August 13, 2009 5:49:51 am
When Defence Minister A K Antony visits Maldives later this month,he will start the process to bring the island country into Indias security grid. The move comes after the moderate Islamic nation approached New Delhi earlier this year over fears that one of its island resorts could be taken over by terrorists given its lack of military assets and surveillance capabilities.
Antony,who is expected to visit Maldives on August 22,will be accompanied by senior Navy officers who will share Indias experience of handling security in the Andaman Nicobar islands chain.
• India will permanently base two helicopters in the country to enhance its surveillance capabilities and ability to respond swiftly to threats. One helicopter from the Coast Guard is likely to be handed over during Antonys visit while another from the Navy will be cleared for transfer shortly.
• Maldives has coastal radars on only two of its 26 atolls. India will help set up radars on all 26 for seamless coverage of approaching vessels and aircraft.
• The coastal radar chain in Maldives will be networked with the Indian coastal radar system. India has already undertaken a project to install radars along its entire coastline. The radar chains of the two countries will be interlinked and a central control room in Indias Coastal Command will get a seamless radar picture.
• The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will carry out regular Dornier sorties over the island nation to look out for suspicious movements or vessels.
n The Southern Naval Command will overlook the inclusion of Maldives into the Indian security grid.
• Military teams from Maldives will visit the tri-services Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC) to observe how India manages security and surveillance of the critical island chain.
While the Maldives government had expressed keen interest in joining the Indian security grid during talks between top political leaders,the proposal took off after a low-key visit to the island nation on June 30 by National Security Advisor M K Narayanan and the then Defence and Foreign Secretaries Vijay Singh and Shivshankar Menon.
While the two countries already have a security cooperation agreement against sea-borne terrorism and piracy,the framework of a detailed agreement to include Maldives into the Indian coastal security grid was drawn up during the visit. It will be an exclusive security arrangement with India and the island nation will not approach other regional countries for similar agreements.
Sources said that the decision was triggered largely by fears of a hostage crisis in Maldives whose economy is driven largely by tourism. The worst threat scenario drawn up by the Maldives government was the takeover of a remote island resort by a terrorist group.
In the past,the Indian Navy has transferred a fast attack craft to the island nation. The INS Tillanchang was gifted to the country in 2006 by the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Besides,a large number of officers of the armed forces of the island nation are given training in various officers training academies in India.
The Indian Army also conducts a joint exercise Ekueuvrin with the Maldivian National Defence Forces on counter-terrorism while the Indian Coast Guard conducts an exercise on maritime rescue operations and patrolling of seas around Maldives called Dosti.
In 1988,India helped foil a coup attempt being assisted by Tamil rebels after it launched Operation Cactus on receiving a distress message from the then President,Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
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