Despite Mumbai attacks, India’s coastal security caught off guard

August 9, 2011

By Annie Banerji

India’s western coastline remains vulnerable in spite of the triple bomb blasts in financial capital Mumbai in July which had raised questions about the failure of security services in preventing the attacks.

The abandoned merchant vessel MT Pavit, breaking the multi-layered coastal security, ran aground on the shore of Mumbai on July 30. The Panama-registered vessel began to drift towards the city shore after its engines failed near the coast of Oman.

India’s coastal security is an elaborate affair — the proficiency of maritime security comprising the Coast Guard,¬†marine police¬†and various other agencies including the Mumbai police is laudable on paper.

The Times of India reported another foreign vessel washed ashore in Gujarat a few days ago, leaving the security establishment vexed after the lapse of security by the Navy and Coast Guard in the case of MT Pavit.

“It (the foreign vessel) must have been adrift for several weeks,” the English daily quoted an officer saying.

Against the backdrop of the MT Pavit incident, Defence Minister A.K. Antony will hold a meeting focusing on eastern and western coastal security, on Wednesday. He will ask the Navy and Coast Guard to submit a report explaining how the vessel entered Indian waters undetected.

It was the navy that had overlooked alerts and warnings about the fishing trawler that was carrying the 2008 Mumbai attackers, a senior intelligence officer remarked.

“This time, they missed a ship that was almost 80 metres long,” he said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) cut a pitiful figure of Indian coastal security in its latest report, noting the lack of facilities and the decaying state of existing resources.

“In an era of heightened coastal security concerns, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) remains ill-equipped to discharge its enhanced role and meet the challenges of today… Post 26/11, the response of ICG and government has been ‘ad hoc’ as can be witnessed by increased patrolling, increased funding, fast tracking procurements,” the CAG report said.

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