The Naval Detachments, though temporary in nature at inception, have acquired more or less a permanent stature.
The larger vessel Tonga Nova was on a regular supply mission since Mar 91. The last port of call of the vessel was Singapore where it had embarked cargo from MV Mondovian and the items were bound for Jaffna. A large quantity of thermocole floating in the area indicated the dumping of contraband items, arms and ammunition. The apprehended vessels were taken under tow to Chennai by Saryu assisted by Kirpan and SDB T-60. During the tow, the unmanned smaller vessel sank due to excessive ingress of water.
Capture of MV Mariamma. In Mar 1995, the Eastern Naval Command conducted a joint operation with the Coast Guard and was successful in locating and intercepting the LTTE supply vessel MV Mariamma. Eventually, the crew was forced to abandon and scuttle the ship to avoid being captured.
Op Bingo. On May 3, 1999, the Indian Navy participated in another joint operation with the Coast Guard in ‘Op Bingo’ to intercept a LTTE vessel, Showa Maru.
Long Term Effects on Naval Forces
Operation TASHA launched in 1990 continues till date. The Naval Wing of the LTTE has been vying for recognition in the North and North East waters of Sri Lanka. The acquisition of increasingly sophisticated equipment and the continuing enlargement of LTTE activities and their overseas network in Europe, South East Asia, including collaboration with ISI for shipping military equipment/stores has kept the operation growing in size and demanding heavier investments and manpower.
Much crucial cipher traffic between the LTTE high command and its safe houses in the Southern Peninsula remained unbroken for months together, being tossed over between the IB, R&AW and the JCB.
Due to prolonged operation, the ships and aircraft deployed in the operation had been utilised at a rate far more than originally anticipated, resulting in premature maintenance and replacement. Small patrol craft on continuous patrol were particularly effected.
The detachments were manned by personnel drawn from various units on a temporary basis for periods ranging from two to six months initially. With escalation in surveillance activities, the strength of detachments had grown to more than 600. Gradually, a part of the personnel were posted on a permanent basis to have continuity in the operations and for administrative convenience. Subsequently, the number of personnel has been scaled down.
Future of Op TASHA. OP TASHA has been a long haul with its termination depending on the uncertainties in the neighbourhood. The Naval Detachments, though temporary in nature at inception, have acquired more or less a permanent stature. The TN and Pondicherry administrations on the other hand, have been proposing for additional detachments, whereas the Navy has been keen to handover the surveillance activities to the Coast Guard and Coastal Police set ups and concentrate on high seas.
Operation Swan on the West Coast
The landing of contraband by smugglers and infiltration by anti-national elements from the Persian Gulf and from Pakistan, on the coasts of Gujarat and Maharashtra had been going on since the 1950s. It used to be dealt with by Navy-manned vessels of the Central Board of Revenue with representatives of the Customs, Excise and Police embarked.
Consequent to the apprehension and subsequent interrogation of anti-national elements associated with the bomb blasts at Bombay in March 1993, intelligence revealed that there was a likelihood of arms and explosives being landed from seaward along the Gujarat, Saurashtra, Maharashtra and Konkan coasts. The contraband was likely to originate from the Gulf or Pakistan. Further investigations revealed that the possible landing sites extend between Jakhau and Vengurla.
At the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs, joint Indian Navy–Coast Guard coastal surveillance commenced in April 1993.
An outer layer of surveillance using Dorniers and surface units of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, in selected areas.
The task of the operation, code-named “Operation SWAN”, was to prevent fishing trawlers from landing explosives, weapons and other contraband, on the west coast between the Indo–Pakistan IMBL on the Gujarat coast and Goa.
The surveillance activities were carried out by the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command supported by the Central Intelligence Agencies — the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) for internal and external intelligence respectively and the State Governments.
Surveillance units were deployed in three echelons and operated under the control of Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command:-
An intermediate layer using ships of the Navy and Coast Guard and hired ocean going trawlers between 25″“50 nm from the coast.
- An outer layer of surveillance using Dorniers and surface units of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, in selected areas.
- An intermediate layer using ships of the Navy and Coast Guard and hired ocean going trawlers between 25–50 nm from the coast.
- Patrolling in the shallow waters upto ten miles from the coast by small, shallow draught ships and small hired fishing trawlers.
Sanitised Zone. A five mile sanitized zone was implemented on the Indian side of the Indo–Pak IMBL upto a depth of 40 nm seaward and no fishing activity was permitted in this area. The fishermen were informed by the State Governments and the sanitised area was enforced by the Coast Guard. Air patrols were used to supplement the barrier patrol along the sanitized zone.