Security challenges and their management in (coastal) border areas

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
    1. India’s coast is characterised by a diverse range of topography such as creeks, backwaters, deltas, lagoons, estuaries etc.
    2. Indian coast has proximity to politically volatile, economically depressed and unfriendly countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
    3. 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 situated in the coastal cities are backbone of Indian economy.
  • 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 Kundankulam, Tarapore etc. are situated on the Indian coast.

All these  are susceptible to attack and remains at the target of terrorist organisations (funded by our envious neighbour).

Maritime Security Challenges

India faces following Maritime Security Challenges

  1. Maritime Terrorism
  2. Piracy and armed robbery especially in the Sundarbans   
  3. Smuggling of gold, electronic goods, narcotics and arms
  4. Human Trafficking
  5. Infiltration, Illegal Migration and Refugee Influx
  6. Straying of fishermen beyond the maritime boundary.
  7. The global trade has shifted from the AtlanticPacific to the Indo-Pacific and brought the world powers to fight for their space in the Indian Ocean which forms India’s backyard.
  8. Chinese advances in the Indian Ocean through the String of Pearls and Maritime Silk Road pose a threat to India.

Of these,  maritime terrorism features as the most potent threat.

It should be noted that

  • During 1993 Mumbai Serial Bomb Blasts, ammunition and bombs reached Mumbai via sea.
  • In 1991, the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi came from Sri Lanka via sea.
  • During 26/11;lTaj 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 Fisherman venture into Sri Lankan EEZ leading to firing and boat seizures.
  • Bangladeshi Pirates are active in Sundarbans.
  • Smuggling of Gold and Drugs happen via sea.
  • Large number of Rohingya entered India via sea evading all the security checks.

Side Topic: Maritime security challenge posed by China

  • String of Pearls Theory and One Belt One Road Policy of China pose great 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,
  • All  weather Sino-Pakistan alliance, with its strong anti-Indian slant complicates our security problems further.
  • China’s expanding 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. 
  • China is mapping the undersea terrain in the Indian Ocean Region, with a view to advance submarine operations.

Indian Coast Guard

ICG was established in 1977 (& placed under Ministry of Defence) due to following reasons

  • Nag committee of 1970 opined that navy was not trained for such act and recommended to setup Coastal Guard.
  • In 1972, UNCLOS awarded Exclusive Economic Zones to coastal states. To protect and police it, special force was required.
  • In 1974, oil was found in Arabian Sea and Bombay high was built. Government felt need of special force to protect such assets.
  • To prevent the rampant sea-borne smuggling happening through both Arabian Sea and 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 Indian Coast Guard

Coast Guard of India
Weapons with Indian Coast Guard (ICG)

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 lack of desired man power 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

  • Marine Police was created under the Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) that was launched in 2005.
  • Aim: To strengthen infrastructure for patrolling and the surveillance of the shallow areas close to the coast.
  • Mandate:
    1. To patrol the territorial waters (12 nautical miles into the sea).
    2. Pursue legal cases pertaining to their area of responsibility
  • Marine Police works on ‘Hub and Spoke Model‘ in association with the Coast Guards with ‘hub’ being the ICG station and ‘spokes’ being the coastal police stations.
Marine Police

Coastal Security Architecture

After Mumbai Attacks , multi-layered system of Marine Protection involving the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police of the coastal States and Union Territories is at place.

Jurisdiction of Territorial Waters

It involves  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 Christened as Sagar Suraksha Dal (SSD)

Sagar Prahari Bal or Ocean Strike Unit  comprise of 1000 personnel raised by navy. Their mandate is protection of naval bases and co-located vulnerable areas.

Apart from that , the Water Wing of BSF is given the responsibility of securing the creeks and waterways in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Cambay and the Sunderbans.

After 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Indian Navy has been made the core of the coastal security system. The complete responsibility of 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 play a supporting role to the Indian navy.

Sagar Suraksha Dal

  • Sagar Suraksha Dal is an informal group comprising of fishermen and trained volunteers of the coastal areas.
  • They are used for surveillance and intelligence gathering. They share information about any suspicious happenings or vessels.

Electronic Surveillance

  • It is a network comprising of 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.

National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS)

  • NCSMCS headed by the Cabinet Secretary coordinates all matters related to Maritime and Coastal Security.

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 along with jetties and interceptor boats.

Monitoring, Control and Surveillance of  Fishermen

  • For the identification of fishermen at sea,  a scheme for issuing biometric identity cards has been started. 
  • Coastal-awareness campaigns for the fishermen community are being conducted by the Indian Navy and the coast guard.


  • 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 of Coastal Radar Chain, the Automatic Identification System and (AIS), and VTMS.
  • Involving fishermen in surveillance & intelligence gathering: Fishermen groups, referred to as the ‘ears and eyes’ of coastal security, are created comprising of trained volunteers who monitor the seas and coastal waters.
  • Operation Sagar Kavach was put in operation post 26/11 to improve coordination between security agencies including the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the local police. Its latest edition was held in January 2021 in Andaman and Nicobar.
  • Indian Ocean Naval Symposium to provide an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.

Way forward

  • The three-tier coastal security establishment involving the marine police, ICG and Indian Navy makes it difficult to fix accountability if any unfortunate incident occurs. The Coast Guard should be designated as the single authority responsible for coastal security.
  • The states have been reluctant in giving 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, Navy and ICG Is woefully short in manpower and firepower. Government should give proper funds to these services.
  • On the lines of many developed countries, there is a need to adopt a participative and multi-national integrated border management system in India.

1 thought on “Security challenges and their management in (coastal) border areas”

  1. Sir please also update regularly others Gs paper notes with current issues & way forward as well…& also provide rest of the topics note..please..


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