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Defence minister had warned of maritime terrorism in 2007

The Rediff News Bureau | November 27, 2008 14:53 IST

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With top police officials confirming that terrorists used boats to transport their arsenal -- and bypass routine security checks on Mumbai's roads -- prior to their assault on the Taj Mahal [Images] Hotel and other prime targets in South Mumbai, talk is that 'marine terrorism' is the new fear in town.

Not true -- or at least, not unanticipated. March 9, 2007, Defence Minister A K Antony cited intelligence reports to inform the Lok Sabha of the possibility that terrorists would use sea routes to enter the country.

In his statement of the time, Antony identified maritime terrorism, gun-running and piracy as major threats along India's seas, and said the government had worked out a menu of measures aimed at enhancing coastal security.

Antony was quoting from intelligence analysis at the time that said the sealing of land borders along the north and west of India, terrorist outfits were increasingly looking to the sea as an alternate means of entry, and training cadres to use the sea lanes.

A month earlier, at a governmental security review meeting, top intelligence officials warned that Pakistan-sponsored terror groups were turning their attention to sea routes.

Officials pointed at two prongs to this strategy: One, that sea lanes would be used to smuggle in large quantities of arms and ammunition, thus foiling the routine road checks; and two, that coast-based targets such as Mumbai's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre or Reliance [Get Quote] Petrochemicals would be targets of future strikes.

Defence Minister Antony said the Coast Guard was working on methods to augment its infrastructure. A Rs 500-crore coastal security scheme had already been launched in 2005, and envisaged the creation of 73 coastal police stations across nine coastal states over a period of five years. To augment this, a scheme titled Operation Swan was discussed to strengthen security along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coastline.

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