Synergising Indian Navy and the Coast Guard

Captain Alok Bansal was Member, Navy at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Summer 2008

    Armed Forces all over the world are beginning to realise the importance of jointmanship, and accordingly enormous efforts have been made of late to promote jointmanship and bring about integration of the three armed forces in India. However, no attempt has been made to formally integrate the Coast Guard, which has also been termed as an armed force of the union, with the other forces, especially with the Indian Navy (IN). Presently, the naval-coast guard relations are cordial and joint operations are conducted without any major hitch but in the absence of any formal mechanism, there is scope for problems in future. Although a beginning was made by incorporating a Coast Guard component into the tri-service command at Port Blair, the Coast Guard has been kept out of the ambit of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS). This reflects that the service is not likely to be placed under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as and when it is created. For some inexplicable reasons, the Coast Guard (CG) has been treated like one of the Central Police Organisations (CPOs), even though the service is an armed force of the union and functions under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The paucity of resources at sea requires that various agencies operating at sea must coordinate their efforts and pool their resources to obtain optimum results. As the two premium agencies operating in the seas around India, there is a need to institutionalise the relationship between the two services.

    The two Indian maritime security forces, the IN and the CG are diverse services, but have a common role towards the nation’s defence. “The CG ships and aircraft, and personnel manning them along with the shore infrastructure, have the inherent capability to switch over to a variety of specialised tasks in times of hostilities.”1They need to cooperate to optimise limited resources and to enhance their effectiveness in their areas of operation. This paper aims to analyse the problems likely to arise in future cooperation between the IN and the Indian CG and to suggest remedial measures. The irritants which have the potential to undermine mutual cooperation have been studied with the purpose of eliminating them. The study has been carried out with the aim that relationship between the IN and the CG does not suffer from inter-service rivalry and mutual bickering as has happened in the case of the Army and the Border Security Force (BSF).

    It is intended to highlight the differences in service conditions of the two services with special reference to absence of common or equivalent rank structure, differences in recruitment and promotional norms and its likely impact on command and control while operating together. It is also intended to highlight the absence of clear cut guidelines for the jobs likely to be entrusted to the CG in times of war and in less than war situations to suggest remedial measures to overcome these shortcomings and to optimise IN and CG resources and their organisational structures to evolve a doctrine for the joint operations.


    It has been three decades since the inception of the CG. The youngest unit of the Armed Forces, the Indian Coast Guard was formally inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai on 19 August 1978, making India one of the few countries to have established such a force to fulfil its obligations in the maritime zones under its jurisdiction.2 An interim CG organisation had been set up earlier within the Navy on 1 February 1977 with the aim of undertaking non-military maritime duties and enhancing ocean management. The requirement of the new organisation emerged from the preliminary discussions at the third United Nations Conference on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). The existing infrastructure and the organisation for the protection of life and property at sea had not kept pace with the substantial increase in the maritime activity taking place in the waters surrounding India. The Indian Navy (IN) was the only organisation capable of enforcing Indian jurisdiction in the maritime zones. It was therefore felt necessary to create an organisation for the safety of off-shore installations in peacetime, control of smuggling across the seas and for meeting various international obligations at sea like pollution control, search and rescue and preservation of various marine species. According to a former Director General (DG) of CG, “The Indian Coast Guard was created … to maintain economic and environmental discipline … in its waters, and protect national and other interests in its maritime zones.”3

    It was probably felt that entrusting these additional responsibilities to the IN would not only dilute the primary function of a defence force but also expose the service to undesirable civilian influences. In addition, these peace-time law enforcement duties would have required large financial outlays and would have led to a substantial increase in the naval and consequently the defence budgets. This would have positively raised eyebrows in the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean in the Seventies and the Eighties and would have led to wider international ramifications. Based on some of these factors, it was decided to create an Indian CG organisation under the Ministry of Defence.

    The CG Act was brought into force on Aug 19, 1978, constituting CG as the fourth Armed Force of the Union. The statutory duties of the CG as prescribed in the Act include protection of maritime and other national interests in the maritime zones of India, by such measures as the CG deems fit. These measures could provide for enforcing the provisions of the Maritime Zones of India (MZI) Act, assisting Customs and other authorities in anti-smuggling operations, providing protection and assistance to fishermen, ensuring safety and protection of artificial islands, off-shore terminals, installations and other structures and devices in the maritime zone, preserving and protecting the maritime environment and preventing marine pollution, safety of life and property at sea and assistance in collection of scientific data.4 Although, the Rustomji committee, which recommended setting up of the CG, had recommended that in an emergency, the service be placed under the operational control of IN to supplement the naval fleet, there is no specific mention of this in the CG Act. Nevertheless, the CG has been assisting the IN and rendering yeoman service during peacetime operational commitments.5

    For the first ten to twelve years of its operation the CG was basically manned by IN personnel and all the ships and establishments were commanded by IN officers or ex-IN officers who had joined the CG. Even today, the DG and some of the top hierarchy of the CG consist of naval and retired naval officers but at the lower levels the number of IN personnel manning the CG ships and establishments has come down drastically. Today, most of the CG ships and establishments are commanded by CG officers. In the absence of common or equivalent rank structure and differences in promotional norms, difficulties have been experienced in command and control while operating together. Because of the lack of clear cut guidelines on the jobs likely to be entrusted to the CG in times of war and in less than war situation, there is a growing feeling in the lower echelons of the CG that they are doing most of the dirty jobs of the IN. On top of this, except a handful of officers, most of the CG officers have not served on IN units except during their initial training. They are, therefore, not totally aware of its operating procedures and this often creates problems in the smooth conduct of joint operations.

    Growing Maritime Interests

    Indian maritime interests are growing at a very fast pace in terms of sea trade, off-shore hydrocarbon explorations and other economic activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Besides, a 7500 km border is open to sea and is easier to breach and the geopolitical scenario around us is not too encouraging as we continue to remain surrounded by hostile neighbours. Indian offshore oil assets are spread over an area of over 48,000 square kilometres and are expected to double by 2015. Overseas trade, 95 per cent of which transits through the sea, is expected to cross $ 400 billion by 2010 and $ 1 trillion by 2020, when over 8000 tankers are expected to be touching Indian ports.6 With growing trade, mostly by sea, there is a proportionate increase in Indian liabilities towards the protection of shipping, off-shore assets and protection of EEZ. Any laxity on the nation’s part may cripple the economic lifeline of the nation. Thus, there is a need to consolidate Indian maritime defence in the best possible way. In a developing country like India, IN and the CG will never have adequate resources to meet all their requirements of platforms and equipment. Therefore, it would be logical to augment the resources of one service by making available the resources of the other in times of crisis. In view of the similarities of facilities required by the two services and the nationwide resource crunch, the cooperation between the two is inevitable.

    Coast Guard’s Potential for National Defence

    Being a maritime service the CG possesses numerous resources and skills which could make enormous contribution to the nation’s defence. In times of war, it could not only meet the naval requirement of additional ships and aircraft for various military tasks like patrolling and convoy escort, but also provide a vast pool of trained manpower which could be used to man the naval ships and aircraft. In times of hostilities it may be feasible to acquire additional weapon platforms from friendly countries, but it is virtually impossible to get trained manpower to man them at short notice. Today it takes five and a half years to train an officer through the National Defence Academy. Even if the Navy were to recruit graduates from outside, it would take two and a half years to train them to become effective watch-keeping officers. The two most demanding areas are training mariners and teaching command. It may be feasible to train and indoctrinate a large number of newly enlisted personnel into military life quickly and effectively but it takes time for them to acquire the ways of the sea by spending time at sea, whether on board an aircraft carrier or a CG boat. Similarly, command cannot actually be taught, because it is learnt through experience. The true lessons of command can only be acquired while commanding a ship.7

    The CG can provide the Navy with a cadre of experienced mariners who have gained the knowledge of the sea through extended and extensive sea-time on numerous ships, boats and small craft – experience that cannot be traded. With the basics of military training already provided, these mariners can take up any naval task, with very little additional training. The CG can also bring to the Navy a pool of officers with command experience. With numerous smaller ships and patrol vessels, these officers would be an invaluable asset for any sudden expansion of naval assets and responsibilities in times of a protracted war.8 It is therefore essential that CG should be able to “dissolve” into the Navy in case of any eventuality and the navy must be able to “fuse” CG in times of war by suitably equipping it and frequently exercising with it.9

    Challenge of Terrorism

    A new phenomenon that has made naval CG cooperation even more crucial is the growing phenomena of terrorism. Hitherto confined to land, terrorism could spread its tentacles over Indian maritime assets also. Owing to the suitability of geographical environs, it is feared that terrorism may shift into maritime realm. If so, terrorists could then exploit the vulnerabilities of global trade and shipping and disrupt the sea lines of communications passing through the neurological choke points. They could even carry out attacks on hub ports.10 Arms, weapons and explosives are readily available in the world market. A number of nations are ready to promote its proliferation – whatever be the pretext. Terrorism is here to stay and will remain an important element of the political process to intimidate governments and influence public opinion. The smuggling – limited to gold, silver and drugs till recently – has now proliferated to include weapons and explosives. Further, much of the military technology is freely available to the smugglers and terrorists. Their modus operandi is likely to become more sophisticated, due to easy accessibility of hi-tech equipment and connivance of the states themselves. Use of warships, aircraft or submarines to a limited extent cannot be ruled out.

    To counter this threat, India needs to keep its coastline and the waters around under constant surveillance. Proactive and preventive capabilities are essential and the maritime forces have to play a lead role in such interfaces.11 With the resources currently available with the CG it is well nigh impossible for it to maintain continuous presence. The naval assets will have to be pressed into service to meet these terrorist threats which would continue to be supported by our enemies. It would be more of a low intensity conflict than an internal security problem. Even with the existing resources of the two services, the IN and the CG have just managed to bring the situation under control on the western and southern coasts.

    Problems in Naval Coast Guard Cooperation

    Today, the CG and the IN are getting along fairly well. This, however, is due to the fact that, barring two short interregnums, CG has been headed by a naval officer. Despite this the bickering has started at the lower levels. The situation could worsen as time passes and the CG is manned totally by its own cadre of officers. This has happened in the case of the BSF and the Army, where the former was supposed to be a service with an army ethos and culture but as the army officers on deputation were phased out and BSF/Police officers took over, its orientation and attitude changed. Today, it has acquired police culture and resents being put under army command and control when the need arises. It is feasible that the CG could also evolve the same way in times to come, especially since the CG Act has no specific provision to place the CG under the operational control of the Indian Navy when the need arises.12 The bureaucratic conflicts have the potential to cause considerable harm and may affect both the Navy and the CG.13

    Some of the important problem areas that adversely affect the relationship between the IN and the CG have been analysed in the subsequent paragraphs. All of them have the potential to cause serious inter-service rivalry and bickering in future.

    Service Conditions

    Differences between the service conditions of the IN and the CG, especially the lack of common or equivalent rank structure and difference in promotional norms, has the maximum potential to cause problems in any future cooperation between the Navy and the CG. IN inducts officers through the National Defence Academy and the Naval Academy and as direct entrants in the technical branches. The CG officers are also inducted through the Naval Academy, but while the Naval officers join the Academy as cadets, the CG officers join as Assistant Commandants. This anomaly can be basically attributed to the fact that the CG officers at the time of induction are usually older than their naval counterparts. As a result, by the time a naval officer finishes his Midshipman’s time and gets commissioned, his course mate in the CG is already an Assistant Commandant of one and a half year seniority. Later, when a CG officer comes up for watch-keeping ticket, the naval officers who have already got the ticket are still junior to him. In the past CG officers have got their tickets under naval officers who were technically junior to them – purely by taking into account years of service. Further, if a CG officer got his promotion at the right time he could become a Commandant in eight years. By this time a much senior naval officer would not have been considered for promotion to the rank of Commander. In the absence of clear cut directives and common rank structure, the Commandant got equated to the Commander and led to serious problems.

    One of the most glaring examples pertains to a CG ship based in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the early Nineties. The ship commanded by a naval Lieutenant-Commander, entered Campbell Bay during one of its patrols to the southern group of islands. When it had to sail, a problem arose as to who should make the sailing order.14 Commander CG District Ten (COMDIS 10) based at Campbell Bay was a Commandant who in service was much junior to the Commanding Officer (CO) of the ship who had not yet been considered for promotion to the rank of Commander. Both the CO and the shore authority felt that they ought to make the sailing order based on their own logic and thinking. The CO eventually made his sailing order and left harbour but was asked to return back by the Commander CG Region (COMCG) based at Port Blair. The CO of the ship at this juncture expressed his intention to hand over command to his Executive Officer (Second in Command). The CO was subsequently allowed to make the sailing orders and the matter was somehow hushed up and no clear cut directives were issued at that time on this contentious issue. This sort of an ambiguity can be catastrophic in times of war. Even today there are problems regarding the issuing of sailing orders in ANC, where the sailing orders for CG ships are being issued by COMCG rather than the Commander in Chief of ANC.

    Another incident pertains to joint operations in Palk Bay. During an escort operation, which involved an IN and a CG ship jointly escorting a merchant ship repatriating Sri Lankan refugees, the CO of the IN ship, a Lieutenant Commander, was appointed the Officer in Tactical Command (OTC). However, the CO of the CG ship, who was a Deputy Commandant and whose total service was almost three and a half years less than the commissioned service of his naval counterpart, objected to it claiming that he was senior as he had become a Deputy Commandant before the naval officer had become a Lieutenant Commander. In order to avoid unpleasantness and to skirt the issue, an even more senior naval officer was appointed the OTC and the shore authority controlling the operations requested higher ups about the relative seniority of the COs by signal but failed to receive a definite reply.

    The problem therefore definitely exists; unfortunately, no attempt has been made to address it. Rather than taking the problem head on, a deliberate attempt has been made to sweep the issue under the carpet. The remedy invented by the CG Headquarters to remove these situations causing unpleasantness was to reduce the number of CG ships being commanded by naval officers. The result was that Deputy Commandants of less than eight years service including time spent in Naval Academy, basic Sub-Lieutenant’s courses and afloat training that is less than six years after the award of watch-keeping tickets were commanding ships like Inshore Patrol Vessels, Seaward Defence Boats and Fast Patrol Vessels, leading to a spurt in navigational accidents – numerous ships were damaged on account of grounding and mishandling during the mid-Nineties. It is not intended to cast aspersions on the navigational skills of the CG officers, who are as good or as bad as any naval officer of equivalent seniority; but just to bring out the relative inexperience of some of these officers commanding ships.

    Except for wartime risks and the risks inherent in operating and firing various hi-tech weapons, the CG officer is essentially doing the same job as the naval officer. When the day of reckoning comes, however, being an armed force of the Union, the CG too will have to go in harm’s way and come under fire.15 Therefore, the CG officers justifiably feel that they should also get most if not all the facilities available to other defence personnel, like rations in kind for officers and sixty days annual leave. In case of lower ranks, there exists a rank structure in the CG which is more or less equivalent to that of the Navy. Although in the formative years the promotions were much faster in the CG, and even today continue to be relatively fast, this has not really caused much problem. Due to the presence of a similar rank structure, there is generally a good understanding amongst the naval sailors and CG naviks about inter se seniority. Moreover, their direct interaction is also considerably less as compared to the officers. Initially, there were a few problems regarding the status of Pradhan Naviks (equivalents of Petty Officers in the Navy) who, according to the CG Rules, are not subordinate officers (equivalent of Senior Sailors in the Navy). There was also a problem of mess-men as the CG Naviks initially felt that it was not in their charter of duties to serve Senior Sailors or their equivalents in the CG. However, most of these problems have been resolved by now.

    Common service conditions for the two services with a common or equivalent rank structure for the officers is considered a must for removing mutual irritants and enhancing cooperation between the two services. CG being the fourth Armed Force of the Union must be given privileges as applicable to the other defence forces. Qualifications and other requirements for entry in the CG should be made similar to those for the Navy. The promotion norms also need to be made similar. In order to retain the naval character of the force, it is felt that a significant number of the officers manning the CG should be naval deputationists. Similarly, as in the US, the CG officers should be deputed to naval ships and units. This will not only improve mutual understanding but also acquaint the officers with each other’s operating procedures.

    Sharing of Training Facilities

    As of now, most of the training is common for the Navy and the CG. The CG is using the existing naval facilities for the basic and subsequent professional training of their officers and lower ranks. Some years back, a serious thought was being given to start a CG Academy near Hazira, but the idea seems to have been shelved now. It is essential that the CG should continue to use naval facilities for training. With the Naval Academy at Ezhimala becoming operational, the Navy should be in a position to meet the entire training requirement of the CG. The CG should also start inducting their officers after the “Plus Two” stage so that they could train together with the naval cadets in the Naval Academy just like the naval cadets train together with their Army and Air Force counterparts at the National Defence Academy. This will establish excellent lifelong rapport amongst the officers of the two services.

    The subsequent professional training for the two services is generally carried out together. Almost all the CG officers and lower ranks complete their initial and subsequent professional training in the naval establishments. This system of training together needs to be continued if the two services are to operate together in times of war and in less than war situations. However, there is a growing feeling amongst the CG personnel, specially the officers, that they get a step-motherly treatment in the naval training establishments. In order to eliminate this feeling, it is necessary that all the major training establishments of the Navy training CG personnel should also have the CG personnel in their training teams. This will enable the training package for the CG personnel to be continuously modified to suit the CG requirements. This will also eliminate the feeling of alienation that many CG officers suffer from when they are undergoing training in the naval establishments.

    It is also felt that all the naval personnel, especially the officers, should undergo a basic capsule on subjects like pollution control, anti-smuggling and anti-poaching operations. The CG should set up training facilities for training their personnel in these subjects and naval officers should also go there for short courses. At the same time, it is felt that the quantum of gunnery training being imparted to the CG officers needs to be enhanced so as to enable the CG to undertake its war-time responsibilities more effectively. It is also imperative that some Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training should also be imparted to the CG personnel, especially officers. This along with the likely presence of sonar and ASW weapons in future CG ships will enable the CG ships to be used for anti-submarine patrols in times of war.

    Maintenance, Logistics and Communication Facilities

    The CG is presently utilising the logistics and communication facilities of the Navy and to some extent the maintenance facilities of the Navy. Of late, the CG has started setting up its own facilities. It is strongly felt that rather than duplicating the infrastructure, the CG should set up logistics, Communication and maintenance facilities where naval facilities do not exist, like Porbandar, Haldia and Campbell Bay. By this sort of an arrangement the two services can utilise each other’s resources most optimally.

    The CG should pay the Navy for the facilities used by it, including the training facilities and the manpower. As the finances for the CG are provided by the Department of Revenue (Customs), this could help in keeping the defence budget low.

    Doctrines for Joint Operations

    Today, the Navy and the CG are moving forward in their development without much regard to the other service’s thinking and planning. They have a common role towards the nation’s defence. The CG is expected to operate in support of the Navy in times of emergency. This requires a great deal of cooperation between the two services in peace-time so that the CG could change over to its war-time role more smoothly. The two services need to develop as forces complementary to each other so as to avoid wasting scarce national resources in duplicating infrastructure. This requires the two services to take a holistic view and plan their future developments with mutual consultation. If the CG is to function as an integral part of the Indian maritime force structure during hostilities, it should be provided with the wherewithal for playing such a role efficiently. In addition, the staff requirements of each new addition of either service need to be dovetailed keeping the integrated force requirements in mind. They need to ensure commonality of basic ship designs, common operation procedures, unambiguous command and control organisation for joint operations and cross deputations from one service to the other so that the personnel are not only familiar with one another but also with the problems and procedures of the other service.

    The Navy and the CG are two Armed forces of different characters and need a doctrine to govern their relationship, which must clearly highlight that the main roles of the CG are maritime law enforcement and marine safety missions. However, maritime defence should be one of the three missions of the CG and accorded equal importance. The following principles should govern this relationship:

    1. The CG should complement the Navy’s capabilities rather than duplicate them, for optimum utilisation of scarce national resources.
    2. By incorporating combat capability in existing CG platforms, the CG could provide significant accretion to the maritime defence capabilities at a nominal cost and in LIC and other low threat scenarios, the CG should meet the Navy’s platform requirements.
    3. In times of war or other emergencies the CG should carry out tasks such as Naval Control of Shipping, search and rescue, harbour defence and security and surveillance. As far as possible efforts should be made to allocate only such jobs as are similar to the tasks being performed by the CG in peace-time.
    4. The selection of ships and aircraft for the CG should be in consultation with the Navy to facilitate inter-operability and standardisation for logistics support. The CG should therefore avoid operations and procedures that would change in the event of the Navy’s control, and develop its own combat system and command and control system.

    As the CG grew out of the Navy, presently there are many areas of duplication as well as blurring of responsibilities. Efforts would have to be made to sort them out. The CG draws upon the expertise and the infrastructure of the Navy and will continue to do so for times to come. Within a short span of three decades, the CG has begun to acquire an independent identity of its own. While retaining its separate identity, the CG can provide significant support to the Navy, both in times of war and peace. The growing network of CG bases, its infrastructure and equipment could fill crucial gaps, especially in maritime surveillance and escort role, in the inshore and off-shore regions, thereby relieving the Navy of part of its responsibility and freeing it to concentrate on the major role of engaging and neutralising adversaries away from the home water.16

    Maritime Defence Zones

    The United States has established Maritime Defence Zones (MDZ) to enhance cooperation between the Navy and the CG, thereby reducing combat deficiencies. It is felt that establishment of these zones in India will help the Navy and the CG to establish standard practices for protecting the ports and the coastal waters.

    MDZ are naval commands, headed by CG Area Commanders who report to their respective naval Commanders-in-Chief when activated for operations and for planning and exercise purposes during normal peacetime. MDZ responsibilities include contingency planning, exercising the plan with regular and reserve forces and operational command of designated Naval and CG forces when mobilisation occurs. The MDZ area of operations includes the navigable waterways, port areas, harbour approaches and ocean area up to the limit of EEZ. The MDZ staff is made up of officers from both the Navy and the CG. The forces destined for MDZ operational control when activated include most of the CG ships, aircraft and port security units, naval mine warfare units, inshore undersea warfare units and a limited number of frigates, destroyers and maritime patrol aircraft.17

    In the Indian context, there is a need to establish five Maritime Defence Zones – two each on the Western and Eastern coasts and one for the Andaman and Nicobar islands. These could be headed by a naval officer of the rank of Rear Admiral or a CG Inspector General. The forces allocated for the MDZ should include almost all the CG ships and aircraft and naval ships earmarked for Local Naval Defence (LND), including minesweepers and missile boats.

    The threat with which the MDZ must deal includes the entire spectrum of covert and overt hostile actions that could compromise a port or sink a ship at sea. This ranges from mine and submarine warfare to terrorist attacks to intelligence gathering and special operations. In the face of these challenges, the CG must take advantage of every opportunity and every available resource in peace-time to develop expertise and amass experience doing the kind of things that can readily be applied to MDZ operations in the event of hostilities.18

    MDZ must ensure that the battle groups, amphibious groups, submarines and support ships deploy unimpeded from Indian ports when hostilities are imminent. It must also ensure that the reinforcement and resupply shipping in support of forward deployments safely departs Indian ports and coastal areas and safe and secure water transportation of economic cargoes continue from Indian ports and coastal areas.

    Wartime Role of the Coast Guard

    It is imperative that closer ties are established between the CG and the Navy so as to facilitate a smoother transition whenever the CG is required to fight alongside the Navy in times of war. It would be ideal to take a leaf from the US Coast Guard, which “is a military, multi-mission, maritime service ... .. and one of the nation’s five Armed Services”.19 Besides defence of the US coast, the CG ships and aircraft actively participated in the Vietnam War and made sacrifices along with the personnel of other services.20 According to the US CG policy document it along with the Navy is expected to create “fully interoperable, multidimensional, naval and maritime forces” to meet future maritime challenges. To achieve this “the Navy and Coast Guard must work even more closely”.21 In the Indian context this can be achieved in peace-time by CG participation in joint readiness exercises and multi-service interdiction training and operations. The process has been initiated and would be a catalyst in improving the CG readiness and an asset in improving the professional relations between the Navy and the CG. Coastal defence and coastal law enforcement are complementary. As brought out earlier, with careful planning, a Rupee spent on either of these missions will directly benefit the other.22 Since 1990 a non statutory forum called the Navy Coast Guard Board (NAVGUARD) has been established to resolve contentious issues and provide solutions to issues of mutual interests, covering the whole gamut from standardisation of equipment to community interactions and welfare measures.23

    Reality dictates that the CG would always be most useful when it takes on the mission the Navy cannot fulfill. The Navy comprises of a force of large, high technology extremely expensive ships. The CG comprises of essentially low cost ships. It is, therefore, envisaged that the CG would take on the responsibilities where low intensity conflict exists. With the addition of some inexpensive combat systems, these ships will be ideally suited for low intensity conflicts. The CG will provide the platform and personnel and the Navy would provide combat systems for these platforms. While incorporating the combat capability in existing CG platforms, the CG will provide a low coast addition to the national defence resources.24

    The CG should support the Navy as a general purpose force in being, and for operations in low to high threat environments. Generally, CG units should confine their operations to littoral waters in low threat environments. The wartime tasks of the CG should include defence of off shore installations, local naval defence of ports and harbours, examination services, control of merchant shipping, augmentation of naval resources in amphibious operations, maritime surveillance and Patrol and Logistic Support.


    The CG was established to fulfill the long felt need of an organisation to ensure the safety of life and property at sea and for enforcement of national laws in the waters under our jurisdiction. This had become essential from the trends emerging from the preliminary discussions at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. It was also considered desirable that these predominantly peace-time law enforcement activities should not be undertaken by the Navy, since these will detract from the Navy’s operational role and interfere with combat training. Moreover, it would not be cost effective to deploy sophisticated warships and trained manpower of the Navy in a law enforcement role on a continuous basis in peace-time. It was also felt that entrusting these jobs to the Navy would probably require higher defence outlays and cause an uproar in our neighbouring countries.

    The CG Act was brought into force on 19 August 1978. This act formally constitutes the CG as an Armed Force of the Union under the Ministry of Defence. The CG is, however, not paid out of defence estimates but its budget is covered under the allocations for the Department of Revenue (Customs). The duties assigned to the CG by this act are mainly maritime law enforcement and marine safety missions. Even though the founders of the CG expected the service to contribute to the maritime defence, no mention of this is made in the CG Act.

    The Navy and the CG are two maritime forces operating in the same environment, with overlapping functions and responsibilities in certain areas in peace-time. Indian maritime interests are growing at a tremendous pace and to guard them would be beyond the resources of any one maritime force, especially in view of the resource crunch. Low intensity conflicts have become part and parcel of the scenario evolving around us. Infiltration of arms and explosives from across the maritime boundaries has increased the security threat to Indian maritime assets and the spectre of maritime terrorism is looming large. This requires increased maritime surveillance, which can only come about with close naval and CG cooperation.

    In order to enhance cooperation between the two services and to remove the problems likely to arise in their future cooperation, personnel from both the services must be sent on cross-deputation to the other service. The service conditions, rank structure, perks and privileges must be similar for the two services. CG personnel should continue training in naval training establishments and the logistics and maintenance facilities of the two services should complement each other rather than duplicate them. MDZ on the US pattern must be established and a set doctrine must govern joint operations. The requirement of platforms of the two services must be coordinated and as far as possible commonality of equipment must be maintained. CG platforms must be built to naval specifications and must have the capability to stage naval helicopters and to be fitted with naval weapons and sensors. There is also a need to give the CG a representation in HQ IDS. This will not only affirm its identity as an Armed Force but also enable the HQ IDS to get valuable inputs on the maritime zones and CG.


    • 1. “Indian Coast Guard: 25 Glorious Years”, New Delhi, Coast Guard Headquarters, 2003, p. 37.
    • 2. A. Kamath, “The Emergence of Indian Coast Guard”, Vikrant, March 1980, p. 37.
    • 3. Prabhakaran Paleri, “Role of the Coast Guard in the Maritime Security of India”, New Delhi, Knowledge World, 2004, p. 32.
    • 4. Madhvendra Singh, “Does India Really Need Two Maritime Services”, Trishul, Vol V No 2, p. 15
    • 5. Ibid.
    • 6. PS Das, “India’s Maritime Concerns and Strategies”, USI Journal, Vol CXXXVI No 565 July-September 2006, p. 456.
    • 7. Madhvendra Singh, n.4, p. 22
    • 8. Ibid.
    • 9. Paleri, n. 3, p. 261.
    • 10. Gurpreet S Khurana, “Cooperation Among Maritime Security Forces: Imperatives for India and South East Asia”, Strategic Analysis, Vol 29 No 2, Apr-Jun 2005, p. 297.
    • 11. PS Das, n. 6, p. 458.
    • 12. Madhvendra Singh, n. 4, p. 20.
    • 13. Paleri, n. 3, p. 261.
    • 14. The sailing order is made by the senior officer amongst the afloat units and the shore authorities.
    • 15. Madhvendra Singh, n. 4, p. 19
    • 16. KR Singh, “Defence of India’s shores - The Growing Importance of the Coast Guard”, Asian Defence Journal, 3/90, p. 78.
    • 17. Sidney A Wallance, “The Role of Coast Guard Within The Maritime Strategy Must Not Be Overlooked”, Sea Power, January 1988, p. 24.
    • 18. Ibid.
    • 19. Bruce Stubbs and Scott C Truver, “America’s Coast Guard: Safeguarding US Maritime Safety and Security in the 21st Century”, Washington DC, US Coast Guard HQ, 2000, p. 1.
    • 20. Robert Erwin Johnson, “Guardians of the Sea: History of the United States Coat Guard, 1915 to the Present”, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1989, pp. 336-337
    • 21. Bruce Stubbs, n. 19, p 7.
    • 22. J.P. Carneiro, “A Functional Coast Guard of the 21st Century – Some Thoughts”, USI Journal, Oct-Dec, 1991, pp. 516-517.
    • 23. Paleri, n. 3, p 274.
    • 24. Carneiro, n. 22, pp 516-517.
    PDF Version150.09 KB