The Indian Navy’s proposal to have a multi-agency integrated body focusing exclusively on maritime intelligence and data analysis to strengthen coastal security is likely to get a green signal from the government early next year.
The National Maritime Domain Awareness Centre (NMDAC) is envisaged on the existing Multi Agency Centre (MAC) under the Ministry of Home Affairs where intelligence inputs from all agencies are shared at a common platform, but this will only focus on maritime intelligence.
The proposal is awaiting clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and is expected to get a go-ahead in the next 2-3 months, sources said.
The CCS is headed by the Prime Minister and includes the ministers of Home, Defence, Finance and External Affairs.
Common platform for sharing maritime intelligence
It is proposed that the body will have representation and get real-time inputs from Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Indian Coast Guard, Customs, ministry of shipping, department of fisheries and over 300 marine police stations and state agencies along India’s 7516 km of coastline.
Once implemented, the NMDAC will collate information and data from multiple sources for swifter action. “It will enhance situational awareness, lead to pooling of manpower. It will cut down duplication of work and expenditure of national agencies,” said an official from the security establishment.
Measures after 26/11
After the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008 carried out by 10 Pakistani terrorists who took the sea route from Karachi reaching Mumbai, killing 166 people after laying a siege on the city, several measures were taken to enhance coastal security and many of the proposals are finally getting shape now.
The Indian Navy has been acting as the nodal agency for maritime security getting inputs from many central and state agencies. The Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) of the Indian Navy in Gurugram coordinates monitoring of India’s coastline. “The centre is the hub of maritime security collation and dissemination and envisaged to transform into an apex maritime domain awareness centre which will function as a multi-agency centre,” said a naval official.
As part of measures to enhance coastal security mechanism, Joint Operations Centres of the Navy at Mumbai, Cochin, Visakhapatnam and Port Blair play a pivotal role in synergising coastal security efforts of over 15 central and coastal state government agencies.
Challenges at Sea
At any given time, there are close to 12,000 ships in the Indian Ocean Region and hundreds of fishing vessels that need to be always monitored. There are close to 3 lakh Indian fishing vessels operating in the sea.
With the highest density of fishing vessels in its territorial waters for a country of its size, India’s maritime security challenges need focused attention.
As China has enhanced its forays into the Indian Ocean Region over the last few years and the terror threat from Pakistan always existing a focused approach for enhancing maritime domain awareness has been the need of the hour.
The National Command Control Communication and Intelligence (NC³I) Network, facilitates interlinking of naval and coast guard stations and development of a common operational platform enhancing overall maritime domain awareness.
“The upcoming National MDA Project (NMDA) now intends to integrate a greater number of stakeholders into a common national maritime information grid, to significantly enhance overall awareness,” said an official.
Keeping in mind the challenges post 26/11 attack several initiatives were taken including setting up of National Committee for Coastal and Maritime Security (NCSMCS) in 2009, Steering Committee for Review of Coastal Security (SCRCS) in 2013, and the State and District level Coastal Security Committees in 2016.
A National Maritime Authority (NMA) is yet to be finalised but the inter-agency set-up spearheaded by the Indian Navy that is now expected to turn into a full-time integrated hub for maritime intelligence.
To make an assessment of the measures taken last year in January the Indian Navy conducted the first of its kind exercise Sea Vigil. The large-scale exercise witnessed participation of more than 70 ships, 700 craft and 35 aircraft of the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, State Marine Police, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and other agencies, across all coastal States and Union Territories.
Indian Navy’s international linkages
Apart from carrying out wargames with friendly nations, the Indian Navy is able to get real-time information through its Information Fusion Centre- Indian Ocean Region. With an association with 22 countries including Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Maldives, USA, New Zealand, Mauritius, Myanmar and Bangladesh among others along with 22 multinational agencies allows quick sharing of information in the Indian Ocean Region. The International Fusion Centre was started in December 2018 facilitating maritime information to the member countries.