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Mumbai Effect
Navy gets charge of coastal security
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Kochi, February 28
Aiming to project a tough image ahead of the polls, the government today redefined the role of the Navy and put the command and control of the entire coastal and maritime security under its umbrella.

Normally, the Navy is given such a ‘complete charge’ during wartime. At present, the Navy was responsible for areas beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast. Defence Minister A K Antony today announced the policy shift of the UPA regime, minutes after he laid the foundation of the first-ever naval warship here today.

The move comes just three months after a handful of armed terrorists came via sea to attack Mumbai breaching all lines of defence and exposing chinks in the existing system of surveillance. This had embarrassed the Navy and the Coast Guard and had also started a blame game at the highest level.

The change means henceforth, the Navy will be the overall authority. The multitude of state and central agencies that operate along the coast or in the seas will now assist the Navy in operations. In a way, this will end the duplicity of command and undo small “fiefdoms of power” controlled by various ministries as diverse as shipping and fisheries.

Antony said a national command control communication and intelligence network for real time maritime information, the operations rooms of Navy and Coast Guard, both at the field and the apex levels, would be established. Also, the Navy will control all operations of the Coast Guard. Input of the various agencies will also go to the Navy.

To implement this, the government will set up joint operation centres (JOCs) in Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair under the charge of naval commanders-in-chief. The naval commanders will be designated as the C-in-Cs coastal defence.

The JOCs will be jointly manned and operated by Navy and Coast Guard. The number of ships, boats, helicopters and aircraft besides manpower will be added. The Navy would also get 80 fast interception crafts for sea front patrolling.

The Navy would also get a specialised force called “Sagar Prahari Bal” consisting of 1,000 personnel for protecting naval assets.

On the role of the Coast Guard, Antony said it would have a new regional headquarter in Gujarat, which would be designated as ‘north-west region’ and a new post of Commander, Coast Guard, to look after surveillance of the state’s coast. This is important as Gujarat is the only state where we share a common maritime boundary with Pakistan.

The Director-General Coast Guard will be designated as Commander Coastal Command and will be responsible for overall coordination between central and state agencies in all matters relating to coastal security. Nine additional coast guard stations will be located at Karwar, Ratnagiri, Vadinar, Gopalpur, Minicoy, Androth, Karaikal, Hutbay and Nizampatnam.

Antony said the government had also approved the proposal for setting up of coastal radar chain and a comprehensive network chain of automatic identification system stations along the entire coast. These will keep track of vessels below 300 tonnes that will also have transponders fitted.

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India joins elite club
Tribune News service

Kochi, February 28
Joining an elite club of nations capable of building large warships, India today began the construction of its first indigenous aircraft carrier at the Cochin Shipyard here. Defence Minister A K Antony today pressed a remote to lower the keel, the ship’s backbone, into the construction dock of the shipyard.

The carrier will carry a mix of fighters and choppers and is scheduled to be completed by 2014, the feat that will catapult India as only the fourth nation in the world into the exclusive club of nations which have the capability of designing and building 40,000-tonne aircraft carriers.

Speaking on the occasion, Antony said: “We are living in a world of uncertainty, conflict, threats from maritime terrorism, piracy, narcotics, smuggling and low-intensity conflict, perpetrated by the state in some cases and with non-state players in others, are on the rise”. He hoped that the country would operate two to three aircraft carriers simultaneously in not too distant future.

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