Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba asserted that India is better prepared and better organised since a group of sea-borne terrorists struck at the heart of Mumbai 10 years back, thanks to a string of security measures including a layered maritime surveillance.
In an interview to the news agency PTI, Admiral Sunil Lanba said, “We have come a long way since then,” adding that there has been a paradigm shift in coastal security as vulnerabilities and risks were fixed and a layered maritime surveillance and security architecture was put in place, making the coastline almost impregnable.
When asked about possibility of terrorists taking the sea route again to mount a similar attack on India, Admiral Lanba said, “The country is now better prepared and better organised.”
He further noted that the Indian Navy is now a potent multi-dimensional force, safeguarding India’s interests in the seas and that it is fully prepared to deal with any security challenge facing the country in the maritime domain.
The Navy chief also added that the critical gaps and vulnerabilities in the country’s coastal infrastructure have been addressed, and that a robust surveillance network comprising 42 radar stations linked to a control centre headquartered Gurgaon has been put in place.
“We now have a multi-layered security architecture for coastal security, involving various agencies including the Coast guard and the Navy,” the Navy chief said, adding that an overhaul of the coastal defence apparatus was carried out in the last few years.
He also said that tracking the movement of thousands of fishing boats round-the-clock was a major challenge but now a mechanism has been put into place to track them. He, however, emphasised on the need to improve intelligence gathering to further tighten the existing security apparatus.
Talking to PTI, he listed colour-coding of fishing boats, their online registration and issuance of biometric cards to the fishermen as some of the important steps as part of enhancing coastal security. The Navy Chief said data about ships, dhows, mechanized trawlers, fishing boats and all other vessels operating near India’s coasts are analysed round-the-clock.
“An Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) was set up in Gurgaon which acts as a nodal agency for national command control and intelligence sharing among the Coast Guard and the Navy,” he added.
The Navy Chief also stated that 1,500 landing points for fishing boats are being monitored regularly besides making installation of AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponders mandatory for vessels of 300 tonnes and above for their easy tracking.
As part of efforts to further beef up coastal security, Admiral Lanba said a massive coastal security exercise, christened “Sea Vigil”, covering the entire coastline as well as island territories is being organised in January next year. “For the first time, such a mega exercise will be held,” he added.
It is to be noted that on November 26, 2008, 10 Pakistani terrorists sneaked into Mumbai through the sea, arriving by boat from Karachi, and went on the rampage, carrying out coordinated attacks on the Chattrapati Shivaji railway terminus, the Taj Mahal hotel, the Trident hotel, and a Jewish centre. Nearly 166 people including 28 foreigners from 10 nations were killed in the nearly 60-hour assault.