Nations which neglect their seas and oceans come to grief: Antony

Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Saturday cautioned the country's maritime forces against lowering their guard, as nations which had neglected their seas and oceans had come to grief. As the resources of the land were getting depleted, nations were turning to the seas and oceans for sustenance, he pointed out.

He was speaking after laying the foundation stone for the Indian Coast Guard Academy (ICGA) being built on 66.36 hectares on the banks of the Valapattanam estuary here.

Mr. Antony said the prestigious academy was coming up in a part of the country known for its rich maritime history.

“For centuries the seas of Malabar were ruled by the fleet of Kunjalis fighting intruders from the West,” he said, adding that the country was now facing asymmetric threats from terrorists and other anti-social elements posing a challenge to the unity and integrity of the nation.

Stating that coastal security had assumed huge significance and concern for the government, he said there was an urgent need for the country to be vigilant against threats from the seas.

“The Coast Guard, despite its meagre strength, is discharging its multifarious roles and responsibilities with professional commitment and resolve,” Mr. Antony said.

The force was now in the process of consolidating both its manpower and resources to deal with anti-national forces.

He said the service was now inducting new ships and aircraft and setting up more stations and air enclaves across the country.

Pointing out that the economic growth witnessed by the country during the last two decades had reinforced the importance of maritime trade and commerce, the Minister said the resultant growth in maritime traffic called for an efficient framework of maritime safety, marine environment protection, disaster management and law enforcement at sea.

Stressing the role of the ICG, he said that despite force level constraints, the Coast Guard units had been involved in multifarious maritime activities such as anti-piracy, assistance to mariners and fishermen in distress, medical evacuation and handling of refugees, among others.

The Minister urged the State Fisheries Departments, Port authorities and other maritime agencies to interact with the ICG on a regular basis and synergise the efforts in meeting the country's security challenges.

He also emphasised the need to rope in fishermen to act as the country's eyes and ears.

The proposal for the ICGA was sanctioned in 2009 as part of the steps to enhance the capabilities of the ICG in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008. According to the ICG officials, the futuristic ICGA when commissioned would be able to train 500 trainees, and also cater to the trainees from friendly foreign countries, marine police and the Navy in disciplines such as search and rescue, marine oil spill response, maritime law, fisheries, and boarding and rummaging.

ICG Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra in his welcome address said that with the setting up of the ICGA, the country was joining the select group of nations with their own Coast Guard Academies. Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph, the former Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem, MPs K. Sudhakaran and P. Karunakaran, MLAs-elect K.M. Shaji and T.V. Rajesh were among those present.

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