AK Antony
Defense Minister AK Antony.Reuters

In view of incidents of attack by pirates, smuggling and killings in the Oceans, Defence Minister of India, A K Antony has directed the Home Ministry and Ministry of Shipping to come out with a plan of action and regulations for private maritime security.

 Antony chaired an inter-ministerial meeting to review the coastal security of India on Tuesday. According to a release by the Ministry, the effort would lead to better regulation on the issue of floating armoury and carrying private armed guards and weapons in Indian maritime zones.

The Indian Coast Guard arrested 35 members on a US ship that was said to be transporting weapons and ammunition near Tamil Nadu last month. Of the arrested, 25 people were said to be private security guards hired to provide protection to the ship. The merchandise ships are said to be hiring private security to safeguard themselves against the increasing pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean region.

Two Indian fishermen were also allegedly killed by Italian marines in an oil tanker that was cruising near Kerala last year.

The meeting was attended by Shiv Shankar Menon, National Security Advisor, Admiral D K Joshi, Chief of Naval Staff, R K Mathur, Defence Secretary and senior officers from Ministries of Defence, Home, Petroleum, Shipping and Agriculture, Customs, Navy and Coast Guard.

Maritime security has become a matter of concern since the 26/11 terror incident where coordinated attacks by 12 gunmen killed over 160 people and injured over 300 in Mumbai in November 2008. The perpetrators were said to have reached Mumbai through sea using private ship and a boat.

Since the attack, several regulations have been put in place such as mandatory registration of fishing boats, issue of bio-metric identification cards to the fishermen, formation of State Maritime Boards, designation of shipping lanes in ports, survey and monitoring of landing zones along the Indian coast.

In coordination with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, 46 coastal stations have been set-up as part of Coastal Surveillance Network for round the clock monitoring of the Indian waters. In the phase-II of the project, another 38 radar stations are planned along the coast.