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'Indian waters safer, but can't rule out Mumbai-like attack' (Roundup)

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Director General of Indian Coast Guard, Vice Admiral A.G. Thapliyal Friday asserted that coastal security has improved significantly since the 2008 Mumbai terror attack but did not rule out the possibility of another attack from the sea route.

The Coast Guard chief also said small boats and floating armouries continue to be threats.

"Fair amount of work has been done (after the Mumbai terror attack)... the efforts are ongoing, but one cannot rule out the possibility (of terror attack)... as terrorists try out-of-the-box ways," said Thapliyal.

He was addressing a press conference here on the eve of the 37th anniversary of the Indian Coast Guard that falls Feb 1.

Responding to a question on the threat of another 26/11-type attack, Thaplial said the terrorists sed a "dinghy" - a small urubberised boat - to reach Mumbai shores and the Coast Guard is developing a technique to detect boats that are less than 20 metres in size.

The Mumbai terror attack by 10 Pakistani terrorists in November 2008 left 166 people dead and around 300 injured.

"Small boats are a cause for concern and we need to attend to that," Thapliyal said, adding fishermen communities are being involved to keep track of any unidentified small boats.

"These boats, which have engines but can mingle around with fishing boats, pose a threat to us."

He said with the addition of more vessels, including one of pollution control, one for offshore patrol, 12 fast patrol ones, eight air-cushioned and seven interceptor boats, the patrolling has gone up by over 75 percent since the Mumbai attack.

He also expressed concern over "floating armouries", similar to the armed MV Seaman Guard Ohio of the US, which was apprehended off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu recently.

"These floating armouries are a matter of concern. Merchant vessels also need protection, but ships loaded with arms sailing close to our coast is a concern," said Thapliyal.

"There should be some regulation, they must declare what they have on the ship," he said.

On the issue of piracy within India's maritime boundary, he said there have been no attacks in the past two years.

"When pressure mounted on Somalian pirates, they shifted their operations east, almost to the west of the Lakshadweep islands," Thapliyal said.

"Operation Island Watch was launched in 2010. It is an ongoing programme, and after the two or three incidents that happened at that time, there has been no piracy in Indian waters," Thapliyal said.

On the repeated attacks on Indian fishermen from Sri Lanka and Pakistan, he said there have been no incidents of attack within the Indian maritime boundary.

He said the coastal surveillance was being strengthened, with the first phase over.

Thapliyal said the government has spent over Rs.600 crore for setting up the coastal security network and earmarked another Rs.650 crore for the programme.

First Published: Fri, January 31 2014. 21:32 IST