India's coastal security apparatus around Lakshadweep chain of islands will receive a boost when a new Coast Guard (CG) headquarters and a station will start functioning at Kavaratti and Minicoy respectively on Friday.
The CG headquarters and station are coming up at a time when the Indian waters off Lakshadweep Islands chain in the Arabian Sea have witnessed increased pirate activity in recent months.
The headquarters of the CG district-12 in Kavaratti, Lakshadweep's capital and the station at Minicoy are part of the Coast Guard's expansion plans for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan ending 2012.
Defence Minister A K Antony will be declaring the new CG headquarters and station open in the presence of CG Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra on December 24, a Defence Ministry official said in New Delhi on Wednesday.
"Continuing with the government's efforts to bolster coastal security, the Defence Minister will be going on a day's visit to Lakshadweep on Friday to open two CG establishments -- CG district headquarters-12 at Kavaratti and the CG station at Minicoy," he said.
"The headquarters at Kavaratti will facilitate closer coordination among CG, Lakshadweep Union Territory officials and other stakeholders on matters concerning maritime interests. It will be instrumental in executing quick decisions for fast developing situations at sea around the island chain," he added.
The coastal security set up in Lakshadweep chain is undergoing major modifications and restructuring so as to keep a check on pirate and illegal activities in and around the Indian waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Lakshadweep already has a CG station functioning at Kavaratti.
Apart from the Minicoy CG station, Lakshadweep will also have a CG air station there soon, apart from another station at Androth, according to officials.
"The Minicoy station will be small in size with minimum number of officers and personnel. There will be an interceptor boat attached to the station in the initial period. But it will certainly be effective in keeping Indian interests and maritime security needs in our area of responsibility in the Arabian Sea," officials said.
At the air station, the CG would operate its Dornier maritime patrol aircraft.
These are all part of India's efforts to have a robust coastal security mechanism in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
The CG has in the recent months commissioned five new stations at Karwar (Karnataka), Gandhinagar and Veraval (both Gujarat), Hutbay (Andaman Islands) and Murud Janjira (Maharashtra) to augment the maritime security force's strength and expand its presence.
The Arabian Sea, closer to the Indian mainland and Lakshadweep Islands, have witnessed a couple of Somali pirate attacks on merchant vessels, including a Bangladeshi vessel, in the recent months.
The Navy has also chased away two mother ships of the sea brigands that were operating in the area, apart from apprehending 14 Pakistanis and five Iranians, who claimed to be fishermen but had anchored off Lakshadweep with their fishing net in its hold on board their dhow.
The Navy also had to send a multi-ship force to the area in late October this year after a spurt in pirate activity was reported from the area.
Located between 200 and 400 kilometers from Kerala coast, Lakshadweep archipelago comprises 36 islands with a total area of about 32 sqkm. Only 11 of these islands are inhabited.
The territorial waters are about 20,000 sqkm and the EEZ extends to four lakh sqkm.
"Increasing incidents of piracy very near Lakshadweep in recent times have added a whole new dimension to threat perception in the region. The group of islands are also vulnerable to maritime pollution as two of the world's busiest sea lanes of communication are abounding it," the official noted.
The Eight Degree Channel, which separates Minicoy Island and Maldives, witnesses maritime traffic of about 30 to 40 merchant vessels a day.