Antony: arms haul off Chennai may be "the tip of the iceberg"

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FLEET REVIEW: Defence Minister A.K. Antony witnesses the `steam past' by Coast Guard ships off Goa on Sunday.
FLEET REVIEW: Defence Minister A.K. Antony witnesses the `steam past' by Coast Guard ships off Goa on Sunday.

Prakash Kamat

Defence Minister warns of "lurking dangers" along the coast

ON BOARD ICG SAGAR: Describing the recent seizure of arms and explosives off Chennai as possibly "the tip of the iceberg," Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Sunday warned of "lurking dangers" along the coast.

He was addressing presspersons on board ICG ship Sagar after the fleet review of Coast Guard ships and aircraft held off the Goa coast to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the force.

In reply to a question on the incident involving a suspected LTTE boat, he said: "It is not only Chennai, it could just be the tip of the iceberg. There could be similar incidents at sea; there could be many other instances which go unreported."

Priority for surveillance

Stating that constant vigil is needed to secure the long coastline and territorial waters, he declared "hereafter, surveillance of the coast will be the topmost priority of the Coast Guard and the Navy."

He promised upgradation and enhancement of the coastal surveillance infrastructure by providing bigger ships, more aircraft, most modern equipment and training facilities.

On the growing need for more ships for surveillance and trade, he said the shipyards should improve delivery schedules.

Referring to the growing responsibility of the Navy and the Coast Guard in view of the implementation of the Continental Shelf by 2009 upon which the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) would expand from around 2.1 million sq. km. to over three million sq. km., the Defence Minister said the threat to economic interests would be more.

With the economy growing, sea-borne trade, energy needs, and under-sea cabling needs are bound to mount over the next few years. "We need to curb maritime terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking and smuggling," he said.

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