Coastal surveillance in the line of fire - The New Indian Express

Coastal surveillance in the line of fire

Published: 26th November 2012 09:25 AM

Last Updated: 26th November 2012 11:24 AM

On the eve of the fourth anniversary of 26/11 strikes and just four days into the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, Kerala is faced with a pertinent question — how prepared is the coastal state, a possible target for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to take on any imminent security threat? Compared to Gujarat and Maharashtra, with their strict policing along the coastline, could a supposedly less-intensive surveillance make Kerala a soft target for anti-nationals?

“The Kerala coast, with its proximity to Lakshadweep islands, has about five to 10 per cent chances for coastal attacks. They can come down south and use the Lakshadweep islands as a shelter, before launching an attack. Post-26/11, an elaborate security mechanism is in place with coastal, air-borne and electronic surveillance. Our fishermen should be alert. They should report any unidentified vessel and movements of stranger,” said Vice Admiral (retd) Raman P Suthan, former Vice Chief of the Indian Navy.

The chinks in coastal security have already been exposed by the just-concluded Exercise Gemini —  the first-ever combined coastal security drill undertaken by the Navy, Coast Guard and other security forces covering Kerala and Lakshadweep islands. The Kadalora Jagrathaa Samithi comprising fishermen was also part of the massive drill.

Kerala has enough reasons to worry, especially with the Ayodhya Day and the 11th anniversary of Parliament attack fast approaching. Also, the LeT has sworn to avenge Kasab’s execution.

Patrolling off the coast and on the shoreline has been intensified, though there is no specific alert, said DGP K S Balasubramanyam. “All the eight coastal police stations have been equipped. A complete costal patrolling is always not possible. Ocean-going people need to be alert,” the DGP added.

Exercise Gemini zeroed in on some major security flaws, whereby the ‘attacking forces’ successfully infiltrated into Techno Park in Thiruvananthapuram and carried out their task without being detected. Identified as a major flop, efforts have begun to plug the gaps.

Meanwhile, coastal security officials said that barring some minor issues, they were able to address all issues. “There are different layers of security. When one fails, the next catches up. We have come a long way post-26/11. The Joint Operation Centres and Maritime Surveillance Centres are coordinating data collected from across the country,” said a top official.

The Southern Naval Command and its units are always in a state of readiness, said the defence spokesperson in Kochi. “Additional factors contributing to our threat perception are factored in. Recently, we concluded the combined exercise Gemini. We also ensure that we sensitise our men on the ground standing watch,” he said.

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