Strength to ‘triple in the next ten years’
The defence ministry has announced a slew of measures that attempt to plug the loopholes in coastal security following the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
For a start, The Indian Coast Guard (CG) will install radars atop all lighthouses along the country's 7,516 km long coastline. Coast Guard chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra told media personnel that along with the radars, AIS systems and cameras have also been mooted to be fitted.
The plan is actually five years old. "All over India, there are light houses and they are fairly tall structures. In 2005-06 plans were made to put radars atop them to pick up contacts of anything close to the coast," Chopra said. Security analysts say that identification of the radar contacts would become easier provided AIS systems were integrated and robust. Chopra is hopeful. “Radars and cameras have become so sensitive that they can take real time pictures of the coastal region," he says. The budget for the upgradation is Rs 350 crore.
This is not all. 96 coastal police stations are to be setup soon, followed by another 131 in a second wave of expansion. A coastal road along the coastline is under construction and will help in patrolling. About 200 boats will be provided to coastal stations, a plan that will double the CG strength by next year and triple it by the end of the decade.
In other developments, a new Coast Guard station was inaugurated by the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Bhupinder Singh to beef up security of maritime zones in and around the islands. Vice-Admiral D K Joshi, Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command, says that the islands are particularly vulnerable due to their geographical separation from the mainland and the political, economic and strategic development in the Indian Ocean region. The new CG station at Hutbay will facilitate effective sea control, he said. A ship E146 at Porbandar in Gujarat will augment the security apparatus on the West Coast as well.
Overall, it is learnt that the government has sanctioned 40, ships, 20 boats and 42 aircraft to augment the Coast Guard arsenal. Seven offshore patrol vessels, 20 fast patrol vessels and 12 Dornier aircraft have also been approved. These will add considerably to the present CG fleet of 43 ships, 23 boats and 45 aircraft .The defence ministry hopes that these additions would make the Indian Coast Guard a force to be reckoned with in times to come. Vice Admiral Chopra says that more than 3000 personnel will be inducted into service this year alone, almost a third of its existing roster of 7500 personnel. A coastal surveillance network is being established; the network will have fully integrated infrastructure to monitor and control the coast from remote locations. A total of 40 stations are envisaged by 2012.
Training and exercises have been honed as well. In 2009, the Coast Guard conducted 14 coastal security exercises and 18 operations based on intelligence inputs. Surveillance and joint exercises with other maritime agencies have also been increased, and regular exercises will be conducted in the future.
The Indian Coast Guard intends to become a major player in the region, and indeed across the world. "We will become the fourth largest Coast Guard in the world... people can come and attempt to attack but we are prepared now. And this gives us confidence to take on any attack," Chopra says.