The coast is clear! Securing India’s seaboard - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 28 March 2011

The coast is clear! Securing India’s seaboard

Coast Guard interceptor boat, C-150, commissioned today at Kochi. The 28-metre ship displaces 90 tonnes, has an endurance of 500 NM and can touch 45 knots. It is armed with a Prahari 12.7 mm HMG

by Ajai Shukla
An updated article originally written for the magazine, Defence & Security of India

Two years after an ISI-coordinated terrorist plot in which ten Lashkar-e-Toiba fidayeen sailed out from Karachi, hijacked an Indian fishing boat, and sailed into the heart of Mumbai, undetected, New Delhi has done a great deal to boost the security of its coast line. After having long regarded its northern land borders as the key security challenge, New Delhi has made a significant mind shift in devising and implementing a new, robust Coastal Security Network (CSN).

With the CSN eventually imposing a physical and digital presence across the length of India’s 7600 kilometers coastline, these will be amongst the most carefully watched waters in the world. Physical monitoring will be done by a brand new network of coastal police stations, funded by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). Supplementing this will be an electronic network, based on a chain of electro-optic sensors --- i.e. radars, and day and night cameras --- housed on the lighthouses and towers that stare out at the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Physical security

Defence and Security of India visited the new coastal police station at Fort Kochi, one of the 73 new outposts that will come up in a 5-year timeframe as the new frontline against seaborne terror. Carrying a distinctive blue-and-white maritime motif to differentiate it from the traditional police thana, the chairs inside still bear their original plastic protective covering. Parked on the waterfront outside are three Fast Interceptor Boats (FIBs), part of a fleet of 204 boats, specially built for the coastal police by defence shipyards: by Goa Shipyard Limited for the Arabian Seaboard and by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata, for states and union territories on the Bay of Bengal.

Capable of cleaving through the water at 70 kilometres per hour, these boats are manned and operated by coastal policemen. The inspector in charge of the Kochi police station says a police patrol spends three hours each day sailing out to the seaward approaches to Kochi and checking fishing boats for registration papers and identity documents. For this, the policemen draw a sea-going allowance of 50% of basic pay.

Besides regular patrolling, security consciousness is being drilled into the coastal populace through a citizens’ watch, a “Kadalora Jagratha Samithi” (Coastal Awareness Committee) in Kerala. Created by the state police, navy and the coast guard in each coastal district, this uses the dynamic fisherfolk networks to keep an eye on activities across the country’s sprawling fishing grounds.

Even though policing is a state subject, all this is paid for by New Delhi. A lump sum of Rs 400 crores was allocated for setting up the coastal police network, and Rs 150 crores are remitted each year for running expenses, including fuel and maintenance for the boats.

India’s maritime border runs through 9 states --- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal --- and 4 union territories: Daman & Diu; Lakshadweep; Puducheri; and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. After the Mumbai terror attack of 26/11, New Delhi decided that coastal security could not be held hostage to the precarious financial situation of many states.

Besides funding, New Delhi has also allocated clear responsibilities for coastal security. At a seminal meeting held in the wake of 26/11, the Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) issued detailed orders and allocated the funding needed to ensure a 24x7x365 vigilance. The Indian Navy was charged with overall responsibility for maritime security and for coordinating with the multiplicity of agencies --- including the coastal state and union territory governments; the fisheries department; the department of lighthouses and lightships; and port authorities, amongst others --- that hold various forms of authority along the coastline.

Operating under the navy, the coast guard was made responsible for security within India’s territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometres) from the shore. The third line of security, the coastal police station network, monitors up to 5 nautical miles (about 9 kilometres) from the coast, and also maintains order on the shore.

Although the navy is overall in charge, the coast guard --- which also safeguards India’s two million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and responds to emergencies in the four million square kilometres Indian Search and Rescue Region (ISRR) --- is being rapidly expanded into a maritime force that will be larger than many countries’ navies. The coast guard’s current fleet of 93 surface ships and 46 aircraft is being more than doubled. Growing as fast as shipyards can build and deliver, the current fleet includes 10 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs); 6 Advanced OPVs; 15 fast patrol vessels (FPVs); 13 inshore patrol vessels (IPVs); 19 interceptor boats, and other craft. The aircraft include 18 Chetak helicopters; 4 Dhruv helicopters and 24 Dornier coastal surveillance aircraft. Another 6 twin-engine, multi-role maritime surveillance aircraft (MRSA) are under fast-track procurement.

“We are implementing a five-year Coast Guard Development Plan”, says a top coast guard official. “Eventually the coast guard will have a fleet strength of around 200 ships and small craft, and around 90 aircraft.”

To man this expanded fleet, the coast guard is recruiting fast. On 25th Oct 2010, Defence Minister Antony announced that the coast guard had been sanctioned an additional 4026 personnel, an increase of more than 30%. This will bring the strength of the “fourth service” up to 12,043 persons, including 1659 officers.

As significant is the expansion of shore establishments, a leisurely process before 26/11. After the 1993 Mumbai blasts, the coast guard had set up 4 stations along the coastline. Immediately after 26/11, the MoHA provided Rs 380 crores for boosting the Coastal Security Network. Seven new coast guard stations --- Ratnagiri; Minicoy; Karwar; Gandhinagar; Veraval; Hutbay and Murud-Janjira --- have already been set up. Another three are planned for 2011 at Mundra, Kolkata and Dahanu. Next on the agenda are 9 more stations at Pipavav; Androth; Karaikkal; Krishnapatnam; Nizampatnam; Gopalpur; Frazergunj; Kamorta and Mayabunder. According to the defence minister, 42 coast guard stations will function along the coast by the end of the current 11th Plan.

Despite this new urgency, the difficulties in implementing the Coastal Security Scheme are staggering. It involves monitoring 3331 designated coastal villages, tens of thousands of fishing boats, and securing dozens of major and non-major ports and harbours. Then there are the peculiar problems of the two major island territories --- the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep chain in the Arabian Sea, both potential staging posts or havens for trouble-makers.

All this will be achieved, senior MoHA officials tell Business Standard, with the help of three ongoing initiatives:

(a) The issue of biometric identity cards to all fishermen, a project that is being handled by state governments, with the Department of Fisheries in New Delhi as the nodal agency. A consortium of PSUs led by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), has been asked to capture biometric details, take photographs, digitize the data and design and manufacture biometric ID cards for fisherfolk. In Kerala, for example, ITT Palakkad has already begun collecting biometric data from the fisherfolk community. The MoHA is funding this initiative with Rs 25-30 crores as start-up money.

(b) The Registrar General of India (RGI), which functions under the MoHA, is implementing a project to issue Multipurpose National Identity Cards (MNICs) to the coastal population ahead of Census 2011. The National Population Register, being compiled by the RGI for the census, has been fast tracked for coastal regions. This process will be linked with the smart card initiative mentioned above.

(c) The third initiative, for which the Department of Fisheries is responsible, involves the registration of all sailing vessels under a uniform system under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. Earlier, vessels above 300 tonnes had to have an Automatic Identification System (AIS), which identified them as friendly vessels. After 26/11, a new electronic tracking device was identified for all fishing boats larger than 20 feet. And now the Ministry of Shipping is studying a Ministry of Defence request to make this compulsory even for boats below 20 feet length.

New Delhi keeps a sharp eye on the implementation of all these measures. The “National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) against threats from the sea”, chaired by the cabinet secretary, is the apex committee for monitoring progress. The NCSMCS includes representatives from all the concerned ministries/ departments/organisations in the government as well as the Chief Secretaries/Administrators of the coastal States/UTs. In addition, Defence Minister AK Antony, keenly aware that the buck stops with the navy, holds regular meetings to personally monitor coastal security.

The digital network

The physical policing of the coastline and territorial waters is just one, albeit crucial, dimension of the CSN. Those human eyes and ears are now being supplemented by a high-tech digital surveillance network, called the Coastal Surveillance Scheme of 2005 (CSS-2005), which will keep a 24x7 watch over the approaches to India’s coastline.

Physically installing visual, infrared and radar sensors all along the coastline is just one challenge. Equally important is the transmission of sensor data to surveillance centres located in the interior, where that information must be integrated into a coherent operational picture.

That challenge has been met says defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which led a Rs 700 crore project to develop the software for the CSS. On a visit to BEL Bangalore, Defence & Security of India was demonstrated how the system would function in a Remote Operating Station (ROS), the name for the forward layer of coast guard surveillance centres, which receives data from the chain of lighthouses and towers along the coastline.

“Data fusion was a key design challenge”, affirms BEL’s R&D chief, I V Sarma. “If two adjoining radars pick up a single boat, which often happens, the software must recognised that and combine those two images into that of a single boat. Fortunately, BEL had built up enormous experience in data fusion while developing the navy’s Combat Management Systems, which also integrates the inputs from multiple radars on board a warship; and also while building an Integrated Air Command and Control System for the IAF.”

Besides creating a clear operational picture, BEL’s software allows the ROS to remotely manipulate its coastal radars and cameras --- through a Camera Management System --- to observe suspicious objects in greater detail. In a demonstration staged for Defence & Security of India, an oil tanker, which a thermal-imaging night vision camera had detected when it was 36 kilometres from the coast, was declared a suspicious vessel. A click by the operator on the oil tanker’s screen image automatically fed its coordinates to the camera on a lighthouse, which zoomed in quickly, allowing the operator in the ROS a detailed look.

The software also performs other tasks that include monitoring the health of the remote systems; and an alarm system that alerts the operators when a vessel enters a designated “sensitive zone”;

“The hardware for the surveillance systems is still imported”, admits BEL, “but we are working on developing that indigenously.” The IR camera is Israeli and the day-cum-low-light camera is Canadian. The coastal surveillance radar that scans the coastline is from Danish company, Terma.

In Phase 1 of the CSS, the coast guard will set up 46 electro-optic sensor stations in high-threat areas, and 12 ROSs. Phase 2 will see this expanded to the entire coastline over three years. The most recent installations are radar stations in Dwarka and Navodra, which feed into a ROS at Porbandar, about 100 km away. Distance is irrelevant, with data being transmitted through two dedicated lines of 2 MBPS each.

The 12 ROSs feed into one of four Regional Operating Centres (ROCs) at Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Visakhapatanam. Finally, all this information is fed in real time to the apex Control Centre at New Delhi, where it is integrated into a single national-level picture.

Just the start

The structure of the Coastal Security Network is regularly tweaked, based on Vulnerability Gap Analyses carried out by coastal states and UTs. Phase II of the Coastal Security Scheme has already been drawn up. This will see the number of coastal police stations boosted, even doubled, along with the resources allocated to each. Home ministry officials emphasise that all this is just the start of a truly comprehensive coastal security network that will provide the Maritime Domain Awareness needed to deter potential intruders.


  1. Seems to be rehashed. I have seen this article before.

  2. Looks like we are a real developing nation.

  3. Once again you're resorting to the spread of disinformation and myths concerning the coastal surveillance system. Last October this contract was awarded to Saab, and not BEL, which was hawking the ELTA-built system. Either you're totally ignorant of present-day developments, or just a delusional intoxicated brat. Perhaps Rohit Goel needs to be directly informed about your editorial shortcomings!!!

  4. Ram said...

    Dont know how much this will stop sea borne attacks, but surely narcotics smuggling from srilanka and from other east asian countries via sea route into india will come under immense pressure.

  5. Dilip:

    Sure this is rehashed... have written on this subject for Business Standard pretty extensively!

    Anonymous 03:31:

    You are factually incorrect in stating that the contract was awarded to Saab. But then what can we expect from a nitwit like you who likes to drop names (Rohit Goel!!) without knowing that he left the magazine more than a year ago.

  6. The structure seems to be perfect however there are lacunae which need to be understood.Firstly, time bound implementation of the proposed/envisaged structure is going to be a primary concern with a govt which is not very keen on increasing the defence spending it seems to be far from possible. Secondly, there are no structured maritime laws that have been formulated to deal with the sea bound intruders.The Coast Guard have the ware with hall to nab the intruders however there is no formal policy to deal with the terrorists/ pirates/ intruders on land. Thirdly, no formal rules of engagement have been laid down to provide the teeth to the armed forces. We have the jaw how are we supposed to bite without the cannines? Why are we so stuck up with international repurcussion?It's our territory we should be able to deal with things our way. It will require a whole lot of character change in our national character and attitude. Fourthly, we have not been able to send a strong message to the international community of our resolve to tackle the seaward intrusion. Ajmal Amir Kasab is still a national guest and so are the 61 pirates. It is therefore imperative for the govt to provide the metal to its security agencies else they are going to be yet another bunch of traffic policemen on our shores this time when they realise that their effort is not worth the result.

  7. Call me paranoid, but has the security review consider the possibility of Pakistani subs dropping men & material on remote sea shore locations? specially places like Lakshwadeep? What if the attacks are on these islands instead of mainland cities like Mumbai?

    Pak subs can easily drop in men on remote islands and potentially activate them based on opportunity. Worst still mingle with the local population and make way into the Indian mainland.

    It is very important that all island and the population on these westerns island should be correctly tagged as Indian citizen, specially with biometeric information and their security guaranteed.

  8. Maritime Situational Awareness is Good. But what good is it, if its not timely.
    Terrorists and Pirates don't go around wearing badges and roundels. The only way to get information ahead of time is through infiltration and active intelligence gathering, which sadly seems like India has given up the thought of. This lack of "peep behind enemy curtain" ability is costing us dearly. We need a new, super-effective and ultra-powerful intelligence agency which builds capability to carry out sophisticated intelligence gathering on ground using various human assets. If Indians keep ignoring the time-tested advantage of snooping on enemy (be they terrorists or pirates) then I am afraid no amount of technical superiority will help in defending this great nation.

  9. It took a terrorist incident like the one on 26/11 to make the baboons in MOD to wake up and realize that India's long coastline is very vulnerable. The resultant activity is the beefing up of the coast guards and the establishment of monitoring stations on its littoral areas and its island territories.

    India needs much more comprehensive hardware as well as human assets to prevent another 26/11.

    India needs to establish 'covert' human assets. It needs well trained people in suspected terrorist areas which have either known terrorists or their sympathizers. It needs these under cover agents to either take out these scums or to warn the establishment of any imminent attacks.

    Apart from the above India should prioritize the building of conventional and nuclear submarines. It is the invisible offensive arm of the Navy as well as the nation.

    India is still in slumberland while its adversaries have realized the importance of submarines. The combined assets of the Paki-Chinki navies is more than enough to neutralize the IN.

    When a country like India is not part of any defence alliance such as NATO and insists on being the leader of the non-aligned nations, it needs to be exceptionally strong in its defense and offensive capabilities.

    India is just a paper tiger with dreams of being a super power while its arch enemy (forget Hindi Chini bhai-bhai) China has forged ahead and is the undisputed military and economic power in Asia. The constant incursions into Indian territory and its claim on Arunachal Pradesh is just to remind India of 1962 and what it is capable of. The massive infrastructure build-up in Tibet is a strategic move to mount another 1962 offensive.

    The only obstacle in the way of the Chinese juggernaut is the US. The communist Chinese would have over run the whole of Asia if it was sure it could take on the US.

    It is a matter of time when China surpasses the US in military assets though may not be in terms of quality. Quality alone is not the decisive factor in any engagement. Numerical superiority can overwhelm an enemy.

    It is imperative that India spends a lot more on its military assets if it wants to safeguard its economy and sovereignty and emerge as a responsible and peaceful power.

  10. Did u get any new images about tiruchy assault rifle? Will u be able to cover the brief about this rifle any time soon?


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