Coastal surveillance system proves itself

January 03, 2015 01:35 am | Updated April 02, 2016 04:52 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Interception by the Coast Guard of a suspicious Pakistani fishing boat which blew itself up in the Arabian Sea, showed that India’s coastal surveillance system, put in place in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, was working well, security analysts said.

Though the sea route which the boat took definitely indicated a 26/11 type of clandestine operation, security experts said it would be too early to come to any conclusion.

“Something can be said with certainty only after image and forensic analysis of the nature of explosives and what kind of weapons the crew was armed with,’’ cautioned Commodore (Retd.) C. Uday Bhaskar while talking to The Hindu on Friday.

However, Commodore Uday Bhaskar who heads the Society for Policy Studies (SPS) said the Coast Guard acted on “actionable intelligence’’ and the pre-emptive action showed the credibility and competence of the coastal surveillance grid that had come up after the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai.

“Interception of conversation by intelligence agencies and passing it on to the Coast Guard indicated that all components were in a state of high alert,’’ he added.

However, it was still unclear why the crew blew up the boat laden with explosives and did not heed warnings, he said.

The clandestine attempt to carry out “some illicit transaction’’ in the Arabian Sea was mounted nearly three weeks ahead of the U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India. “Normally, six weeks before the U.S. President visits any place, American agencies get active in sanitising spaces. It would be interesting to know if any chatter was picked up by the U.S. agencies,’’ another security analyst said.

Terming the incident as the most serious one after 26/11, S. K. Sharma of the Institute of Defence and Security Analyses (IDSA) said the presence of explosives and armed crew indicated that their “mission’’ was to target “sensitive installations’’ in the coastal cities of the country. Incidentally, Navy Chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan had in December warned of “rising threat’’ through the sea route. “Threat in the maritime domain from terrorists, non-state actors is huge… terrorists trying to commandeer a ship is a serious situation. We have taken note of the PNS Zulfiqar incident,’’ he had said, while referring to the Pakistani Navy vessel being commandeered by Al Qaeda terrorists.

After the 26/11 attack, the Navy and Coast Guard had taken up the project to set up radars along the coastline.

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