Effectiveness of India's maritime preparedness tested in two-day mega exercise

NEW DELHI: India’s preparedness to deal with all possible challenges in the maritime domain, including contingencies from peace to war-time, was tested in a two-day multi-agency military exercise that covered the 7,516 km-long coastline and exclusive economic zone, officials said on Thursday.

The second edition of exercise ‘Sea Vigil’, which concluded on Wednesday evening, particularly focused on the efficacy of the measures initiated to plug gaps in the coastal security set up following the Mumbai terror attack in 2008, they said.

The Indian Navy said the “envisaged objectives” of the exercise were met by the whole-hearted participation of all stakeholders.

The exercise involved deployment of the entire coastal security apparatus and more than 110 surface assets of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard participated in the exercise that was billed as India’s largest coastal defence drill, the officials said.

“The conceptual and geographical expanse of Sea Vigil included the entire coastline and exclusive economic zone of the country and contingencies from peace to war-time were exercised. In addition, mitigation measures, on shore, in case of any breach in coastal security were also validated,” the Navy said in a statement.

The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have taken a series of measures to bolster India’s coastal security after the Mumbai terror attack in which over 166 people, including 28 foreigners from 10 nations, were killed by a group of Pakistani terrorists.

The group of 10 Pakistani terrorists carried out the coordinated attack on a railway station, two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre on November 26, 2008, after they sneaked into India’s financial capital using a route in the Arabian Sea.

The inaugural edition of the Sea Vigil exercise took place in January 2019.

In addition to assets of the Indian Navy, a large number of platforms of the Marine Police and the Customs Department were also deployed during the second edition of the mega drill.

“The entire coastline was kept under surveillance by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard aircraft, and helicopters were also pressed into service to reinforce special operations personnel operating onboard offshore platforms,” the Navy said.

It said the security mechanism of ports was validated and their crisis management plans were assessed to tackle emergencies.

State police teams, Indian Navy Marine Commandos and Commandos from the National Security Guard carried out drills to tackle possible acts of “maritime terrorism”, the Navy said.

“This exercise also validated the technical surveillance infrastructure called the National Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (NC3I) Network. The Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurugram and its various nodes across Indian Navy and Coast Guard stations were exercised for coordinating the surveillance and information dissemination mechanism,” the Navy said.

It said the cooperation and coordination among various agencies involved in the maritime domain is a “reassuring sign” of progress made in the realm of coastal defence.

“The exercise would go a long way in enhancing coastal defence and national security in the maritime domain,” the Navy said.

The Sea Vigil exercise took place at a time when India and China are locked in a bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

In sync with the national security doctrine, the Indian Navy significantly increased its deployment of warships, submarines and other assets in the Indian Ocean Region, in an attempt to send across a message to China that Indian armed forces are fully prepared to deal with any challenge.