Coastal security refers to the security of coastal water zone against any threat or challenge that originates from sea.
Coastal water zone is the area seawards of the Indian coast up to the limit of India’s contiguous zone or the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) whichever is less.
Coastal security encompasses maritime border management, island security, maintenance of peace, stability and order in coastal areas, enforcement of laws, security of ports, coastal installations, vessels and personnel operating in coastal areas.
The Indian coasts harbor a range of strategic installations like naval bases, nuclear power plants, satellite and missile launching ranges and ports. Such installations are vital for the security, development and prosperity of the country, making them high value targets.
India’s 95% of trade by volume and 68% of trade by value comes via the Indian Ocean.
India is the second highest fish producer in the world and 35% of this production is contributed by the maritime sector.
Now the global strategic competition has shifted its base to the Indian Ocean Region.
India needs to present a befitting response to Chinese ‘String of Pearls’ doctrine.
China is engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean littorals by economic and/or military pacts with the strategic intention of encircling Indian peninsula.
The renaming of Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific by the Western powers has brought India at the center of their collaborative move to counter China.
India has established itself as the first responder to the humanitarian crisis in the IOR through its Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.
India remains at the forefront in dealing with the climate induced crisis through its mitigation efforts.
Coastal Security Apparatus:
Indian Navy is responsible for overall maritime security including coastal as well as offshore security.
It is assisted by the Indian Coast Guard, the marine police and other central and state agencies.
Indian Coast Guard oversees coastal security in territorial waters and islands.
The Director General Coast Guard has been designated as the Commander Coastal Command and is responsible for the overall coordination between central and state agencies in all matters related to coastal security.
Border Security Forces’ water wing has been deployed along with eight floating Border Outposts for the security and surveillance of the creeks in Gujarat and Sundarbans.
Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is entrusted with the responsibility of the physical security of India’s major ports.
Vessel Traffic Management Systems are being installed in all the major and few minor ports to monitor and regulate maritime traffic and to detect potentially dangerous ships.
National Maritime Domain Awareness Project includes an integrated intelligence grid to detect and tackle threats emanating from the sea in real time.
A Maritime Theatre Command is proposed to integrate the assets of the Indian Navy, Army, IAF and Coast Guard to tackle the evolving nature of threats.
Maritime exercises such as Sagar Kavach conducted by Indian Navy and ICG along with other stakeholders, ‘Sea Vigil’, TROPEX and the exercises with the friendly nations enhance the coastal defence capability of the Indian Forces and agencies.
Review of coastal security apparatus in the country is a continuous process.
Government needs to improve surveillance measures and increase international cooperation to strengthen the coastal security.
A holistic approach by centre and states is imperative to protect the country’s maritime domain.