Raising an alert on the security preparedness on the coastline, Rahul Roy Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, Thursday said that India continues to remain highly vulnerable to another maritime terror attack like that of November 2008 in Mumbai.
“The dominance of an experienced maritime community could provide the potential for the next terror attack against India, amidst state support and a rise of religious extremism. While the threat from Pakistan continues, Bangladesh is seeing the rise of Islamic extremism alongside the anti-India Bangladesh National Party (BNP)-Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) opposition alliance, despite prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s best efforts. The Maldives has witnessed internal political disputes,” enumerated Roy Chaudhury at a session on Maritime Terrorism and Piracy at the three-day Counter Terrorism Conference in the state capital.
“My essential point is that India continues to remain highly vulnerable to another maritime terror attack due to the growing complexity of the maritime security environment as well as continuing concerns over state-sponsored cross-border maritime terrorism.
India shares maritime boundaries with seven countries, Pakistan in the Arabian Sea, the Maldives and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, and Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia in the Bay of Bengal. India also has a long coastline reaching deep into the Indian Ocean,” he added.
Roy Chaudhury pointed that ‘far more needs to be done to ensure the effective surveillance of India’s coast and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).’
“The electronic tracking system for merchant vessels needs to be widened as well as deepened to provide a more comprehensive picture, including crew detail. This could take place through the exploitation of new and emerging commercially-available technologies.
“Automatic Identification Systems are vulnerable to ‘data manipulation’, with a notable increase in the number of ships reporting false identities. Some 40% of ships do not report their next port of call. Some 200,000-300,000 fishing boats also operate in Indian coastal waters. The active cooperation of India’s maritime state governments and marine police are essential,” he added.
Listing out the causes of emergence of piracy, Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, former chief Western Naval Command, said, “Massive increase in commercial traffic, financial crisis in coastal/littoral countries, difficulties associated with maritime surveillance, inadequate synergy in coastal and port side security, corruption and non-exhaustive criminal justice, global proliferation of small arms and infancy of national and international laws and institutionalized government mechanisms can be attributed as the major factors for emergence of piracy.”