Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan said Wednesday that dynamics of maritime security have changed due to rising “terrorist threat” in the domain. Speaking at a press meet ahead of Navy Day (December 4), Dhowan said following September’s PNS Zulfiqar incident, when suspected al-Qaeda militants hijacked a Pakistani warship to carry out terrorist activities, the jihadi angle has to be “taken into account”.
“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),” Dhowan said. “We have 2.5 lakh fishing boats in the country…any one can take up arms, ammunition in remote islands. (There are) 1197 islands and 7016 km of coastline. (It speaks) how easy it is from the other side and how difficult it is for us to secure,” he said.
Dhowan’s comments come in the backdrop of the recent anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which exposed the country’s vulnerability to threat from the sea.
It is in the aftermath of this attack that the Navy undertook the project to establish coastal security radars along the coastline under the NC3I project. Dhowan said “a lot has been done” since 2008 towards securing coasts, but added that it is a complex and ongoing task.
On the increasing Chinese presence in Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Dhowan said: “We monitor (the Chinese activities) closely..the PLA Navy has been operating in the IOR since 2008 because their trade and oil passes from the IOR,” he said.
The Navy chief also probably hinted that a lapse in procedures could be one of the reasons that led to the accident on-board INS Sindhurakshak last year, in which 18 sailors lost their lives.
Commenting on the board of inquiry report, which is currently being weighed by the Naval headquarters, Dhowan said, “It is not normal for a submarine to explode…a series of issues led to this accident…there are aspects related to procedures that need to be followed when we are handling explosives on board submarine. The Navy is a technical force and SOPs and safety procedures are laid down…when procedures don’t get followed, there is room for error and accidents happen”.