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India to set up National MDA grid for coastal security

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NEW DELHI (PTI): The government is all set to implement a National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) for integrating and creating a common information grid for all sea-faring agencies for effective coastal security measures, drawing lessons from the Mumbai terror strikes.

Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said in his annual press conference here that once implemented, the NMDA would enable effective sharing of maritime related information seamlessly among all stakeholders for informed decisions and faster response by security agencies.

"Towards creating a common information grid to synergise the efforts of all stakeholders, an approach paper for achieving comprehensive Maritime Domain Awareness was formulated by the Navy in March this year," Verma said on the coastal security measures put in place following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

"The concept of National MDA was approved by the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) in April 2010 and subsequently, the Navy has formulated a Detailed Project Report for implementing it as a national project," he said.

Noting that the Navy had maintained its timeline in the complex, but extremely important endeavour, Verma said, "Once implemented, integrated National MDA will enable effective sharing of maritime related information among all stakeholders, thereby leading to more informed decision making and faster response by security agencies."

Asked about the proposal to have a Maritime Security Advisor for the government on the lines of the National Security Advisor, the Navy Chief said his force was pursuing it "vigorously" at one point of time as the purpose was to have somebody to bring the diverse agencies together to ensure the nation had foolproof coastal security.

"But then unfortunately 26/11 happened. But today I would say that the Navy is fulfilling the task of bringing everybody together...if not as an executive agency, but as a coordinating agency," he said.

"The tasks we envisaged for MSA is already happening. In due course of time, we need to give it a different structure and we could look at that," he said.

Verma said the Navy has already established four Joint Operation Centres at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair.

In addition, the state Marine Police and other agencies such as Customs, Intelligence Bureau and Ports were also networked with these centres. Besides these, each coastal district is under an Area Operations Centre for coordinating coastal security activities.

The Navy, along with Coast Guard and other agencies, carried out coastal security exercises in every coastal state to achieve and maintain a high level of synergy, he said.

"In all, ten exercises on the West coast, nine on the East coast, two in Lakshwadeep islands and two in Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been conducted this year. During these exercises, several contingency scenarios were simulated and all agencies with a stake in coastal security participated, with a view to improve coordination, achieve integration and improve the coastal security mechanism even further," he added.

Verma said the Navy also made efforts to create awareness among the large fishing community in the coastal villages and towns to integrate it into the coastal security matrix through 89 campaigns covering all coastal districts.

"This is an ongoing endeavour, and will be continued in the years ahead," he said.

Noting that improving awareness of the maritime domain was the key to maritime security, the Navy Chief said it was not a localised action to be undertaken by a single agency.

But it was one that required participation of many agencies at the national level including the Navy and Coast Guard, government departments concerned with maritime activities, governments of coastal states and island territories, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and other stakeholders in maritime security, he added.

Verma said the Navy had pressed forward to enhancing maritime security and safeguarding our economic and strategic interests and it was committed in providing security not only in the Indian Ocean Region but also overall access in the oceans wherever Indian interests lay.

"Over the past year we have maintained a high tempo of operations. Our ships, submarines and aircraft have conducted sustained operations towards safeguarding our maritime interests in the form of naval exercises as well as cooperative security initiatives in support of our foreign policy," he said.


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