Indian Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi has warned about the dangers of letting unregulated floating armouries into India‚Äôs maritime waters, as it could lead to situations like the Mumbai attack. He issued the warning in the context of the recent seizure of a privately-owned US ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio, off the coast of Tuticorin. The vessel was carrying a large quantity of weapons to be distributed among the personnel on board the merchant ships before they went into high-risk waters. This may appear legitimate business but the danger of such arms reaching the hands of terrorists and posing a threat to India‚Äôs vital interests cannot be ruled out.
The situation has become especially problematic for India as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) extended the ‚Äúhigh-risk area‚Äù for commercial shipping from the ‚Äúpirate alley‚Äù along the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden to almost all of the Arabian Sea in 2011. The IMO‚Äôs decision was flawed, as it was not based on any evidence that there has been any threat of piracy off the Indian coast. It was the wrong perception that was at work when two Italian marines mistook Indian fishermen for pirates and shot them. India should, thus, insist upon the IMO to roll back its decision to extend the high-risk area, which legitimises to some extent floating armouries and equipping of shipping crew with arms.
India has one of the largest coastal areas which, it must be admitted, are not adequately protected. One reason why 26/11 occurred was because the Pakistani terrorists had little difficulty in evading the Indian Navy, the Coast Guards and the Mumbai police before reaching the Indian shores and creating mayhem in the business capital. Post 26/11, a comprehensive coastal security system was drawn up but it still remains on the anvil. Only 34 of the proposed 46 static coastal radars are in place. All the proposed coastal police stations have not been set up. Coast Guard-Navy coordination, too, is below par.