By Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. 01 February, 2016. 2015 has been an year in which Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has not only augmented its presence in the Indian waters but also seems to be coming out of the shadows of the big brother Indian Navy. The year gone has been an year of action and activity for ICG . On an average 12 ships per day at sea and five aircraft are engaged in surveillance, which means that a total of 3,616 ship days at patrol was clocked to keep the enemy at bay.
To boost the morale of the force which has always been under the shadow of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard got its first own three star officer when the Defence Ministry approved the promotion of IG Rajendra Singh as Additional Director General, a rank equivalent to Lt General. Earlier, Coast Guard officials could rise only to the rank of Inspector General, equal to Major General. The elevation of Singh, a 1980 batch officer, is seen as increasing the role of the Indian Coast Guard particularly after the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks.
Amongst the many acquisition to keep the ICG in the state-of-art and to keep in pace with planned inductions to double the force level by 2018 , last year saw an increase of 23 ships which included one pollution control vessel, one offshore patrol vessel , 9 fast patrol vessels and 11 interceptor boats, making it a 120 vessels and 62 aircraft strong force. The force has come a long way seven ships in 1978 at its inception and will keep strengthening itself, keeping in mind its growing necessity to India’s maritime security.
A fifth region of ICG, was carved out of the Coast Guard Region (East) to support operations in the northern Bay of Bengal. The CGR (North East) is spread over 740 km along the coasts and consists of nine coastal districts with a jurisdiction up to the Indo-Bangladesh International Maritime Boundary Line covering 1.5 lakh sq km of the Indian exclusive economic zone.
C-402, the second of the series of thirty-six Interceptor Boats, H-191, the fifth of the series of twelve Air Cushion Vehicles (ACVs), a 30-metre long interceptor boat with 90 tonnes displacement and a chain of static radar and electro-optic sensors at 84 remote sites along the coast line , added to the strength of ICG in 2015.
ICG’s 38 Dornier Do 228 maritime surveillance aircraft, 4 HAL Dhruv utility helicopters and 18 HAL Chetak utility helicopters keep a constant aerial vigil. But it does require an addition to its fleet keeping in mind the role enhancement in the current geopolitical scenario. It needs to make some pending acquisitions. The acquisition process of 14 helicopters for the Indian Coast Guard after the technical bids had been evaluated in 2013 seems to have slackened. Eurocopter’s EC 725 helicopter. Agusta Westland and Sikorsky were the initial bidders but currently neither ICG nor the aspiring companies have anything new to update on that front. The dwindling air fleet of the force is a matter of concern and both MOD and ICG need to hasten up the speed of acquisition.
Today when the Indian Coast Guard is celebrating its 39th anniversary, a question which comes to the mind is – why did the MOD need a 26/11 to waken up to the importance of the force’s role in maintaining India’s maritime security?