Security challenges and their management in (coastal) border areas
This article deals with ‘Security challenges and their management in (coastal) border areas.’ This is part of our series on ‘Internal Security’, which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
- India has a long coastline of 7,516 km (5,400 km mainland + 2,200 km with island territories).
- India’s coastline runs through 9 states, i.e. Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal and 4 Union Territories viz. Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
- Apart from that, the following things make Indian Coastal Security a difficult proposition.
- A diverse range of topography, such as creeks, backwaters, deltas, lagoons, estuaries etc., characterizes India’s coast.
- Indian coast has proximity to politically volatile, economically depressed and unfriendly countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
- India has an unsettled maritime boundary with Pakistan (Sir Creek). Apart from that, the maritime boundary with Sri Lanka (Katchatheevu Island) and Bangladesh is not respected by the fisherman, and they frequently venture into each other’s territory.
Strategic importance of coasts to India
- India’s maritime trade constitutes 90% by volume and 77% by value of India’s total trade.
- Three Indian metros (out of four) are situated along the coast, including India’s financial centre – Mumbai.
- Ports and industrial units located in the coastal cities are the backbones of the Indian economy.
- A large number of military installations are also situated on Indian coasts.
- Oil refineries and offshore oilfields like Bombay High are situated on the coasts.
- Nuclear power plants like Kudankulam, Tarapore etc., are situated on the Indian coast.
All these are susceptible to attack and remain the target of terrorist organizations (funded by our envious neighbour).
Maritime Security Challenges
India faces the following Maritime Security Challenges.
- Maritime Terrorism
- Piracy and armed robbery, especially in the Sundarbans
- Smuggling of gold, electronic goods, narcotics and arms
- Human Trafficking
- Infiltration, illegal Migration and Refugee Influx
- Straying of fishermen beyond the maritime boundary.
- Global trade has shifted from the Atlantic-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific and brought the world powers to fight for their space in the Indian Ocean which forms India’s backyard.
- Chinese advances in the Indian Ocean through the String of Pearls and the Maritime Silk Road threaten India.
Of these, maritime terrorism features as the most potent threat.
It should be noted that
- In 1993 Mumbai Serial Bomb Blasts, ammunition and bombs reached Mumbai via sea.
- In 1991, the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi came from Sri Lanka by sea.
- During the 26/11 Taj Attack in Mumbai, terrorists reached Mumbai via Sea.
- India has an unresolved maritime border dispute with Pakistan, i.e. Sir Creek Issue.
- Katchathevu Issue: Tamil fishermen venture into Sri Lankan EEZ, leading to firing and boat seizures.
- Bangladeshi pirates are active in Sundarbans.
- Smuggling of gold and drugs happens via sea.
- Many Rohingya entered India via sea, evading all the security checks.
Side Topic: Maritime security challenge posed by China
- The String of Pearls and China’s One Belt One Road Policy poses a significant threat to Indian interests in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Building and revitalizing port facilities in Gwadar, Hambantota and Chittagong in South Asia, to Mombasa, Dar-e-Salam and on the East Coast of Africa are aimed at encircling India. Increased Chinese naval footprint in the Indian Ocean would come into conflict with India’s sphere of strategic influence, triggering a chain of events that could eventually lead to a larger strategic confrontation.
- All weather Sino-Pakistan alliance, with its anti-Indian solid slant, complicates our security problems further.
- China is mapping the undersea terrain in the Indian Ocean Region to advance submarine operations.
Indian Coast Guard
ICG was established in 1977 (& placed under the Ministry of Defence) due to the following reasons
- The Nag committee of 1970 opined that the Navy was not trained for such an act and recommended to setup Coastal Guard.
- In 1972, UNCLOS awarded Exclusive Economic Zones to coastal states. A special force was required to protect and police it.
- In 1974, oil was found in the Arabian Sea, and Bombay high was built. The government felt the need for a special force to protect such assets.
- To prevent the rampant sea-borne smuggling happening through both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
Duties and functions of ICG
- Ensuring the safety and protection of artificial islands, offshore terminals and other structures.
- Providing protection to fishermen.
- Preserve and protect the maritime environment.
- Assisting the customs in anti-smuggling operations.
Structure of the Indian Coast Guard
Changes required in ICG
- The ICG should be designated as the single authority responsible for coastal security. Indian Navy should be eased out from coastal security responsibilities.
- There is a lack of desired workforce along with water and air assets in the ICG.
- ICG should be treated as a border guarding force and brought under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) (presently, it is under the Ministry of Defence).
- Marine Police was created under the Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) that was launched in 2005.
- Aim: To strengthen infrastructure for patrolling and surveillance of the shallow areas close to the coast.
- To patrol the territorial waters (12 nautical miles into the sea).
- Pursue legal cases pertaining to their area of responsibility
- Marine Police works on the ‘Hub and Spoke Model’ in association with the Coast Guards, with ‘hub’ being the ICG station and ‘spokes’ being the coastal police stations.
Coastal Security Architecture
After Mumbai Attacks, a multi-layered system of Marine Protection involving the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police of the coastal States and Union Territories is in place.
Jurisdiction of Territorial Waters
It involves the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police, Customs, and Fishermen.
|Outer Layer (beyond 200 Nm)||Navy|
|Intermediate Layer (12-200 Nm)||Indian Coast Guard|
|Territorial Waters (12 Nm)||Marine Police|
|Navy Bases||Sagar Prahari Bal|
|Fisher Community||Known as as Sagar Suraksha Dal (SSD)|
Sagar Prahari Bal, or Ocean Strike Unit, comprises 1000 personnel raised by the Navy. Their mandate is the protection of naval bases and co-located vulnerable areas.
The Water Wing of BSF is responsible for securing the creeks and waterways in the Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Cambay and the Sunderbans.
After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Indian Navy has been made the core of the coastal security system. The complete responsibility of the defence of the entire coastal and offshore areas was handed over to the Indian Navy. The Indian Coast Guard (ICG), the marine police and other central and state agencies are to support the Indian Navy.
Sagar Suraksha Dal
- Sagar Suraksha Dal is an informal group comprising fishermen and trained volunteers from the coastal areas.
- Their role consists of surveillance and intelligence gathering. They share information on any suspicious happenings or vessels.
- It is a network comprising the coastal radar chain.
- Apart from India, the Navy is also seeking to expand India’s surveillance footprint by setting up radar stations in the Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka have already integrated into the wider coastal radar chain network.
Maritime police stations
- Maritime Police Stations have been opened under the Coastal Security Scheme.
- A total of 204 Maritime Police Stations have been opened in two phases.
Monitoring, Control and Surveillance of Fishermen
- For the identification of fishermen at sea, a scheme for issuing biometric identity cards has been started.
- The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard are conducting coastal-awareness campaigns for the fishermen’s community.
- Indian Maritime Security Strategy (IMSS) 2015 of Indian Navy: It envisages greater coordination between different maritime agencies.
- Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) is being implemented to strengthen the security infrastructure of the Marine Police Force in coastal states/UTs.
- Coastal Surveillance Network: It aims to provide near-gapless electronic surveillance of the entire coastline and prevent the intrusion of undetected vessels. It comprises Coastal Radar Chain and the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
- Operation Sagar Kavach was implemented post-26/11 to improve coordination between security agencies, including Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the local police. Its latest edition was held in June 2022 in Chennai.
- Indian Ocean Naval Symposium: It is a platform to provide a forum for the discussion of maritime issues in the Indian Ocean Region.
- The states have been reluctant to give importance to sea-borne threats. The marine police are poorly equipped and ill-trained. The MHA should concentrate on training the marine police and upgrading their infrastructure.
- Due to insufficient funds, the Navy and ICG are woefully short in human resources and firepower. Government should give proper funds to these services.
- Along the lines of many developed countries, India needs to adopt a participative and multi-national integrated border management system.