NEW DELHI: The Navy has gone on a high operational alert. It has activated its warships and shore-based bases for any conventional contingency as well as to prevent any terror attack emanating from the sea, like the 26/11 strikes that rocked Mumbai in November 2008.
The Navy is keeping its “eyes and ears open” on both the western and eastern seaboards. They are also alert along the country’s 7,517-km coastline in conjunction with the coast guard, amidst the “heightened threat perception” after the Modi government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and moved to split the state into two union territories, said defence officials on Thursday.
The Army and IAF are already maintaining high operational readiness to cater to all eventualities, with the former also further strengthening its counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism grids in Jammu and Kashmir. “Pakistan might step-up ceasefire violations or activate sleeper cells for big terror strikes in the run-up to August 15,” said an official.
The Navy, apart from deploying warships, Dornier and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, is also keeping a hawk-eye on the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) through the Information Fusion Centre-IOR at Gurgaon. The centre takes feeds and inputs from multiple sources ranging from coastal radars to satellites and then fuses, correlates and analyses them to assess threats in the maritime domain.
India has taken several steps to bolster coastal security as well as better coordination between intelligence and security agencies since the hijacked fishing vessel Kuber slipped through the cracks to allow Ajmal Kasab and nine other terrorists to reach Mumbai. They unleashed mayhem that eventually killed over 160 and injured over 300 during the 26/11 attacks.
A big problem is that that the over two lakh smaller fishing vessels still cannot be effectively tracked because they do not have AIS (automatic identification system) transponders on board. “The trials for fitting the transponders on such vessels have been successful off the Tamil Nadu and Gujarat coasts. But the issue of who will pay for the transponders is yet to be worked out,” said a source.
The Phase-II of the Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) is also far from being completed. Under Phase-I of the CSN, 36 radar stations on the mainland, six in Lakshadweep and Minicoy and four in Andaman and Nicobar became operational at a cost of over Rs 600 crore after several delays.
The Phase-II, which will cost over Rs 800 crore, involves setting up 38 more radar stations with static radars and electro-optic sensors, four mobile surveillance stations and integration of VTMS (vessel traffic management systems) sites in the Gulfs of Kutch and Khambat.
Once all fishing vessels are fitted with proper identification systems, coupled with the digital registration of all boats by the 13 coastal states and UTs, the radar network will get the “brains” to identify them dynamically. But this is still quite some distance away.