The tensions between India and Pakistan have only escalated ever since India moved to revoke Article 370. While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is shedding crocodile tears, Pakistan has stepped up its efforts of infiltrating terrorists into India before the onset of winter. Pakistan has systematically targeted India’s 7,516 km long coastline to infiltrate terrorists and the devastating attacks of 26/11 comes to the mind which highlighted the importance of protecting our coastline. In a welcome development, the Home Ministry has proposed to have a dedicated Marine Police Force to guard India’s extensive coastline.
India has a vast coastline of 7,516 km touching 13 states and union territories. It also has around 1,197 islands. The Ministry of Home Affairs has completed the modalities of setting up a new armed force — Central Marine Police Force — to strengthen coastal security with a final proposal to be sent to the Cabinet by early next month for approval. Rajiv Gauba, the current Cabinet Secretary had been pushing for a Marine Police Force since 2016 and the proposal is expected to sail through during the Cabinet meeting. The Central Marine Force will have its cadre, rules, manual, Act, infrastructure and would be headed by a Director-General rank officer.
The proposal which had been in the talks since 2016 but it gained momentum as Indian intelligence agencies have received inputs that Pakistan is attempting to launch a 26/11 type attack through India’s vast coastline. This move also comes at a time when Pakistan has effectively provided a base to China which will aid the latter in its plans to encircle India. In an alarming development, Pakistan has given 55 Sq Km Land To Chinese firm Near Harami Nala Along Gujarat Border with the site of construction being just 10 km from the International Maritime Boundary. This has set off serious security concerns in New Delhi. The 22 km stretch of Harami Nala is near the Sir Creek area, which is close to the International Border between India and Pakistan has seen the Chinese firm already starting construction. Harami Nala is a water channel in a marshy area along the international border which is accessible from the Pakistani side. The topography makes it difficult for security personnel to react swiftly to infiltration bids.
Indian security forces have intercepted various abandoned Pakistani boats along the region and such incidents have been on the rise since the past one year. Pakistan has always been trying to infiltrate terrorists through this region albeit with little success as Indian intelligence agencies have received inputs that Pakistan-trained commandos were trying to enter India via Harami Nala from Gujarat. The Border Security Force has deployed teams of ‘Creek Crocodile Commandos’ along the 22km stretch of Harami Nala to counter any terrorist activity.
To counter such threats, the proposal to form the Marine Police Force will go a long way in curbing Pakistan sponsored terrorism. The Coastal Security scheme has been present since 2005 and is currently under its second phase and an amount of Rs 1023.50 crore has been allotted for procurement of 225 new boats based on the vulnerability assessment of the coastline and a total of 60 jetties have been sanctioned to coastal states and union territories. Under the scheme, 200 coastal police stations are operational, and coastal police has been equipped with 204 boats, 30 jetties, 284 four-wheelers, 554 two-A wheelers, 97 check-posts, 58 out-posts and 30 barracks.
Currently, a three-tier coastal security ring all along the coast is provided by the State Coastal Police, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Indian Navy. The Indian Navy is patrolling along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), while the ICG is mandated to carry out patrolling and surveillance up to the Exclusive Economic Zone of India (EEZ) and the State Coastal Police performs boat patrolling in the shallow coastal area. The Indian Navy has been designated as the authority responsible for overall maritime security.
The Ministry of Defence has also moved to increase the manpower of the Indian Coast Guard as the sanctioned strength go the Coast Guard has registered a 100% increase from 8,149 in 2008 to 16,792 in 2018.
Such a move will also help strengthen the security apparatus across the Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands as earlier in May, the Sri Lankan authorities had sounded out India of a boat allegedly carrying 15 Islamic State terrorists setting off from Sri Lanka to Lakshadweep islands. In September, the Indian Coast Guard seized a vessel with six Myanmarese crew on Indian waters carrying 1,160 kilograms of banned ‘Ketamine’ drug.
This is a much-needed step taken by the Defence Ministry as strengthening the Indian security apparatus continues to be of the prime focus well into the second term of the Narendra Modi government.