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Rediff.com  » News » 26/11 and today: Coastal security, the same old story

26/11 and today: Coastal security, the same old story

Last updated on: August 4, 2011 09:38 IST

Post 26/11, coastal security as vulnerable as ever

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Tall claims of improvement in coastal security post 26/11 have been exposed once again, as the Panama-flagged crewless MT Pavit drifted to the Mumbai shore without being detected. Analyst B Raman says it the poor human reflexes to blame.

India's coastal security remains as vulnerable as ever due to poor human reflexes despite the lessons learnt from the immense tragedy of 26/11, when 10 members of Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Tayiba managed to infiltrate by sea into Mumbai and carry wreak havoc for three days.

Advance intelligence about LeT's plans of a sea-borne commando raid was available, but, despite this, the strengthening of the coastal defence and inland security in the targeted coastal areas was unsatisfactory. This offered spectacular success on a platter to the LET.

The failure of the human element and not deficiencies in technical capabilities was largely responsible for LeT's success. There was no advance thinking on what kind of follow-up action was called for on the available intelligence and on how to take that follow-up action and under whose operational leadership.

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Image: Policemen relax near the Gateway of India in Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters
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Failure in identifying deficiencies in coastal security

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There was a total failure of security alertness before the infiltrators managed to land in Mumbai. Only after they had dispersed themselves in small groups and started attacking different targets did security authorities realise that a successful infiltration by sea had taken place.

Corrective action to improve coastal security and alertness was reportedly taken following the nasty surprise of 26/11. This action consisted of more and better boats and other equipment, better training to improve capabilities and better co-ordination architecture.

This corrective action should have normally enabled those in charge of our coastal security particularly in a sensitive area such as the Mumbai coast to enhance the cover in order to prevent any more nasty surprises. But this is not the case. The corrective action has fallen short of achieving its aim of identifying and correcting gaps and deficiencies in coastal security.

Image: A policeman checks a visitor's bag at a security checkpoint at the entrance of the Gateway of India
Photographs: Reuters
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Pavit exposes chinks in coastal security

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As a result, 26/11 has been followed by a highly embarrassing surprise on July 31 when Pavit, a Panama-flagged merchant ship, which had been abandoned by its crew, managed to drift near or in our waters for about 100 hours before finally running aground in Mumbai's Juhu area. A detailed report on this embarrassing surprise has been carried by The Hindu on August 3.

" The Navy, responsible for security beyond 12 nautical miles, the Coast Guard, which patrols the zone between 5 and 12 nautical miles and the newly-created Marine Police, all failed to detect it," the report said.

If the report is correct, a disabled ship, abandoned by its crew, had been drifting for nearly four days near or in our coastal waters before running aground on our shore and none of our agencies responsible for coastal security noticed it, raised an alarm and set in motion a drill for neutralising any possible threat.


Image: MT Pavit drifted across the Arabian sea from Ras Al Madrakah in Oman following engine failure and flooding of its engine room
Photographs: Reuters
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Security personnel poor in alertness, reflexes

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Only a detailed inquiry can establish what went wrong and why the lack of alertness and inaction on the part of those responsible for our coastal security, but reports clearly show that despite the reported improvement in equipment supplied for strengthening coastal security after 26/11, the human element, which uses the equipment, continues to be as poor in its alertness and reflexes as before.

If the human alertness and reflexes do not improve even the best of equipment cannot strengthen our security. This embarrassing incident calls for a detailed enquiry and should not be allowed to be covered up.

Photographs: Reuters
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