The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), encompasses 56 littoral and hinterland nations with 33 percent of the world’s population, but only 25 percent of the land mass. The IOR, has numerous unresolved maritime boundary disputes including Sir Creek with Pakistan and maritime boundary dispute with Bangladesh. The IOR also has the world’s largest oil and gas reserves in the Middle East. Over 100,000 merchant ships transit the Indian Ocean annually, with goods worth over US $ 1 trillion. Some 70,000 ships transit the Malacca Straits anuually. India has 13 major ports and 183 minor ports of which only 35 are “operational”. 90 percent of India’s trade by volume and 75 percent by cost, moves by sea, as does all our imported crude oil, which constitutes 75 percent of our consumption, with an import bill of US $ 43.4 bn in 2006.
70 percent of our oil imports come to the Gulfs of Kutch and Cambay and the port of Mumbai. Indeed, the 700 km Kutch coastline has assets worth Rs 140,000 crores, and its ports handled 1100 ships/ oil tankers in 2007; expects to handle 2100 by 2012 and over 4000 by 2020. In 2006-07, the Gulf of Kutch handled 117 MT of petroleum products, while 95 MT was handled by Mumbai and JNPT Seaward security of this region, bordering Pakistan, against terrorist peacetime sabotage and wartime threats is absolutely crucial, to India’s strategic and energy security. 66 percent of our domestic crude comes from the sea. On 02 Dec 2006, an oil tanker brought the first shipment of oil from the Russian oilfields of SAKHALIN -1 to New Mangalore ports, transiting the Singapore and Malacca straits. This event highlights the importance of “safe and secure” conditions for sea traffic in the two choke points through which India imports its oil, viz Persian Gulf and the Straits of Malacca.
The Coast Guards of Japan, South Korea and even Malayasia (newly formed) are generally modeled on the USCG and avoid the need for frequent consultations, which can delay decision making. In Sri Lanka, the Coast Guard functions are carried out by the Navy. The Coast Guard of Bangladesh is a notionally independent service, but manned completely by officers and men of the Bangladesh Navy. Similarly, Pakistans Maritime Security Agency, though notionally independent, is manned completely by officers and men of the Pakistan Navy. This ensures better command, control, co-ordination and inter-operability.
By 2025, India and China will become the third and second largest importers of oil, with 320 and 640 mn tonnes respectively, and their combined requirements will be 45 percent of the global consumption. The safety of sealanes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will therefore be crucial, as any attacks by pirates, terrorists (or during hostilities) will disrupt shipping, hike insurance rates and raise global prices.
Notwithstanding, the current debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal,and the rise in oil prices to over US $100 a barrel, the fact remains that oil and coal which presently contribute 32 and 54 percent respectively to India’s yearly energy requirements, will continue to remain very important till well past 2050. Nuclear power may become critical to India’s energy requirements by about 2100, if more oil, gas and coal are not found. On 10 Nov 07, Brazil announced a huge offshore oil find, and hopefully India too will have similar finds, given the intensive offshore oil exploration in progress and that are planned. At the same time our scientists need to urgently progress our three stage Nuclear Power programme. India’s foreign going shipping (presently 787 ships) is expected to increase steadily, while the 530 strong coastal shipping will double by 2012.
India is the third largest fish producing nation in the world, with 314,000 vintage fishing boats and a “fishers” population of 2.8 million. Its annual catch is a paltry 8.4 mn tons as compared to its potential of 40 mn tons. Hence this field of marine activity too is expected to grow rapidly.
Also, the growth in shipping and seaward oil exploration,will lead to the concurrent rise of requirements of search and rescue, combating–smuggling, gun running, piracy and maritime terrorism. 26 million Indian expatriates the world over, contribute US $ 24 bn annually to the Indian economy. Of this US $ 12 bn, comes from the 4.2 million Indians living in the Middle East, which makes this region important, because most of our oil also comes from there.
India’s island territories comprise 572 islands in the A&N group. These islands,contribute to 30 percent of India’s EEZ, though their land mass is less than 0.2 percent of the total. 27 islands in the Lakhshadweep group and another 598 uninhabted rocks, islets in the sea add to a total of 1197. While India’s land mass is 2.99 mn sq km, its EEZ is 2.01 mn sq km and expected to increase to 3 mn sq km after the 2009 pending decision of the UN Legal Continental Shelf Committee. The Indian Search and Rescue Region at sea is 4.6 mn sq km. The arc from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca straits, which is of great importance to India, encompasses a sea area over 10 mn sq km, which the Indian Navy would have to monitor. Having, already suffered during the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993, wherein the explosives came by sea, India has been well aware of the need for peace, security and tranquility in the IOR, well before the 9/11 incidents made the western world aware of the dangers of global terrorism. Keeping the sea lanes of communications open, in the post 9/11 era of global terrorism, is in India’s direct national interest. There is a definte link between our seaborne commerce (which includes energy security), maritime security, national prosperity and national security. The presence of LTTE’s Sea Tiger and Air Tigers force in close proximity to India’s southern coast poses its own challenges. The spate of recent terrorist attacks in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are a grim reminder of the present “no war–no peace” scenario caused by the global terrorism.
In the 60 years since independence, India as a nation has suffered numerous surprise conventional and terrorist attacks, viz, 1947 Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir; peacetime loss of Aksai Chin to China in the “fifties”; the disastrous 1962 Indo–China war; 1965 Pakistan incursions into Saurashtra, followed by the invasion of Kashmir; 1989 Kashmir insurgency; 1999 Pakistan incursion into Kargil; 2001-terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament; insugencies; creeping demographic change in the North-East; and numerous terrorist attacks in various parts of India. As per press reports, there were 240 incursions by the Chinese Army along the LAC. As compared to this, the USA since 1781 has suffered only three surprise attacks, i.e. burning down of Washington DC on 24 Aug 1814 by the British Army from Canada which was avenged by a decisive American victory in early 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 Dec 1941; and the 11 Sep 2001, terrorist attacks, on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.
The present state of affairs in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Chinas rapid economic growth along with military modernisation, certainly deserve a greater priority and attention than the somewhat ill informed debates on Sethu Samundaram Channel Project (SSCP), Indo-US Naval Exercises, etc.
The strategic scenario in South Asia changed after India and Pakistan carried out their nuclear tests in 1998. This combined with testing of various missile delivery systems by both the countries, and the subsequent unleashing of more intensive terrorist attacks on India from across the border created a new situation of “terrorism operating in a background of nuclear deterrence”, even before the world woke up to the dangers of global terrorism after 9/11. Press reports on 18 Nov 2007, (quoting data prepared recently for the US Congress, by the US Congressional Research Service), have confirmed that since the “war on terror” began in 2001, Pakistan, has received/will receive 20 percent more weapons from the USA, as compared to the total American arms received, in the last 50 years. These include three dozen F-16s, eight P3C Orions ,three Hawkeye AWACS, six C-130 transport aircraft,2000 TOW anti-tank missiles,100 Harpoon anti ship missiles and 115 self propelled 155 mm howitzers. Indeed, in 2006-07, the total arms imports/orders from USA was US $ 3.49 bn, as compared to US $ 3.63 bn between 1950 to 2001. In addition, press reports have practically confirmed the fact that successive US Governments had turned a blind eye to Pakistan‘s acquisition of nuclear weapons capability and the missiles to deliver them. The total American aid (including economic) to Pakistan since 9/11, exceeds US $ 10 bn as of end 2007.
The present state of affairs in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and China’s rapid economic growth along with military modernisation, certainly deserve a greater priority and attention than the somewhat ill informed debates on Sethu Samundaram Channel Project (SSCP), Indo-US Naval Exercises, etc. China, in keeping with its “string of pearls” policy to encircle India and secure its own oil supply by sealanes from the Middle East, has kept ensuring that Pakistan’s strategic-cum-conventional capability vis-a-vis India is maintained. It built its Gwadar deep sea port, and continues to provide military and economic assistance to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
More ominously for India,China’s almost frenzied allround military development was capped by some well reported events which have a direct strategic impact on India and can be ignored only at the risk of a more catastrophic repeat of the 1962 war. These strategic events are; the induction of two 30 knot SHANG class SSNs (total five to be inducted by 2012); testing of the 8000 km range, JL-2, SLBM from a submerged modified Golf class submarine on 12 June 2005; and unveiling of two 8000 ton JIN class SSBN (each capable of firing 12 nuclear tipped JL-2 missiles) which are expected to be operational between 2008-10 and would be followed by three more.
A reasonable number of sufficient “combat capable” force levels should ensure that the threat of conventional war and the threat of maritime terrorism continue to remain “unlikely”. Here too, the Navy requires urgent augmentation to its LRMP aircraft, conventional submarines and frigate strength. Since the numbers are large, some of these units could be partly acquired second hand.
While the Shang class could foray into the Indian Ocean and theoratically present a threat to our Carrier task force and seaborne commerce, the Jin class, could theoratically target the whole of India while lying submerged in the China Sea – a classic example of second strike assymetry between India and China. Ignoring this assymetry, should remind us of the disastrous consequences of turning a blind eye to the Chinese conventional activities, in Aksai Chin and our Northern borders for a decade, prior to the Indo–China war of 1962. Indeed, countering terrorism and strategic nuclear asymmetry should be on the front burner for India. In addition, by 2012, China is expected to operationalise the 70,000 ton ex-Russian aircraft carrier, “VARYAG”, which will have an airwing (including Chinese built jet fighters ) about 50 percent larger than the, much delayed, 46,000 ton INS Vikramadatiya (ex-Gorshkov).
The Chinese Navy is also paying attention to other conventional components like indigenous destroyers (DDG Type 051C), frigates (FFG Type 054A), replenishment ships, etc, which will deploy with their “VARYAG” in blue waters. Also, in addition to the dozen Kilo class submarines (Project 877/636) acquired from Russia, the Chinese have inducted a similar number of SONG Mk 1(Type 039), and are busy inducting SONG Mk2 along with the newer YUAN (Type 041) class. By 2015, they should have some 40 odd third generation diesel submarines, which would provide a strong sea denial capability within 1500 nm off the Chinese coast. If given refueling facilities in the “string of pearls”, these conventional units too could make deployments to the Indian Ocean, and further complicate the maritime threat assessment.
Countering The Maritime Terrorism Threat
Post 9/11, the world entered the twilight zone of “no war-no peace”. The emergence of “non-state actors” made many nations re-appreciate their security threat assessment and countermeasures. In the USA, the US Coast Guard (USCG), was made responsible for the maritime aspect of US Homeland Security. Realising that awareness of all “maritime domain” activities (real time data input, by intelligence and technological means) related to incoming and outgoing traffic from US ports was crucial to preventing terrorist attacks. The USCG introduced the concept of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), to cover the American EEZ of 200 nautical miles (nm), with the aim of getting a complete picture of all surface activities in the maritime domain, which may impact on the nation’s safety, economy and the marine environment.
The US Navy (USN), which always had an MDA system, with respect to own, enemy, neutral seaborne military and civilian traffic (including ships, submarines and aircraft operating at sea), along with data on oil rigs, also quickly realised that post 9/11, the era of fighting known enemy countries was being replaced by a global war on stateless, fanatic terrorists. The USN, quickly introduced the concept of Global MDA, (also known as Global Maritime Situational Awareness), but soon realised that it did not have the assets for this gigantic task. In 2005, the USN, proposed the concept of a voluntary grouping of the world’s Navies and Coast Guards under a “1000 ship navy”, to jointly share information and fight the global war on maritime terrorism. Other governments, navies and coast guards too began to look closely at implementing their own form of MDA and other such proposals and existing systems.
Post 9/11, the Americans introduced the Container Security Initiative in June 2002 which aims at technological scanning and electronic tagging of US bound containers to prevent WMD reaching US ports in containers.
The Indian Navy, lost no time in quickly “refocussing” its MDA system and co-ordinating closely with the Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The ICG, on 01 Feb 2003, operationalised the voluntary INDSAR ship reporting system, wherein all merchant ships in the ISRR, report their position course and speed daily, so as to assist in Search and Rescue(SAR) if required. The INDSAR, is similar to other purely civilian and voluntary reporting systems viz AMVER (USA), JASREP(Japan), AUSREP(Australia). There is perhaps a need to link up all such global voluntary humanitarian systems on a seamless electronic plot, so that assistance to ships in distress (including piracy, terrorist attacks, SAR, etc) can be rendered quickly and effectively. A few noteworthy milestones are enumerated. Though global piracy has decreased, incidents of violent hijackings of ships have increased.
Also their is a link between piracy and maritime terrorism, since a hijacked ship could be sold and funds utilized for terrorism, or, a hijacked ship could be made to explode in a harbour, against an oil rig or to block a narrow channel by sinking it or carry weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into a port like Mumbai, New York,Singapore or Shangai – or simply release hundreds of thousands of tons of oil, damaging the environment, destroying the fishing and tourism industries. It is also a known fact that commonly used (and sea transported) fertilizer like Ammonium Nitrate when mixed with diesel oil becomes a powerful explosive. The Oct 2000 suicide attacks on US Navy ship Cole in Aden Port, and the Oct 2002 attacks on the French tanker MT Limburg in the Gulf of Aden, are reminders of the global nature of maritime terrorism, which if unchecked, will cause shipping insurance rates to go up and adversely affect international trade, and consequently economies of many nations.
Post 9/11, the Americans introduced the Container Security Initiative in June 2002 (CSI– has 38 ports in 18 nations) which aims at technological scanning and electronic tagging of US bound containers to prevent WMD reaching US ports in containers. Our JNPT port is not yet CSI compliant, as a result of which we lose a lot of money by routing all our US bound containers to Colombo and Dubai. The American Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was introduced in May 2003 and has 66 nations in its fold. India has not joined the PSI.
Interestingly, the USA has not yet signed the UNCLOS 1982 Agreement of the UNO, which lays down some rules/guidelines for the maritme domain. It may do so in the near future.The International Maritme Organisation (IMO) London, a UN body, introduced the Automatic Identification System (AIS) which by 2008 will cover all ships over 300 tons and will automatically transmit essential data with respect to a ship to a range of 40 nm. The IMO also introduced the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code, which has laid common security standards. The US has now proposed that after 2008, the short range AIS, be replaced by the 2000 nm range LRIT (Long Range Identification and Tracking). By Aug 2006, India, along with 121 other nations had ratified the SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Activities at sea) protocols of 1988 and 2005.
The task of the well educated, pro-fessional maritime terrorist is made simpler by the confused state of affairs of present day, de-centralised, fast growing “free enterprise” international shipping and “internet commerce”, where a ship is built in one country, is sometimes repeatedly sold to different owners, and/or has a flag of convenience (FOC) in a second country (including FOC of landlocked countries !), is owned by nationals from different countries, crewed by men from diverse nations (with differing professional and security clearance standards, which may allow a trained terrorist access to a target ship), controlled through the Flag State in all internal matters, but is subject to local Port State Jurisdiction, on entering any port for trade.
The global terrorist is aware, that apart from a few International Agreements wrt slavery, piracy and illicit carriage of drugs, their is no existing Comprehensive Maritime Law, which has universal acceptance and coverage for maritime crimes. He can, and does take advantage of this “legal vacuum”, which has been filled up by diverse, complex and often conflicting domestic laws of different coastal states. In this rather chaotic state of affairs, India’s maritime agencies face a difficult task, due to complex organisational structures which are a legacy of our colonial past. The IN and ICG (which is also equipped to counter marine pollution) are under the Ministry of Defence.
Other Ministeries and forces which are involved with Maritime activities are Home (Water Wing of BSF for internal ”border” waters, oil spill disasters at sea, newly created Marine Police and Intelligence agencies), Finance (Customs), Agriculture (Fishing), Shipping (shipping, light houses, ports, port security, port navigation), Oil, Petroleum and Natural Gas (offshore oil production), MEA (for any search and rescue at sea involving foreign ships) and Earth Sciences (tsunami warning system). As compared to our scenario, the USCG is a single window maritime force which looks after almost all maritime policing roles except CSI ,which is handled by the US Custom. Not surprisingly, the ICG, liases with different ministries/agencies/authorities.
India is one of the few maritime nations with a medium sized Navy and Coast Guard, but urgent reforms and reorganisation are needed to make the job of the maritime terrorist, pirate, gun runner and smuggler more difficult, and India more safe. It appears from press reported interviews that greater emphasis is being put on India’s maritime security in general. Four regions in particular need greater attention, i.e. Gujarat, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu-Kerala, Bengal and the island territories. Press reports of 4 December 2007, indicate that the LTTE has shifted some of its activities from the heavily patrolled Tamil Nadu coast to the Kerala coast. Hopefully, coastal security will get due attention, before a “Kargil at sea” takes place.
To deal with the emerging era of global maritime terrorism India needs to support all relevant UN sponsored initatives wrt, Global Maritime Domain Awareness and a Universal Maritime Law. As an interim measure, India also needs to consider signing suitable bilateral agreements with its maritime neighbours and other relevant nations for greater interaction between their respective Navies and Coast Guards. All Indian shipping and fishing vessels need to be “electronically tagged” to report their position, course and speed to INDSAR every 24 hours.
The over 314,000 ill equipped small fishing boats need Govt funding for transition to more modern, larger fishing trawlers, which should number below 30,000 and be easier to identify on the proposed MDA system. Indian ship owners need to implement new anti-piracy devices on their ships, such as “SHIPLOC” (a system, hidden in the ship, which continuously gives its position to the owner ashore) and “SHIPSECURE” (a high voltage fence which prevents entry by pirates at sea). Finally, India’s primary maritime agencies like the IN, the ICG, along with the Marine Police, Customs, and the offshore oil rigs with their supporting supply vessels, need adequate funding to be put on a simple Indian MDA grid. By 2022 the IN and ICG need to greatly increase their existing force levels and complement each other in the global fight against maritime terrorism.
The Navy has to be always prepared for its traditional conventional roles, even though, in the present days “global terrorism” environment of “no war”“no peace”, a conventional war may appear to be unlikely.
Also, given the widespread use of computers and networkcentric operations, the vulnerability of our systems to terrorists or transnational cyber attacks needs to be addressed on a war footing.
Countering Conventional Threats and Peacetime Readiness
The Navy has to be always prepared for its traditional conventional roles, even though, in the present days “global terrorism” environment of “no war–no peace”, a conventional war may appear to be unlikely. A reasonable number of sufficient “combat capable” force levels should ensure that the threat of conventional war and the threat of maritime terrorism continue to remain “unlikely”. Here too, the Navy requires urgent augmentation to its LRMP aircraft, conventional submarines and frigate strength. Since the numbers are large, some of these units could be partly acquired second hand. It is perhaps possible to acquire five to ten second hand frigates (to be used as “multi role OPVs”) for the cost of one brand new frigate.
In addition, the second submarine production line envisaged in the 30 year Submarine Building Plan, needs to be activated without further delay. A higher priority also needs to be accorded to meeting the long pending requirement of a viable Submarine Rescue System (SRS), to replace our present vintage SRS Indeed a suitable SRS, would enable the India to also offer help to other friendly regional navies (e.g., Malayasia, Singapore, Indoneasia) in case anyone of them suffers submarine accidents. It maybe noted that Japan, South Korea and Australia already have a modern SRS. A submarine accident like the Russian Navy’s loss of the entire crew on the nuclear submarine “KURSK”, a few years back, can be a national embarrasment. Many heads rolled in Russia due to the national outrage at the inability to rescue the crew, some of whom survived for a few days in the sunken submarine, before succumbing to the lack of oxygen, poisonous gases and freezing cold.
And finally, should the Gorshkov/ (Vikramaditya under modernisation in Russia) and the indigeneous aircraft carrier (under construction at CSL, Kochi) get further delayed, the Indian Navy may have to look at acquiring a second hand aircraft carrier, before the Viraat decommisions by about 2012. The press reported American offer of the 1961 vintage, 80,000 ton, aircraft carrier the USS Kitty Hawk, may not be a suitable option, as it will also involve inducting different types of expensive, catapult launched aircraft. In addition, a study needs to be done wrt the ability of this large ship to enter Indian ports and dry docks.
Exercising with other Navies
I am a firm supporter of exercising with all regional and important extra-regional navies, since such exercises,enhance mutual understanding and help in “building bridges of friendship across the seas”. In certain cases they enhance our warfighting skills by exposure to new platforms, equipment and concepts. In addition they improve interoperability,which would help in humanitarian disaster relief missions, or during UN sponsored peace keeping or anti-piracy or anti-terrorism operations. Here, as a major nation,on an economic upswing, India must also encourage contacts and exercises between its Navy and Coast Guard with their counterparts from China, Pakistan and Iran.
A Truly Balanced Navy
Given the massive area of operations, the likely threats during times of peace, war and “no war–no peace”, its present and planned force levels (as reported by the press), it is evident that the Indian Navy is some years away from transitioning to a balanced force which would be able to not only combat maritime terrorism piracy, etc, but also provide tactical and strategic deterrence against future threats.
The Indian Coast Guard too needs additional patrol vessels, aircraft and helicopters most urgently to augment its capability, so that it can carry out effective surveillance and monitoring of our EEZ, to counter any maritime terrorist threats, and thus free the Navy to deal with its blue water tasks.
A balanced Indian Navy, does not merely imply a force with 60 percent blue water capability. It requires capability which is relevant to the likely peacetime (terrorism and piracy) and wartime (conventional and strategic) threats. Having sufficiently discussed the peacetime threats earlier, prudence demands that we also prepare for the worst case scenario, which may involve deterring a simultaneous “two neighbour” strategic nuclear threat based on land based missiles and the Jin class SSBN (operating its second strike capability from the sanctuary of the China Sea), and a conventional threat involving Chinese Shang class SSNs operating with or independentally of a Chinese Carrier Battle Group(CBG) centered around the 70,000 to ex – Russian Carrier VARYAG, which may become operational by 2012.
The CNS, has been extensively quoted by the press and TV, during his pre Navy Day (3rd Dec 2007) press conference, as having mentioned “strategic platforms, technology demonstrators and training platforms”etc. Theoretically, the only viable strategic response, would be a ”few” indigeneous SSBNs, capable of launching, indigeneous SLBMs with ”intercontinental” range. Similarly, tactical deterrence at sea, in a vast 10 mn sq km area would require LRMP aircraft and a “few” indigeneous SSNs. A simple calculation would indicate that we cannot afford the type of Navy we need in quality and quantity, unless we take some tough decisions to make funds available for critically required items. We need to consider acquiring atleast 20 percent of our conventional requirements second hand.
This list should include aircraft carriers, large LPD/LPH type amphibious warfare ships (e.g., Jalashwa type), Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), Mine Warfare ships, patrol boats, LRMP aircraft, helicopters, carrier borne fighter aircraft, and fleet replenishment tankers, etc. It maybe noted that, as aganist the recent controversy on “price escalation and delayed induction” of the Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov, all second hand acquistions from the West (e.g., aircraft carrier Viraat, frigate Krishna and LPD Jalashwa) have been ‘on time’ and within the contracted price.
A balanced Indian Navy, does not merely imply a force with 60 percent blue water capability. It requires capability which is relevant to the likely peacetime (terrorism and piracy) and wartime (conventional and strategic) threats.
The Indian Coast Guard too needs additional (preferably, 20 percent second hand) patrol vessels, aircraft and helicopters most urgently to augment its capability, so that it can carry out effective surveillance and monitoring of our EEZ, to counter any maritime terrorist threats, and thus free the Navy to deal with its blue water tasks. Both the Navy and Coast Guard need to exercise regularly with each other to increase inter-operabilty, and also need to frequently exercise with all relevant regional and extra regional Navies (including the US and Russian Navies) and Coast Guards. To ensure greater understanding and promoting goodwill, the Indian Navy also needs to consider increasing mutual port visits with the Chinese Navy and also carry out exercises with it atleast once every one year or two years.
A beginning with Pakistan could be made. The Indian and Pakistan Navies could initate visits by their Naval Chiefs, on the lines of the annual exchange visits by the heads of the Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency. India, Pakistan and China have common national interests in keeping the sea lanes of commerce and energy security safe and therefore need to co-operate. In this world of realpolitik, their is no “consolation prize” or even respect for the defeated/weaker nation. India has no choice but to build/equip,operate and maintain a “ truly balanced and relevant” 200 ship Indian Navy, which should include three types of “capital ships”, i.e. SSBNs, SSNs and Aircraft Carriers.
National Maritime Advisor/Advisory Board
The spate of new private ports, offshore oil rigs, refineries (and expected nuclear power plants) coming up along the Indian coasts (at present the Gulf of Kutch, alone has five private shipyards, numerous captive jetties and massive expansions are planned to existing Mundra and Kandla ports), have short and long term security implications in this era of global terrorism. In addition, we need to avoid controversies on professional nautical issues such as the economic viability of the ”SSCP” or Sethu Samundaram Channel Project. The proposed 12 m deep channel caters for ships of below 32,000 tons with draught below 10m. Unfortunately international shipping till even beyond 2025, is headed for ships above 60,000 tons, which cannot use the SSCP. Similarly Indian Coastal Shipping though expanding rapidly, is reducing in tonnage per ship from 4000 to 1900 tons.
Also, both international and coastal shipping will find it more economical to avoid the SSCP. In addition to infrastructure costs of tugs and pilots, the SSCP, will incur heavy “maintenance dredging” costs, every two to three years. All these will make the “SSCP” economically non-viable. To ensure that future maritime and other coastal projects meet the twin requiements of security along with ”nautical correctness”, and given the earlier mentioned facts about numerous ministries/agencies/authorities involved in maritime activities, the time has come to set up a single window professional National Maritime Advisor heading a National Maritime Advisory Board, which could function either independently, or under the National Security Advisor.
Essential Reforms in Maritime Domain
The Indian Marine Police(IMP) and Water Wing of the BSF should merge with the Indian Coast Guard(ICG), and this combined force should be made responsible for the “ routine peacetime” surface security of the Indian EEZ along with important designated inland waters (Sir and Kori Creeks, Hooghly and Brahmaputra rivers, etc), security of all ports (including implementation of ISPS code,AIS, pollution control), and searching vessels suspected to be carrying explosives/terrorists before they enter Indian ports.
At present, designated units of the ICG are placed under the operational command and control of the Indian Navy during hostilities. This provision may also need to be applied to some emergent situatons in the present “no war–no peace” scenario also. The defence of our valuable offshore assests against peacetime surface and subsurface threats needs the Navy and ICG to operate in close liasion, given the possibility of peacetime subsurface snoopers–terrorists / terrorist mining threats in our territorial waters and EEZ. The Navy will have to play a lead role due to its capabilities. In addition, in the maritime domain, the IN will have to be the lead service for exploitation of space based communications surveillance systems, including sub surface surveillance systems and UAVs.