Updated: August 14, 2012 03:51 IST

Coastal security as sea governance

K. R. A. Narasiah
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COASTAL SECURITY — Maritime Dimensions of India’s Homeland Security: K. R. Singh; Viji Books India Pvt. Ltd., 2/19, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 995.
COASTAL SECURITY — Maritime Dimensions of India’s Homeland Security: K. R. Singh; Viji Books India Pvt. Ltd., 2/19, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 995.

This book is a departure from a number of technical works available on the subject of safety and security of ships at sea and coastal area: it discusses matters from the point of view of an analyst dealing with the entire gamut of sea security including the maritime terror activities and the State's responsibility in combating the same.

The author K. R. Singh in the preface sets out his interest in the study of the non-state actors using sea space to target state actors. Achille Lauro incident of October1985, the action of Sea Tigers of LTTE off the south coast of India and the smuggling of RDX for Mumbai blasts in 1993, all have shown that non-state actors can cause damage to the state through sea passage. Unfortunately these acts did not provide a wake up call then; only after 2004, when oil tankers were hijacked for ransom, even the big nations woke up.

Singh argues with conviction that India in particular has not paid enough attention to the aspect of sea safety and security. In this book of seven chapters, which are logically arranged, he elaborates his argument.

He says that India is particularly ill-equipped to provide safety cover to the extended economic zone brought about by different legislations. This is evident by the dangerous actions of hostile neighbours posed through sea. Events of 26/11 have demonstrated the usage of sea space as a medium to assist and promote terrorist activities.

Some recent occurrences in Indian sea spaces have shown that UNCLOS-III has provided the state with limited jurisdiction over foreign flag vessels and the points are fully discussed in the chapter dealing with maritime terrorism, international norms, and state practices.

The author points out the lacunae in the regulations in respect of off-shore installations. He points out this is caused as UNCLOS-III takes cognisance only of ‘safety’ and not ‘security’ of the installations in the continental shelf, probably because the framers had only accidents in mind and not acts of terrorism. This aspect assumes more importance now with the growing need to safeguard these installations against terrorism.

The author rightly points out that while the state has full jurisdiction over criminal activities committed on land, crimes related to maritime affairs that affect the state can be committed beyond its land border and questions how logical it is to allow maritime security of a nation to be held hostage to outmoded sets of laws and conventions that do not offer legal framework against terrorism. India’s problems are well illustrated with case studies in detail.

The author argues that an obvious factor in the context of India’s legal and constitutional constraints in combating maritime crimes arises out of the insignificant role given to coastal states in maritime affairs. But it is not known, if given power, how the states, ruled by regional parties, will act given their own political compulsions. The author convincingly brings up the need to fill the legal gaps in maritime security.

Though piracy is a crime and pirate is an enemy under Navy Act, 1957, there are no specific laws against piracy. The book proposes setting up of a committee of legal experts and representatives of enforcement agencies to suggest guidelines and amendments to the respective laws, to avoid losing cases for want of appropriate section in the law to punish the culprits.

Increasing threat

While dealing with the enforcement agencies the author stresses on the regional and international cooperation. He argues that while India has multiple maritime agencies, none of them is capable, on its own, to fulfill the assigned task. Therefore synergising their operations is necessary. Thus coastal security now becomes sea governance. He hopes that in the proposed second phase of the Coastal Security Scheme (2011-2016), this will be taken up seriously and the crucial gaps filled.

According to him, only recently there has been a realisation that India is going to face an increasing threat to its homeland security and its adjacent sea space.

He asserts that it is not Delhi but coastal states that are the primary target of activities of non-state actors and therefore states need to play a more active role, and faults the Ministry of Home Affairs for its short sighted approach.

In conclusion, he insists that encouraging maritime development will improve maritime governance. He argues for an apex body to deal with maritime security issues. Such an apex body can bring about uniformity and coordination among ministries and departments. He suggests a National Commission for Sea-space Management and details its probable functions.

Both the United Service Institution of India New Delhi and the author have done a great service in respect of the coastal security by bringing out this valuable book. It would have been better if the book had a note on the author, a fitting foreword and a glossary for the terms used which could make the lay reader more aware of the important things in the book.

COASTAL SECURITY — Maritime Dimensions of India’s Homeland Security: K. R. Singh; Viji Books India Pvt. Ltd., 2/19, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 995.

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The reviewer, a friend of mine, is himself an authority on this subject. The Taking
cognizance of 'safety' and remaining passive about 'security' is inexcusable.

from:  Soundararajan Srinivasa
Posted on: Aug 14, 2012 at 11:02 IST
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