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Monday Morning Meeting on “Coastal Security Construct: The Indian Way”

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  • February 13, 2023
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Comdt. M. Srivastava, Research Fellow, MP-IDSA, spoke on ”Coastal Security Construct: The Indian Way” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 13 February 2023. Capt Anurag Bisen, Research Fellow, MP-IDSA, was the moderator. Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, the Deputy Director-General, MP-IDSA, and scholars attended the meeting.

    Executive Summary

    The Mumbai blasts in 1993 and the 26/11 attacks of 2008 shaped India's coastal security contours. The emergence of coastal security construct dates back to 1990 in the aftermath of IPKF’s withdrawal from Sri Lanka with the commencement of Operation Tasha. Subsequently, post 26/11, Phases one and two of the Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) were initiated to strengthen the coastal security mechanism. Phase three is envisaged to be underway soon. However, India needs those involved in coastal security to constantly train, equip, exercise, and keep reinventing the wheel and incorporate the lessons learnt.

    Detailed Report

    Capt. Anurag Bisen set the stage by introducing the audience to coastal security with some facts. India has 7,516.6 kilometres of coastline running through nine states and four union territories. The territorial waters of India are 1,55,889 square kilometres, and the exclusive economic zone is 20,30,490 square kilometres, nearly 60% of the land area. There are over 3,000 coastal villages and 1,382 island territories, with more than 120 million people involved in fishing activities who use nearly half a million boats. India shares its maritime boundary with the same number of countries with which it shares land boundaries. 90% of India’s trade by volume and 70% by value is conducted through the coast. Moreover, 70% of energy requirements are also met through the coast.

    The Government of India raised the Indian Coast Guard on the recommendations of the K.F. Rustamji Committee. It started with two frigates and five patrol boats. Today, the Indian Coast Guard is the fourth largest in the world. Capt. Bisen said that the most significant terrorist attacks India has faced have come from the sea, demonstrating the importance of coastal security. The Indian Navy proposed setting up a Maritime Security Advisory Board in 2005. The National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) was set up in 2009 under the cabinet secretary in light of the 26/11 attacks. The Group of Ministers (GoM) report in 2001 recommended setting up a maritime security committee at the apex level, which the Government finally established in 2022 as a National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC). Capt. Bisen finally remarked that neither maritime nor coastal security mechanisms had reached finalisation, and an impregnable maritime border remains a work in progress. He then introduced Comdt. M. Srivastava and requested him to make his presentation.

    Comdt. M. Srivastava began by observing that two events which shaped India's coastal security contours are the Mumbai blasts in 1993 and the 26/11 attacks of 2008. In both cases, the sea route was used, as Capt. Bisen mentioned earlier.

    India’s Maritime Stakes

    Comdt. M. Srivastava started by highlighting India’s maritime stakes. About 26 crore of India’s population lives within 50 km of the coastline, which also has numerous vital areas and points. Shipping is still the world’s most efficient and economical means of transportation. India has twelve major ports and around 200 non-major ports. The major ports handled a cargo of nearly 530 Million Tonnes during April-December 2021, a jump of nearly 11% from 2020 during the same period. The non-major ports also saw a considerable increase in traffic from 2017 to 2021. India’s maritime agenda was first published in 2011, emphasising port capacity enhancement, developing port infrastructure, promoting coastal shipping, etc. Presently, India seeks a maritime-led economic growth through its maritime vision-2030, which is set to bring an investment of Rs. 3 lakh crore and create twenty lakh jobs. India is also proto-testing offshore wind energy farms with a target of 30 GW from offshore wind energy by 2030. It has kick-started its deep sea mission for rare earth elements in the Central Indian Ocean Basin. Policies such as Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), Sagarmala and Project Mausam align with a maritime-led development. India’s economic growth is intricately intertwined with the seas, so its focus on a blue economy is inescapable.

    However, Comdt. M. Srivastava opined that in the contemporary era of global political and economic interdependence, the sea routes are increasingly facing safety and security concerns as they are vulnerable to maritime terrorism, piracy, illegal activities, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, smuggling of arms and ammunitions and natural disasters such as sea-level rise and cyclones.

    Maritime Terrorism

    There is a growing nexus between maritime crime and terrorism. The sea’s vast expanse, its unregulatory nature, blurred jurisdiction and stealth nature makes it a preferred medium for  terrorists. There are frequent seizures of arms, drugs and narcotics consignments at sea, which indicates a disturbing trend. The nexus between drug traffickers, terror organisations and their financing is dangerous. The definition of maritime terrorism as per the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (CSCAP) and offences in the maritime domain as laid in the Convention for Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation or SUA convention 1988 (amended 2005) were highlighted.

    India’s Coastal Security Construct

    The emergence of coastal security can be traced back to 1990, post the de-induction of IPKF from Sri Lanka, a low-intensity maritime operation (LIMO), Operation Tasha, commenced in Palk Bay. It was the first coastal security mechanism construct involving multiple agencies, including state police and administration. This multi-layered concept of patrolling laid the foundations for coastal security in India. Subsequently, in 1993 the Mumbai blasts happened, for which the RDX was smuggled through the sea route. Operation Swan was initiated in September 1993 to prevent the transit of arms and ammunition along the coasts of Gujarat and Maharashtra, but there were challenges in terms of workforce, resources and intelligence inputs etc. Post Kargil conflict in 1999, the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) made recommendations to improve border management. A GoM was formed, which had a dedicated task force for border management. Its report came out in 2001 and is known as the GoM report 2001. Intelligence efforts also gained momentum to enhance coastal security by establishing a Multi-Agency Centre (MAC). The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) was also implemented to enhance port security. The Department of Border Management was formed under the MHA in 2004. The Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) approved the first phase of the CSS. The CSS was based on the perspective plans made by the coastal states and Union Territories, which was implemented in 2005 for five years. The scheme consisted of setting up coastal police stations, outposts, checkposts, etc. However, while this was underway, the 26/11 attacks again exposed the vulnerability of the Indian coastline and compelled India to revamp its coastal security mechanisms. Various duties were assigned to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, and a strong need for electronic surveillance was also felt. Phase one of the Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) project was implemented from 2011 onwards, and 46 coastal surveillance radar and electro-optic sensors were established. The currently underway CSN phase two includes the installation of 38 additional radar stations with eight mobile surveillance systems. These will be integrated with vessel traffic management wsystems (VTMS) of the Gulfs of Kutch and Khambat. Once in place, this will lead to 109 surveillance radars along the coastline, i.e. one radar per 74 km. The CSN provides real-time surface surveillance up to 25 nautical miles, and post-CSN phase two, a near gap-free electronic surveillance, is envisaged. The Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL) also established a National Automatic Identification System (AIS) chain by installing AIS sensors and associated equipment at 87 existing lighthouses. The DG shipping also implemented a Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system in 2009 in accordance with IMO regulations. The National Command Control Communication and Intelligence (NC3I) network correlates the data received from both Naval and Coast Guard nodes and disseminates the information to the networked stations. The CSS phase two was implemented from 2011 onwards, emphasising the strengthening of marine police. The NCSMCS was constituted in 2009 under the Cabinet Secretary for apex-level coordination. Similarly, the Steering Committee for Review of Coastal Security (SCRCS) under the Secretary, Border Management in MHA was constituted in 2013. The state and district-level committees in coastal states and UTs to monitor, manage and steer coastal security issues have been constituted post the coastal security review meeting held in 2016. The Marine Police training at the National Academy of Coastal Policing (NACP) was established at Okha in 2018. The Indian Navy, Coast Guard and BSF form the core of this academy. Further, the newly approved National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) project is likely to facilitate seamless synergy and coordination amongst the stakeholders.

    Additionally, measures such as issuing Identity biometric cards for fisherpeople, colour coding of boats and online registration for fishing vessels have been implemented nationally to strengthen the mechanism. Exercises such as Sagar Kavach, Sajak and Sea Vigil are conducted periodically. Post 26/11, community groups were also formed in various states. The Indian Coast Guard has also introduced community interaction which has now graduated to community integration programmes. Comdt. Srivastava said that the coastal communities are considered eyes and ears and are an integral part of a coastal security construct.

    Challenges flagged and deliberated by Comdt. Srivastava were as follows:

    • Long inundated and porous coastline
    • Suitable identification and tracking devices for small fishing boats at sea.
    • Maritime boundary issues and disputes
    • The diverse topography of India’s coastline compounds the coastal security challenges.
    • Coastal security is also connected to external factors such as political turmoil, economic collapse, internal conflicts, illegal migration and climate change.
    • Those involved in fisheries related crime and crime associated with fisheries, piracy and armed robbery at sea can easily be lured into terrorist activities. 
    • Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) and floating armouries at sea pose serious security concerns.
    • Marine Police is still struggling with basic impediments, and its capabilities need to be strengthened further.
    • Security of minor ports and fish landing centres remains a grey area with a need for electronic surveillance.
    • There is also a need for more elaborate legal provisions and fisheries regulation.

    Recommendations given by Comdt. Srivastava were as follows:

    • Analyse the gap areas and finalise a plan of action for implementing CSS phase three.
    • Coastal security exercises, joint training, tabletop exercises and workshops are to be conducted regularly.
    • Improvement in the existing infrastructure, jetties and assets for marine police.
    • Checkposts and CCTVs at fish landing sites should be placed for access control.
    • The institutionalisation of entry and exit reporting by Indian Dhows.
    • Monitoring of unauthorised settlements along the coastline.
    • Empower the fisheries department with an adequate workforce, sanctions, and legal provisions.
    • Empower Marine Police with interceptor boats, equipment and training.
    • Improvement of fisheries monitoring control and surveillance.
    • Countermeasures to underwater and ariel threats should be developed.
    • A mechanism for space-based monitoring needs to be developed.

    Comdt. M. Srivastava concluded his presentation by saying that coastal security is a multi-agency construct, and efficient coordination amongst stakeholders is imperative. The recently constituted NMSC is part of the NSCS, which will provide momentum to coastal security initiatives. Coastal security has undergone a significant overhaul post-26/11, and presently excellent support from all stakeholders is experienced. However, those involved in this construct must train, equip and exercise continuously and keep reinventing the wheel to incorporate the lessons learnt.


    Capt. Bisen thanked Comdt. Srivastava for providing a comprehensive overview of the coastal security construct, activities of the Coast Guard, an assessment of the challenges faced and his recommendations for them. Given the Capt’s experience of coastal security with the NSCS, he provoked the discussion by asking if we needed reform at higher level of coastal security construct. He also asked if there shouldn’t be a single force for a single border as recommended by the GoM. He then requested the Deputy Director General for his comments, concluding that MP-IDSA could work on this given the available expertise.

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.) thanked the Comdt. for his presentation and Capt. Bisen  for his remarks. He began by saying that this subject requires at least a day’s or a two-hour seminar. He asserted that there is a clear need for recommendations on inter-agency cooperation. The questions he raised were as follows:

    • The NMSC is primarily an advisor to the NSA, so is it possible to knit all agencies together?
    • Are UAVs used for surveillance?
    • Why are we not seeing a large number of seizures by the state marine police forces if they are being improved?

    To Capt. Bisen’s remarks, the Comdt. said that the Steering Committee discusses issues pertaining to coastal security with the stakeholders and initiates necessary steps to strengthen the coastal security mechanism. Further, the issues, and measures to strengthen the CS construct are deliberated at NCSMCS, which is the apex body and where all the concerned stakeholders are present. Therefore, the needed reforms at higher levels are in place and much so after the recent appointment of NMSC. He then assured that all the government agencies are working day and night in any given condition towards a robust coastal security mechanism. He further explained in detail about the inherent security challenges and differences between land and security at sea. At sea, there is a blurred jurisdiction, with a different set of rules, legal provisions and jurisdiction in various zones such as territorial water, contiguous zones and EEZ. He then explained the advantages and necessity of a multi-agency mechanism. He added that unlike the US after 9/11, which merged stakeholders to form the Department of Homeland Security, India rightly preferred to go ahead with a multi-layered system as India faces a set of challenges at sea which are quite different from the US or Europe.

    Comdt. Srivastava agreed with Maj. Gen. Bakshi that this subject needs at least a one-day seminar. In response to the latter’s questions, he affirmed that the Indian Navy provides training for ICG personnel at Naval training establishments, and there is a seamless synergy between IN and ICG. He flagged that identification devices such as transponders for sub 20 mt. boats are also being developed. He stressed that, however, along with technology, there will always be a need for physical presence at sea. The physical presence of ships and aircraft has no substitute and is imperative. Their efforts, however, must be supplemented by the use of technology. He briefly explained the current maritime domain awareness system and touched upon space-based monitoring. He emphasised that a holistic analysis and review of existing CS construct can be undertaken to identify the gaps that could be addressed in the CSS phase three. The Comdt. stated that marine police must be trained and equipped to meet their potential. The academy at Okha will provide suitable training and enhance their capability and seagoing skills. Various states are also taking administrative steps for cadre management, which will improve their operational capabilities. 

    Ms. Sultana raised questions about environmental security along the coast.The Comdt. responded by stating how the Coast Guard helps the fisherpeople during natural disasters and takes measures to curb marine pollution. He highlighted that ICG conducts coastal clean-up exercises, which are widely acknowledged. Studies on climate change and challenges due to sea level rise or increased frequency of cyclones or more intense storms are also underway by various agencies. The ICG emphasises the concern for the marine environment and oil pollution at sea and undertakes operations to protect marine species such as the endangered Olive Ridley turtle.

    In response to the queries of Mr. Oak and Dr. Sanur Sharma on an indigenous navigation and monitoring system, Comdt. M. Srivastava briefly stated that measures are in place, and scientific organisations are working on enhancing our space-based monitoring and surveillance capacity and capabilities.

    Capt. Bisen thanked Comdt. M. Srivastava, wished everyone an exciting week ahead and concluded the meeting.

    Report was prepared by Mr. Nikhil Guvvadi, Intern, Counter-Terrorism Centre.