Tuesday, December 28, 2010

India strengthens coastal and border security

Neelam Mathews
New Delhi

Internal security is a growing concern in India, as the country deals with the persistent Naxalite insurgency and with a large, and largely unsecured, coastline and regional waters, which terrorists, smugglers and pirates regularly threaten. Add to this the relatively unsecured land borders where dangerous activities flourish. The government is, consequently, increasing funding to strengthen coastal and border surveillance and to provide the necessary equipment and personnel for security enforcement.

Procurement opportunities will emerge from the present budget of $14.7 billion, which is expected to increase to $25-28 billion over the next five to seven years. Planned expenditures cover intelligence gathering, law enforcement and counterterrorism activities, critical asset protection, government infrastructure protection, border defense and digital-network security.

The police, generally, are understaffed, ill-equipped and poorly motivated, and in need of training and new technology. The Border Security Force (BSF) responsible for guarding India’s land borders during peacetime and preventing crime, is being transformed into a technology-driven force, says Raman Srivastava, director general.

India’s Marine Command troops practice boarding and seizing a ship. Coastal defense is a growing security concern.Credit: INDIAN NAVY
“We are pursuing modernization,” says Srivastava. Procurement plans include battlefield surveillance radars, long-range reconnaissance and observation systems, and biometric identification machines. The BSF is also looking at equipment for bomb disposal.

The BSF may soon be given the added responsibility of guarding the unfenced 1,643-km. (1,021-mi.) border with Myanmar to stop infiltration of arms, drugs and militants who maintain training centers in that country. This follows India’s concern about Myanmar’s plan to construct a six-lane highway connecting Kunming in Southeastern China and Chittagong in Bangladesh. The highway will pass less than 20 km. from Mizoram in Northeastern India.

The National Security Council, which monitors political, economic, energy and strategic security concerns, is workingwith the military on a plan to improve coastal defense. India’s 7,500-km. coastline, with 1,197 islands and 500,000 fishing boats, creates challenges for surveillance. The infiltration of ten Pakistani terrorists who sailed into Indian waters from Karachi to attack Mumbai two years ago exposed the vulnerability of the littorals and led to an awareness of the need for capabilities, infrastructure and human assets to improve security.

Implementation of a Coastal Security Scheme has been underway in 13 states and territories since 2005 to strengthen surveillance. Under the plan, assistance is being given to create 73 police stations—64 of which are operational—97 checkpoints and 58 outposts. The plan is to equip these installations with 204 boats, jeeps and motorcycles. Thus far, $89 million has been approved for nonrecurring expenditures by the government.
Interceptor boats valued at $73 million are being procured through the Goa Shipyard and Garden Reach Shipbuilders of Kolkata. A contract has been signed for 84 boats in the 5-ton class and 110 boats in the 12-ton class. An additional ten boats have been ordered for use in the Andaman Islands.

The government is procuring vessels for the coast guard and plans to add 100 ships and aircraft by 2015. “Around 200 coastal police stations will be set up and a chain of radars at 46 stations for surveillance,” says Rajendra Singh, deputy director general of the coast guard. “Long-range identification and tracking of ships is being implemented and will be commissioned shortly.”

A uniform registration scheme with smart ID cards (including radiofrequency identification tags) is being looked at, along with separate sea lanes for fishing boats and merchant ships.

India is heavily reliant on seagoing commerce for imports and exports. Protection of the sea lanes is thus a priority for the navy. In response to increasing incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the navy started antipiracy patrols there in October 2008 with one ship, and has since thwarted 23 attacks.

Saab recently received an order from the Indian Maritime Authority for supply of a surveillance system for the entire coast. The $16-million order is for sensors that will be installed along the coast and equipment for regional and national control centers. The project will be completed in 18 months. Saab is working on the system with Indian partner Elcome Marine Services.

“Our systems for monitoring sea traffic have been installed on several coasts in the world and along inland waterways in Europe and China,” says Gunilla Fransson, head of Saab’s Security and Defense Solutions business, touting the effectiveness of the technology.

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