Antony calls for securing coasts, island territories

Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday said that the government attached "highest priority" to coastal defence.

New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday said that the government attached "highest priority" to coastal defence, including the island territories, and asked the Navy
to expedite acquiring assets and implementing security measures approved after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

"Coastal security is a very high priority for the government and the nation. Navy plays a key role in this with heavy and overall responsibility (given after 26/11 terror attacks)," he said addressing the Navy Commanders at their four-day biannual conference here.

"Government is equipping both Navy and the Coast Guard for coastal surveillance and patrol both in terms of assets and manpower. Proposals towards this end have been approved. It is now the responsibility of all of you to ensure that these are put in place at the earliest and used effectively and efficiently for coastal security," he said.

After the Mumbai attacks, the government had entrusted the overall responsibility of coastal security to the Navy and had approved acquisition of ships, boats, aircraft, helicopters under fast track process for surveillance and patrol, apart from creating a radar network along the 7,500-km-long coastline and raising of the Sagar Prahari Bal by the Navy as a specialist force for the purpose.

The Defence Minister said the government was fully committed to the modernisation of the Navy and funds would not be allowed to become a constraint in this regard.

The Defence Ministry, Antony said, was "trying its best" to suitably fine tune the procurement process from time to time "to bring in more transparency, efficiency and
accountability" and the annual review of the Defence Procurement Procedure was one such step in the direction.

He said there was a need to "firmly secure our maritime frontiers, waterways and offshore resources on a permanent basis.

"There is a need to create necessary infrastructure for the security of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as also Lakshadweep. Our island territories form natural bulwarks that
extend our strategic arms to our East and West, and also function as the last outpost for the defence of our mainland," he said.

"Considering the importance of the eastern region, we need to create the necessary infrastructure in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Similarly, Lakshadweep Islands, which straddle the oil artery of the world, require our undivided attention," he said.

Referring to the threat posed by piracy, especially off
the coast of Somalia, he said it continued to be a major
concern as piracy affected the security and economy of the
entire region.

His discussion with the Sultan of Oman and other
functionaries of the Gulf country during his recent two-day
visit gave "new hints" (on piracy), which should be pursued
seriously, he added.

Regarding shipbuilding efforts, Antony said the recent
commissioning of the first indigenous stealth frigate, INS
Shivalik, in Mumbai last month was a welcome development, and
called for adherence to time line and quality standards to
meet indigenisation requirements.

India is currently building 33 warships and submarines,
which are in various stages of construction, in its shipyards
for the Navy.

"Our efforts to modernise the Navy through indigenisation
will proceed at the desired pace only if the shipyards embrace
modern ideas and technology. This will enable the shipyards to
produce the best quality ships in a shorter time frame and at
competitive costs. The Navy and the shipyards must interact
closely with other agencies to meet contractual time line and
adhere to the best quality standards," he added.