India’s coastal security remains as vulnerable as ever due to poor human reflexes despite the lessons learnt (hopefully) from the immense tragedy of 26/11 when 10 members of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) managed to infiltrate by sea into Mumbai and carry out death and destruction for three days.
2. Advance intelligence about the plans of the LET for 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.
3. The failure of the human element and not deficiencies in technical capabilities was largely responsible for the success of the LET. 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. 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 we realise that a successful infiltration by sea had taken place.
4.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 a better co-ordination architecture.
5. 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 security cover in order to prevent any more nasty surprises. This has not been so. The corrective action has fallen short of achieving its aim of identifying and correcting gaps and deficiencies in coastal security.
6. As a result, the nasty surprise of 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 3,2011.
7. “The Hindu” says: “ 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.”
8.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.
9.Only a detailed enquiry can establish what went wrong and why the lack of alertness and inaction on the part of those responsible for our coastal security, but the facts as reported by the paper 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.
10. 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. ( 4-8-11)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )