Event ReportsPublished on Feb 23, 2008
Prof.K.R.Singh, formerly visiting professor, Chair of Maritime Studies, University of Calicut, initiated an interaction on 'Maritime Dimensions of Internal Security' at an Interaction organised by the ORF Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research foundation on 23 February 2008.
Need to look at Maritime Security in entirety

Prof.K.R.Singh, formerly visiting professor, Chair of Maritime Studies, University of Calicut, initiated an interaction on ‘Maritime Dimensions of Internal Security’ at an Interaction organised by the ORF Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research foundation on 23 February 2008.

The speaker traced the evolution of the laws governing the enforcement of  authority by various Government agencies on the maritime activities in the coastal/oceanic areas. Pointing out that with increased maritime activity more economic assets would be targeted, he highlighted that the challenges were examined only from the Customs angle – like prevention of smuggling, and therefore the need to strengthen the Customs. Over a period of time, the jurisdiction at sea has got extended from three nautical miles up to six nautical miles and then up to 12 nautical miles while customs also increased its territorial water jurisdiction. The Maritime Zones Act (MZA) was passed in 1976 defining the maritime zones of India, with the setting up of the Coast Guard.       
Admitting the lacunae that we were not looking at border security from its entirety, Prof Singh pointed out that until the ‘ORF Mumbai serial blasts’ of 1993, maritime threats were never perceived as posing border threats by the country as a whole and by the Maharashtra Home Ministry in particular. However in the post 9/11 scenario, with the passing of the UN Security Council Resolution 5840, the focus shifted to Global War on Terrorism and Maritime Terrorism. The UNSC Resolution passed under Chapter IV has made it obligatory on the part of member-States to enact similar laws. Thus, India passed the WMD Act 2005, which for the first time mentioned Non-state actors and Terrorism. With regard to the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), India refused to accept the restrictions imposed on the signatories, because it stipulated that advance intimation should be given while carrying nuclear-related materials by the nation’s vessels; otherwise interdiction can take place and therefore it has become a question of sovereignty.

According to the Prof Singh, the breakthrough came in the Report of the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up in the post-Kargil period in which for the first time the maritime border was recognized as Border of India and emphasis was laid (i) to involve Coastal States in the enforcement measures to counter the maritime threats faced by the country. and (ii) the need for a proper mechanism for co-operation between State and Central Enforcement Agencies (CG, Navy, etc.,). Coastal Security requires increased surveillance of maritime boundary to curb illegal activities in coastal and high seas. To achieve that, capability of Coast Guard was enhanced and secondly, Marine Police to be trained by Coast Guard was created under State Police for patrolling the coastal areas. About five hundred crores was sanctioned last year towards non-recurring & recurring expenditure for creating infrastructure for the Marine Police in the Coastal States. Tamil Nadu would create 12 coastal police stations, Boats, etc. But the focus was  more on West Coast.

The speaker drew the attention that under Article 1 of the Constitution of India, which defined Territory of the Country, but not the territorial water borders. Under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Indian Coast Guard has the right to act on the high seas if any action taking place against national Interests. As the States are struggling to get some control over territorial waters, the speedy acquisition of Mechanized Boats, Trawlers, etc would go a long way in ensuring security up to 12 nautical miles and time has come for synergizing the efforts of all enforcement agencies.

The following points were made during the discussion:

  • The Coast Guard has already started training the Marine Police who were deputed from State Police and the infrastructure for the Marine Police is being created and the boats are being allotted.

  • It is important to have a nodal agency, which can foresee threats to maritime boundary without any warning. As various Ministries and State governments are involved, Marine Police should not add up to the confusion and the efforts of all the Ministries and actors should be synergized. While so, the Coast Guard is dealing with 8 Ministries, 28 State Governments and various NGOs and thus Coast Guard is becoming the Nodal Agency particularly for intelligence at sea.

  •  In spite of several incidents of hijacking and piracy in the high seas, the laws prevailing at present are inadequate and the offenders go scot-free. Therefore the law enforcement mechanisms should be strengthened and we should not get mired in the enactments of these laws.

  • There were wide criticisms for assigning the responsibilities of Maritime Security to the State Police, as (1) it is not the core area of responsibility (2) they may not be interested in going to sea (3) they may be too mature, etc. Instead of creating marine Police as another wing, it was suggested that the Police Personnel trained by Coast guard can be present on-board the Coast Guard vessels. 

  • Though the Coast Guard has the authority under the IPC and CrPC to prosecute the offenders, they have no jails and no adequate administrative set-up for prosecuting. Therefore, it was suggested during the discussion that as and when the Coast Guard catches the offenders, they can hand over them to the Marine Police who are present on board the ship and the State Police can arrest them.  

  • The surveillance on the Maritime Boundaries is to be strengthened by the installation of chain of radars all along the country’s coast to monitor up to 12 nautical miles. Also, 500 meters around the Off-shore Oil Platforms in the Bombay High has been declared as sterile zone and Coast Guard is patrolling the area with Ships, Helicopters, Aircrafts, etc. In the aftermath of September 11,2001, with the implementation of International ship and Port Facilities Securities Code (ISPS), Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) and Container Security Initiative (CSI), the threats to international maritime trade could be minimized. The piracy incidents on the Merchant Ships have come down due to the concept of ‘Eyes In the Sky’ (EIS) initiated by the littorals in the Malacca Straits. The aspect of how the littorals pooled together to remove the stigma of being a high-risk area for shipping was discussed at length.

The highlight of the discussion was that:

  1. The coastal States should be involved in protecting the coastal areas and Maritime Security of the country
  2. coastal borders should be given the sanctity as that of the land borders
  3. the provisions of IPC & CrPC with regard to Piracy and Terrorism be amplified
  4. training to the Marine Police should be structured, streamlined and approved, and
  5. the operations of various agencies involved in the Maritime Security of the country should be synergized.


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