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Seamless coordination among maritime security agencies needed: NSA Doval

NEW DELHI (PTI):  National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has called for seamless coordination among various agencies involved in protecting India's maritime interests, saying it will not be able to become the power it deserves to be in absence of a very strong maritime security apparatus.

In the context of changing geopolitical scenario, Doval said the Indian Ocean, which has been an "ocean of peace", is witnessing rivalries and competitions and India needs to protect its interests as the region has the potential to witness clash of interests.

His comments at the first meeting of the MultiAgency Maritime Security Group (MAMSG) came amid growing concerns over China's increasing forays into the Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy.

In his address on Thursday to top maritime and coastal security brass from all 13 coastal states and Union Territories as well Indian Navy and other central agencies, Doval said security at the high seas and economic well being is inextricably linked and all stakeholders must work unitedly.

"The trajectory of this nation is well defined. We know where we are going. And when our time comes...We as a nation have to be strong. India will not be able to become the power it deserves to be unless it has a very strong maritime system," Doval said.

The meeting was chaired by Vice Admiral (retd) G Ashok Kumar, the country's first National Maritime Security Coordinator, a post created to ensure coordination among various agencies responsible for overall maritime security matrix.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar was among the top officials who attended the deliberations.

Emphasising the salience of maritime security in an increasingly complex and challenging landscape, the NSA underscored the need for seamless coordination.

Describing the Indian ocean as a "great asset" for the country, Doval said the country's vulnerabilities are directly proportional to its assets and that India's responsibility as a premier maritime power is extremely important.

"More we develop, the more assets we create, the more prosperous we get, greater would be the vulnerability and the need for security in the maritime domain," he said.

In national security discourse, the importance of land and maritime borders are very different, Doval said, adding one cannot fence the maritime borders and that the disputes in seas are resolved through international norms and laws while land disputes are bilateral in nature.

He also said denying accessibility to foreign intelligence agencies looking to undertake espionage activities is a major challenge.

Doval also referred to initiatives like the Colombo security conclave for cooperation among the like-minded countries in the maritime domain and that it could be expanded further.

"Our responsibility as a premier maritime power is extremely important," he said.

"In the changing geopolitical scenario, the Indian ocean, which has been an ocean of peace, is gradually becoming competitive. We see a potential of having a clash of interest, we need to protect it and be vigilant," he said.

In his remarks, Doval referred to the 26/11 Mumbai attack while underlining the importance of the National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC).

The NSA said NMSC is the focal point to bring in synergy in maritime security domain and galvanise coordination in various aspects including operational action.

He said the standard operating procedures need to be built and all the stakeholders and agencies need to speak the same language in dealing with maritime security challenges.

There is a requirement of a common operational picture, coordination has to be in an actionable fashion, Doval said, noting that "access to the data banks that we have at various levels are very important".

There is a requirement of standardisation of protocols, SOPs which need to be made through consensus. The NMSC's doors will always be open for each one of you, he noted.

In a major decision to reform coordination of maritime security affairs at the apex level, the Union Cabinet in November last year approved the creation of the post of NMSC under the NSA.

With this decision, a longstanding recommendation of the 2001 Group of Ministers (GOM) report on 'Reforming the National Security System' was implemented.

Kumar assumed charge as the country's first NMSC on February 16 this year.

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