Maritime Security is essential for India as it has a vast coastline of about 7,600 kilometres and island territories on both sides of the Indian peninsula. India’s maritime vulnerability came into sharp focus in November 2008 when Mumbai was the target of an audacious terrorist attack and many lessons were learnt in that tragic experience.
Maritime Security | Issues and Solutions
- Both capacity and capability building has been focused across all the maritime forces especially in the navy and coastguard since the Mumbai attacks. There has also been a structured attempt to improve coordination between these forces.
- The ‘Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2015’ is facing the axe of the disruptions in Parliament which is essential for the country to fight against piracy. It accommodates various regulatory safeguards to ensure a piracy-free coastal borders of India which the Navy too is aspiring for.
- The ‘Coastal Security Scheme’ of 2005-06 focused on Marine policing. There are states like Tamil Nadu which have significantly improved in this section, whereas states like West Bengal are not giving enough attention to the maritime security interests via ‘Marine Policing’.
- It is necessary to integrate a coordinated intelligence framework specially dedicated to serve India’s maritime security interests. A ‘National Apex Maritime Authority’ could help to coordinate policy and to avoid duplication of efforts by various Government departments and agencies.
- There was a demand to establish a Central Marine Police Force on the lines of various Central Forces which would be dedicated specially to secure the maritime interests of the nation. This force would be very efficient and technologically superior as compared to the marine police forces of the states. Few States are not in favour of this idea because of various interests, most important of them is the issue of funding by the Centre. States are not in favour of funding such Central Forces out of their meagre budgets.
- There is a much larger awareness in State Governments post 2008 and in state police forces. Hence, the security around the ports has been upgraded both in manpower and technological terms (Biometric systems).
- It is important to understand that there cannot be a universal security scheme for protecting maritime interests of the nation. There are different threats such as piracy, smuggling, naval threats (external in nature). Hence, a close coordination is required to provide a disciplinary response to any future exigency.
Maritime Security | Conclusion
India’s maritime security issues and opportunities are both complex and varied. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been advocating SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) with India as the net security provider. This focus on the maritime domain is valuable and hopefully marks the beginning of the end of India’s traditional sea blindness. But still it is a long voyage while sustaining the collective effort. A collective effort in the context of cooperative federalism would go a long way in securing India’s maritime interests.
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