In­dia plans mega test to check coastal se­cu­rity

Fo­cus will be on pre­pared­ness to deal with 26/11­like at­tacks

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Front Page - Sudhi Ran­jan Sen ■

Early next year, In­dia will con­duct its first full-spec­trum test of coastal se­cu­rity, an op­er­a­tion code-named Ex­er­cise Sea Vigil, which will test the re­sponse of nine dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers and agen­cies as it as­cer­tains In­dia’s pre­pared­ness to deal with at­tacks such as the one by ter­ror­ists on sev­eral lo­ca­tions in Mum­bai on Novem­ber 26, 2008 .

The ex­er­cise will test re­sponse, re­ac­tion time and co­or­di­na­tion be­tween agen­cies to deal with in­com­ing threats si­mul­ta­ne­ously across both the eastern and western se­aboard, a se­nior of­fi­cial of the min­istry of de­fence said on con­di­tion of anonymity.

A decade ago, on Novem­ber 26, 10 Pak­istani ter­ror­ists sneaked into Mum­bai; 166 peo­ple were killed and over 300 in­jured in the en­su­ing at­tacks that lasted three days and in­volved ter­ror­ists from the Lashkar-e-Taiba tak­ing over a lux­ury ho­tel.

Then, as it is now, the Achilles heel of In­dia’s coastal se­cu­rity re­mains small fish­ing boats, es­pe­cially those un­der 20 me­ters long. Of the 280,000-odd fish­ing boats reg­is­tered across states in In­dia, 220,000 fall in this cat­e­gory. The 10 Pak­istan-based ter­ror­ists in­volved in the 26/11 at­tacks hi­jacked Ku­ber, a small fish­ing trawler in the high sea, killed the cap­tain, and sailed into Mum­bai un­chal­lenged. They then used in­flat­able rafts to land.

Since then, all mer­chant and fish­ing ves­sels that are above 20 me­ters long are fit­ted with “Au­to­matic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem ” (AIS), a Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem-en­abled friend or foe iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem that also car­ries essen­tials de­tails of the ship such as its last port of call and place of reg­is­tra­tion. Ef­forts to get an AIS on smaller trawlers and boats haven’t worked out. A satel­lite­based two-way com­mu­ni­cat­ing transpon­der de­vel­oped by the

In­dian Space Re­search Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ISRO) is cur­rently un­der tri­als for fit­ment on boats of smaller length but there is no clar­ity as to who will bear the ₹12,000-14,000 each cost of this.


“Any and ev­ery con­tin­gency which could crop up in the near fu­ture will be tested dur­ing this ex­er­cise,” a se­nior naval of­fi­cer

who didn’t want to be named said.

Dur­ing the ex­er­cise, 46 Coastal Radar Sta­tions, 74 Na­tional Au­to­matic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem Chain sta­tions, four Joint Op­er­a­tional Cen­ters lo­cated in Mum­bai, Kochi, Vizag and Port Blair and the Gu­ru­gram-based In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment and Anal­y­sis Cen­tre (IMAC), the nerve cen­tre of coastal sur­veil­lance and mon­i­tor­ing, will be put to test.

The agen­cies tested will in­clude the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Ship­ping, which con­trols mer­chant ship­ping; the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Light­houses and Light­ships, which tracks in­com­ing and out­go­ing ships through the AIS; the Ma­rine Po­lice of coastal states; the In­dian Coast Guard; in­tel­li­gence agen­cies such as the In­tel­li­gence Bureau and the Re­search and Anal­y­sis Wing; the Cus­toms de­part­ment; the lo­cal po­lice, and even fish­er­men. The In­dian Navy will lead the ex­er­cise.

“Pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios will in­clude try­ing to breach the se­cu­rity net of AIS sys­tems, coastal radar sta­tions, Joint Com­mand Cen­ters and 24/7 mon­i­tor­ing to reach In­dian shores from the seas,” the naval of­fi­cer said, ex­plain­ing the aim of the ex­er­cise. In­ter­est­ingly, the ex­act dates are not be­ing shared among var­i­ous stake­hold­ers to keep the el­e­ment of sur­prise. “Re­al­ity checks are all about test­ing ac­tual re­sponse and co­or­di­na­tion, else it be­comes a rigged game,” the of­fi­cer said.

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