Antony warns Navy against complacency

New Delhi: Cautioning the Navy against complacency, Defence Minister AK Antony on Wednesday said some recent incidents have brought to fore the need for further strengthening the country`s coastal and maritime security.

"Our maritime forces are capable of protecting our frontier, however this should not lead one into feeling of complacency. There have been isolated incidents, which have highlighted the need to further strengthen our coastline and maritime security," Antony said in New Delhi.

Addressing the three-day Naval Commanders Conference here, Antony said the Indian Navy has been mandated to be the `net security provider` to island nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The Defence Minister said the incidents of piracy in Indian Ocean continue to remain a serious concern. "Indian Navy has been mandated to be the net security provider to island nations in the IOR. We would like to assure our maritime neighbours about our unstinted support for their security and economic prosperity," he said.

On security of Indian maritime and coastal regions, he said the efforts made by the agencies must show improvement in their response mechanism on the ground. "Our coastline is vast and round-the-clock patrolling is not an easy proposition. Naval ships, submarines and aircrafts are being extensively deployed, but still a lot more needs to be done. At the end of the day, all our collective efforts must show more improvement in our response mechanism on the ground," Antony said.

The Defence Minister said that several measures have been taken to strengthen the coastal security such as establishment of joint operation centres, induction of Fast Interception Crafts and setting up of Sagar Prahari Bal. "Several security exercises and awareness drives have been conducted by the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine police of coastal states to sensitize the fishing community about threats from the sea. Such exercises must be replicated as frequently as possible," he said.

Antony applauded the efforts of Indian Navy in checking piracy and called for a collective approach from the international community as well on the issue. "The incidents of piracy in Indian Ocean continue to remain a serious concern. Though the presence and proactive efforts of our Navy to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Aden have prevented many incidents, the international community as a whole needs to do a lot more collectively," he said.

The Defence Minister said the fight against piracy includes many dimensions such as operational aspects, legal issues and following the best practices for merchant ships.
Acknowledging the benefits of exercises conducted in South China Sea, East China Sea and Western Pacific, Antony stressed upon the need to maintain a balance among the various responsibilities of Indian Navy.

"Although reaching out to our extended neighbourhood is important, you must always be mindful of the core area of your responsibility that mainly includes preserving and strengthening our shore lines and coastal security," he said.

On shortfall of officers in Navy he said the shortage has to be bridged in a time-bound manner. "This challenge does not afford instant solutions. The shortage has to be bridged in a time-bound manner, by enhancing training capacity and taking diverse measures to make the services more attractive for the youth," he said.