India and the maritime challenge ahead


The coming together of the Al-Shahbab and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba is something that has Indian agencies worried. In fact this combination would mean that India has its task cut out when it comes to protecting its waters against deadly attacks. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that the many pirates who have been nabbed on Indian waters continue to be interrogated everyday and the details that they have been giving out is a cause for concern where maritime security in India is concerned. Some of the interrogations have revealed that the pirates from Somalia who have been pretty dominant on Indian waters have been sponsored directly by the deadly Al-Shahbab group which is a militant group operating out of Somalia. This group has links with the Al-Qaeda and carries out its operations. The cadres of this group specialize more on sea and have been using the pirates for their operations. The IB says that not all the pirates who come into Indian waters are associated with a terrorist group and while watching the pattern it becomes clear that every one out of ten attacks is attributed to some terrorist group. India has witnessed at least 200 attacks so far from pirates. Not all of them are terrorist attacks, but the worry is that such attacks go on to show that these people are picking up logistics and providing it to terrorist groups. Through such attacks they create a distraction for security agencies who tend to focus on one route while activity goes on in another. Further when they capture vessels they also do manage to raise funds for terror outfits. The detail that has been most revealing during the interrogation of these pirates is that the Al-Shahbab group which has been closely associated with the Al-Qaeda is now cozying up to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba which is probably India’s biggest headache. The intelligence reports suggest that the Lashkar-Al-Shahbab association will look to carry out more attacks on Indian waters and one could witness plenty of hostage crisis’ in the near future, if not acted upon. An officer dealing with maritime says that it is extremely difficult to keep a tab on the entire ocean. It is not just the job of India to keep such activities under check and there has to be maritime cooperation between countries in order to address this issue. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during his visit to Africa recently has addressed this concern and his counterparts have assured of all cooperation in this regard. The officer points out that it is important that such activities are cut off at the source. It is a herculean task, but can be done if taken seriously. Based on the interrogation of these pirates, Intelligence has been picked up and this would go on to suggest that the Lashkar has created an entirely new wing under the leadership of a terrorist by the name Abu Yakoob to launch attacks from the sea. He in turn has roped in three different outfits to ensure that such attacks are well planned and coordinated. There is not much really that the Lashkar is looking from the pirate groups in terms of support during the actual attack. The pirates would continue to go about their operations since this would keep the Indian agencies engaged while the terrorist groups create newer routes. The Al-Shahbab which has control over such pirates has been told to increase the number of attacks and not worry too much about results for now. On the other hand the Yakoob has roped in the Abu-Sayaf and Jemaah Islamyah groups to help with their maritime operation. The Lashkar along with these groups has been training terrorists on a very large scale in Pakistan. There have been instances to show that there are movements between Pakistan and Somalia with an intention of planning more attacks on a larger scale. While the Lashkar will rope in more such groups in the days to come, the entire operation would be headquartered at Karachi as was like during the 26/11 attack. While the Lashkar would try and execute attacks on the sea, they would also use this team of theirs’ to launch attacks on land as well. Coastal areas in India will be under the scanner since these would be the obvious targets. The IB says that one should also look at this issue in various other ways. It is not sufficient if all precautions are taken to prevent an attack. Apart from launching attacks on Indian soil and waters, terrorist groups would also look to transport ammunition and also send in cadres into Indian soil. This gives an indication that the borders are no longer the favourite choice of terror groups to carry out an infiltration process. In the days to come they would use the sea more to infiltrate their troupes into Indian soil, the intelligence agencies also say. India’s coastal security team however say that the situation is not all that grim. We have our eyes open to this issue and there is a great deal of exercise which is on to prevent such attacks. The Indian navy has withdrawn a lot of its activities in various countries such as the UK and France and is focusing all its resouces on the Indian waters. Today there are at least 400 warships which are on guard which means that the deployment has gone up nearly 90 per cent after the horrid 26/11 attack. There is a great deal of reliance on human intelligence as well. In the coastal belts many more coastal police stations have been set up and fishermen have been roped in to provide intelligence regarding any suspicious activity. An attractive sum depending on the nature of the job is being paid and each one of them have been provided with cell phones to keep the police informed. While this has been helping the security agencies, they do still feel that the government should act faster on various other aspects. There is an extent that we can rely on human intelligence, says a coastal security officer posted on the Mangalore coast. We have been seeking for electronic survillience since it would make the job easier and effective. So far there have been communications galore, but there has been no clearence on this. The government post 26/11 had assured that such security measures would be given top priority and all issues pertaining to terror threats would be fast tracked. However not much has changed on this front, officials also point out.

Author: Vicky Nanjappa

just a reporter

One thought on “India and the maritime challenge ahead”

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