by Brig Arun Bajpai

In any other country but India, which had suffered the horrific 26/11 Jihadist attack of Pakistan sponsored and trained Jihadist of Lashkar-e-Taiba (L-e-T), numbering ten of them , who came by boat taking sea route a decade back and kept Mumbai, the economic capital of India under siege for three days, killing 160 people including foreigners and wounding 600, after a decade of this incident we should have been prepared to foil any other such dastardly attempt from Pakistan, but thanks to our semi-literate Neta’s and our great Babudom, despite sufficient funds being available, we are still in the state of work in progress as if our enemy will wait for us to complete our work before launching another attack. It is really pathetic that we are always in reactive mode in our so-called democracy which is basically a mobocracy.

In the aftermath of this Jihadi attack on 26 November 2008, on Mumbai through the coastal route, India went through a radical overhaul of its coastal defence structure. A three-tier defence was conceived with Indian Navy the first tier out in deep sea. The second tier was Indian coast guard between deep sea and coast and the maritime police the third arm on the coast itself. With these three different agencies operating at different levels, a National Maritime Authority was thought out to constantly manage these three. Accordingly, a suitable bill to create this NMA was proposed in 2013 but thanks to our limited brain Neta’s and do nothing Babus, it is still floundering in Red Tape, waiting maybe for another Mumbai type attack to happen. Meantime in absence of this NMA, an ad hoc arrangement is working where the National Committee for strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security is trying to coordinate these three major agencies with very limited effect.

Recent CAG report on this issue points out that a majority of these projects are lagging behind, with only a fraction of the funds allotted being utilised properly. the main problems lie as usual with the civilian tier of this three-tier organisation that is maritime police. the police patrol boats are available but are underutilised. Shore based infrastructures like Radar towers and maritime police stations are lacking in numbers. There is total manpower shortage in state coastal police, coastal policing is hardly being done, funds sanctioned are accumulating, marine police working under state administration are unwilling to fully integrate into coastal security chain. The state government and Neta’s remain uninterested in the endeavour. The other two tiers, that is Navy and Coast Guard have definitely improved their infrastructure and are doing what they can but the maritime police is the weak link.

The port security and coastal fisheries management continues to be below the desired level. Can you believe it that India’s 227 minor ports, 180 of them have minimal security while 75 of them have no security at all? Many Indian ports do not comply with international ships and port facilities (ISPS) Code that prescribe measures to protect all ships against terror. These ports lack basic security gear like Radiation Detection Equipment etc. They accept no liability against terror act. there is also No Indian law which outlines such need. In Indian Babudom Sab Chalta Hai. However, it does not mean that entire maritime security infrastructure has collapsed. Navy and Coast Guard are doing their job well. They have done number of joint exercises also. however, the same cannot be said about Maritime police. Time has come when on all India basis a fresh organisation like Maritime police is raised directly under the Central government with jurisdiction to arrest and question anybody up to 20 kms inland. They should have complete police powers and come directly under Maritime Authority of India. NMA Bill must be passed by our Parliamentarians at the earliest. One good measure of making the 2.22 lakh local fishing boats as eyes and ears of maritime security has been a great success. However not every boat has GPS. This must be installed. Some time back there were reports that Pakistani non-State Actors like L-e-T are training their Jihadist of course with connivance of Pakistani Army and ISI, to attack Indian Shipping. They are calling it Samudra Jihad. India must make it clear to Pakistan that if this happens then Indian naval ships will not hesitate in shooting at Pakistani ships irrespective of whom they belong to.

In the final analysis while we are in much better position then 2008 of repulsing 26/11 type of Jihadi attack, however it is still work in progress. This is not acceptable. Whatever needs to be done must be done in time bound manner with accountability fixed. We can not wait for another Mumbai type of attack to wake up.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same