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STRATEGY FOR COASTAL & OFFSHORE SECURITY

The objective of Maritime Security is mainly to protect Indian coastal and offshore assets response to attacks and threats, risks emanating from or at sea.

The seamless nature of the maritime domain enables ready flow of threats and challenges from one area to another. In recent years, the rise in non-traditional threats, especially maritime terrorism, has necessitated increased focus on coastal and offshore security.

Maritime terrorism has grown and expanded over the years, operating from the sea and at sea, in both direct and indirect forms. It has also started taking an increasingly hybrid character, with possible blurring of  lines between conventional and sub-conventional levels of conflict.

The strategy for coastal and offshore security  should  accordingly, been developed with focus on the Indian Navy, as per its current mandate and being the principal maritime force of  the nation, in a framework of jointness and coordination with the other maritime agencies. An increasing role and operational responsibilities are envisaged to be takenup by the Indian Coast Guard and other agencies, as their capabilities and the ambit of  coastal security both evolve.

Different facets of maritime security

  • Coastal security is a subset of maritime security, focused on the coastal waters. It is ensured through coordinated efforts amongst multiple stakeholders at the Centre and States, towards provision of comprehensive security against traditional and non-traditional threats. Coastal security has a wide connotation encompassing maritime border management, island security, maintenance of peace, stability and good order in coastal areas and enforcement of  laws therein, security of  ports, coastal installations and other structures, including Vital Areas and Vital Points (VAs/ VPs), vessels and personnel operating in coastal areas. An effective organisation for coastal security also facilitates coastal defence.
  • Offshore security relates to the safety and protection of offshore assets, including artificial islands, offshore terminals, installations and other structures and devices in the EEZ. It is a primary responsibility of  the Indian Coast Guard, which would be supported by the Indian Navy as required towards overall maritime security. Indian naval ships, including dedicated Immediate Support Vessels (ISVs), conduct regular offshore defence patrols in the Offshore Development Areas (ODA) in support of  offshore security. The seaward approaches are sanitised by other ships and aircraft of  the Coast Guard and Indian Navy.

The Indian Navy

Entrusted with the responsibility for overall maritime security, including coastal security and offshore security. The Indian Navy is assisted by the Indian Coast Guard, State Marine Police, andother Central and State agencies for the coastal defence of  the nation, and controls all Navy - Coast Guard joint operations. The Indian Navy supports the Indian Coast Guard within the maritime zones as required, and provides presence, including surveillance and patrol, on the high seas beyond the EEZ. The Indian Navy also undertakes patrolling in the ODA, and its Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB) specialised force undertakes patrolling of  naval harbours.

State Marine Police

The State Marine Police is responsible for patrolling the inner layer from the coastline upto the territorial waters, in coordination with Customs, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and respective port authorities, as relevant.

Indian Coast Guard

The Indian Coast Guard patrols the maritime zones of  India, and supports the State Marine Police within the inner layer as required.

Different reporting mechanism for handling security?

  • Position Reporting Systems: Indian and foreign vessels report their positions by various means, including manual and automatic, under voluntary and mandatory mechanisms. This is done to improve security response, search and rescue, and collision-avoidance.
  • Fishing Vessels and License Information Management: Verification and monitoring of the identity and ownership of about 2,45,000 fishing vessels in India, amidst a fishing community of about 4 million, has been greatly eased by creation of the online ReALCraft (Registration and Licensing of Fishing Craft) portal. The information is also available to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.
  • Biometric Identity Cards: Issuance of biometric identity cards to majority fishermen and composite card readers to the maritime security agencies has been done, to enable biometric verification of the identity of fishing vessel crews at Sea.
  • Port Vessel Information Management: The details of various vessels in harbour and their planned movements are available with the major ports, which have developed an online information portal, called the Port Community System (PCS). This information is shared with the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. Similar steps would be pursued for the non-major ports.
  • Static Surveillance: Surveillance radars and Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers have been fitted along the Indian coast, islands and offshore installations. Radars at major ports monitor and manage traffic approaching respective harbours. These various static surveillance systems provide active information on vessels operating in their vicinity (upto 25 nm, or 45 km), and feed into the development of Maritime Domain Awareness(MDA).
  • Dynamic Surveillance: Dynamic surveillance is undertaken by deployment of  Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and State Marine Police assets, in multiple layers across the coastal waters and seaward approaches. These include Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft in the outer layer, Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance (SRMR) aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and ships across the interim layers, and patrol vessels and micro-UAVs in the inner layer. These will be aided by space based surveillance, to increase and intensify the surveillance cover.

Importance of coastal community participation

Coastal and fishing communities are the largest constituents of the coastal security framework and are amongst its core strengths. Effective involvement of the vast fourmillion strong fishing community, and the larger coastal community, has the potentialto significantly complement efforts of  the security agencies.

The maritime security agencies have initiated many activities related to it such as:

Community Interaction Programmes (CIP) are being conducted by the Indian Coast Guard at all fishing hamlets, to enhance awareness of  the coastal populace and fishermen in particular. Initiatives such as the Sagar Rakshak Dal and Village Vigilance Committees, who are a voluntary group from fishing and coastal communities, assist the security agencies in surveillance, intelligence and patrolling, and have contributed to enhancing coastal security in several states.

Toll free communication arrangements have been established, with shore-based control centres manned by State Marine Police/Indian Coast Guard personnel in all states and Union Territories (UTs), in order to facilitate coastal community participation. These measures have not only improved security but have also saved lives, and provide an important link between fishermen and security agencies

Conclusion:

Coastal security involves multiple stakeholders with both, independent and shared responsibilities. Hence coordination amongst these agencies should be maintained through a cooperative approach that will focus on the key aspects described below, whilst remaining sensitive to any limitations and constraints of partner agencies. This should takes into consideration the specific needs of  changing threat levels, including conditions wherein a coastal security operation may need to translate rapidly into a coastal defence operation, with joint deployment of forces from multiple maritime agencies.

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