Months after 26/11, still no maritime security advisor


New Delhi : Soon after the Mumbai terror attacks, the government had announced that it will appoint a Maritime Security Advisor (MSA) for coordination among different agencies responsible for India’s maritime security but it is yet to promulgate the appointment.

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“As it presently stands, it (appointment of MSA) has not been promulgated. Moreover, the modalities for the functioning of the MSA have also not been worked out,” a senior naval official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks highlighted the chinks in the security of the 7,516 km-long coastline of the country and the government announced that it will appoint an MSA, assisted by the Maritime Security Bureau, for policy coordination.

“First of all, the MSA needs to have domain knowledge and secondly it is not clear from where the MSA will get his authority. After all, for moving from one ministry to another he has to be provided with an institutional authority,” the official said.

With different agencies pointing fingers at each other for the security lapse that resulted in 10 armed terrorists slipping into the country’s commercial capital undetected, the government had decided to put the MSA in charge of all maritime security issues.

The appointment of a MSA is sorely needed for cohesive policy-making and coordination among the multiple authorities dealing with maritime affairs: from customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to the shipping ministry and fisheries department, which are often working at cross-purposes.

However, the creation of the MSA has apparently been “put on hold”.

“The government seems to have put the issue on the back-burner as it has given the overall charge of the coastal security to the Indian Navy. But the necessity of an MSA cannot be negated,” the official added.

There are over 15 agencies that have a stake in maritime security besides the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. There are marine police, ports trust, maritime boards, criminal investigation departments, agriculture ministry, fisheries boards, shipping ministry, science and technology ministry, and the Directorate General of Shipping.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) too has a role as it is in charge of the airspace above India’s maritime zone. The customs, Border Security Force (Marine Wing) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence also have an interest in all of this, along with the Intelligence Bureau, and the Research and Analysis Wing.

The information and broadcasting ministry is the nodal agency for satellite communication facilities that vessels and trawlers require. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and other oil companies are also involved.