Securing Mumbai: Tackling terror from the seas


Securing Mumbai

By Sarosh Bana, APSM Correspondent, Mumbai

The fishing craft arrived and mingled easily with the swarm of trawlers off the fishermen’s colony in downtown Mumbai. Neighbours on the Indian sub-continent, these Pakistanis raised no suspicion on their arrival on Indian shores.

Over the next 59 hours, these well-trained and heavily-armed predators besieged this metropolis of 22 million, slaying 166 innocent men, women and children in cold blood and wounding 293 others. They targeted diners at the Leopold restaurant, passengers at the CST railway terminus, patients and nursing staff at the Cama & Allbless Hospital, guests at the five star Taj and Oberoi hotels, and the rabbi and his wife at the Jewish cultural and religious centre of Chabad House.

This terror onslaught transformed the way people now live in Mumbai. It was of similar magnitude and as much a game-changer as the airplane attacks against the United States on ‘9/11’ (11 September 2001) and came to be called ‘26/11’ (26 November 2008).

As these marauders had caused maximum mayhem in the two sea-facing luxury hotels, most local high-end hotels are now barricaded, with parking restricted and visitor entry under scrutiny. While earlier, citizens could saunter into public or private buildings on their errands, they are now routinely frisked, need to pass through metal detectors and are monitored by closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) that now bristle all across the city. Some government establishments look fortified, with electronic surveillance at all places, armed sentries behind sandbags, guard dogs on patrol, barbed wire fencing along peripheral walls, cordoned off footpaths forcing pedestrians onto the roads, and permanently positioned police vans and pickets.

Indeed, if the city police now fail to make headway in any criminal case, they are inclined to blame it on the absence of CCT at the scene of the crime – even if it is in a home – or unclear footage from those that are installed. Criminals too have changed their tactics as a result. Before going for their victims, they go for the CCTV, or disguise themselves to avoid getting traced. The city authorities have now signed a deal worth A$195 million with Indian firm Larsen & Turbo for installing 6,000 CCTV covering the entire city.

In a concerted multi-agency effort to secure Mumbai’s coastline – the metropolis is surrounded by the sea in the west, south and east – and to avert any recurrence of a terrorist attack from the seas, the Central and the Maharashtra state governments have taken several measures to strengthen coastal and maritime security. They say that due to these coordinated efforts, all measures are now in place and overall maritime security is much stronger than before.

The Indian Navy has been the lead agency in this task and is assisted by the Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other Central and state agencies. At the apex level, the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS), headed by the Union Cabinet Secretary, coordinates all matters related to Maritime and Coastal Security.  The Navy has fully operationalised Joint Operations Centres (JOCs) that are command and control hubs for coastal security not only in Mumbai, but also at Kochi to the south, Visakhapatnam on the east coast, and at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. These JOCs are manned 24×7 jointly by the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police that have also sharply increased coastal patrolling over the last few years. At any given time, the entire west coast of India is under continuous surveillance by ships and aircraft of the Navy and Coast Guard.

Inter-agency coordination among 15 national and state agencies has improved through exercises conducted regularly by the Navy in all the coastal states. Nationwide, over 100 such exercises have been conducted since 2008 and they have also helped test the defences of India’s offshore oil and gas production areas.

In May 2013, the Navy received the first of the eight Boeing P-8I Neptune long-range anti ship and submarine warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft in a US$2.1 billion deal. The P-8Is are being outfitted with the Data Link II internet-based digital transmission system developed by the state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). This Indian-made technology will enable exchange of tactical data and messages between aircraft, ships and shore installations.

This will accord a vital impetus to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) systems that are evolving as credible force multipliers. C4I systems, either by themselves or built into platforms, form a powerful augmented capability to be used by the commander to conduct operations by helping integrate the chain of command and control, information management, data fusion and dissemination.

To strengthen its ability to patrol 2.5 million sq km (965,255 square miles) of its marine jurisdiction, Australia too placed an order worth A$4 billion last year for eight P-8A Poseidon, of which the P8I is a variant and which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Navy. The P-8As can also conduct search and rescue, anti-submarine and maritime strike missions using torpedoes and Harpoon missiles. The first of them will be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force in 2017, with all eight to be fully operational by 2021, with Canberra having an option for a further four aircraft.

Intelligence inputs helped India’s integrated command detect and intercept an intruding unlit Pakistani fishing boat in the Arabian Sea off the Porbandar coast on the night of 31 December 2014. A Coast Guard Dornier surveillance aircraft undertook sea-air coordinated search and located the suspect vessel that had sailed from Keti Bunder near Karachi. Thereafter, a Coast Guard ship on patrol in the area was diverted and intercepted the craft.

The vessel was laden with explosives, because when challenged by the Coast Guard, it tried to flee from the Indian side of the maritime boundary, but with the Coast Guard ship in pursuit, its four crew members set their boat on fire, resulting in loud explosions that ultimately sank it. Technical measures too have been implemented for coastal surveillance, by way of a chain of 74 Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers for seamless cover along the entire 7,517-km long coastline of India.

This is complemented by a series of 46 overlapping radars in the coastal areas of the Indian mainland and island enclaves. A second phase of coastal radars is being installed to plug the small gaps in some places.  To enhance Maritime Domain Awareness, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar recently inaugurated the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I). This over-arching coastal security network collates data on all ships, trawlers and other vessels operating near the coast, from multiple technical sources like the AIS and radar chains.

These inputs are fused and analysed at the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurgaon, near Delhi, which disseminates this compiled Common Operating Picture for Coastal Security to all 51 nodes of the Navy and Coast Guard spread across the coast of India. This Nodal Hub for coastal security, conceptualised by the Indian Navy, is a major step in establishing a coastal security shield.

Fishermen have also been issued ID cards by a centralised database, and over 200,000 fishing vessels have been registered and equipped with GPSes (Global Positioning Systems) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags for tracking them. India’s widespread fishing communities are adept mariners and their cooperation has now become indispensible to Indian maritime security.

They have been marshalled as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the coastal security architecture through awareness campaigns by the Navy and Coast Guard. In the Mumbai-headquartered Western Naval Command (WNC) itself, 70 such campaigns have been conducted in 2014 alone.

The Navy and Coast Guard are providing periodic professional training to Marine Police in all coastal states. Over 250 police personnel have been trained at the WNC in 2014. Marine Police training institutes are now being set up in Gujarat on the west coast and Tamil Nadu on the east.

The indigenous dedicated naval communication satellite, Rukmani or GSAT 7, has facilitated the Navy in achieving complete digitisation of communications for enhanced maritime domain awareness. Since its launch in August 2013, Rukmani has been pivotal in ensuring seamless connectivity between the triad of surface, sub-surface and air platforms of the Navy. Keeping in mind the challenges ahead, a new appointment has been created in the naval headquarters from June 1. Rear Admiral Kishan Pandey has been appointed as first ever assistant chief of naval staff exclusively to handle communications space and network centric operations.