Preventing another 26/11: 'We are monitoring each and every part of the sea'

Ahead of Navy Day, the Western Naval Command chief explained the efforts to ensure they are prepared to quash future attacks similar to 26/11

Forty-four years ago on this very day, the Indian Navy dealt a paralysing blow to Karachi Harbour, destroying ships at anchorage — a key victory that resulted in India’s victory in the conflict with Pakistan, leading to the liberation of Bangladesh.

Vice Admiral Surinder Pal Singh Cheema invited media persons aboard INS Vikramaditya, the country’s largest aircraft carrier, as it took to the sea from the Gateway of India. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Vice Admiral Surinder Pal Singh Cheema invited media persons aboard INS Vikramaditya, the country’s largest aircraft carrier, as it took to the sea from the Gateway of India. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Over four decades later, the Indian Navy remains a formidable force at sea, said Vice Admiral Surinder Pal Singh Cheema, the flag officer of the Western Naval Command. Ahead of Navy Day — marked by the nation in honour of the 1971 naval triumph — Cheema had invited media persons aboard INS Vikramaditya, the country’s largest aircraft carrier, to highlight the Navy’s accomplishments.

As we took to the sea from the Gateway of India, the question on everybody’s mind was ‘Are we prepared for another 26/11-type attack?’ In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the terrorists had invaded the city’s shores in a fishing boat.

“The Navy is now prepared to prevent another such episode,” said Cheema, adding, “We are constantly in touch with the Coast Guard, marine police, shipping and customs authorities, Mumbai Police and local fishermen. We have high-end technologies and radars and are virtually monitoring each and every part of the sea. To avoid a 26/11-like incident, we have focused on fishermen. We have maximum interaction with them through festivals, medical camps, etc.”

A senior naval officer said efforts were on to register all Indian fishermen to ensure quick identification whenever needed.

“We have asked fishermen to register for biometric chips with all their information and are offering a diesel subsidy as an incentive so more of them come forward. In Maharashtra, there are over 30,000 fishing boats; over 10,000 fishermen have registered so far.”

Just two months ago, the Navy conducted extensive invasion drills at 37 points across the western coastline as part of the Sagar Kavach exercise. Naval officers were divided into two teams – one tried to invade, while the other attempted to block them.

“Communication between all the agencies is so strong that through our co-ordination, a suspect will be found and destroyed within minutes,” said another top officer, adding that the Navy also taught 65 cops from the Sagari police station how to swim, so Mumbai Police is also better prepared for any eventuality.

Protecting the seas
Cheema also highlighted the Navy’s other, equally impressive feats. “The navy is not meant only for war. India has a strong maritime presence; not a single pirate incident has taken place in our jurisdiction since 2008, which is a big achievement. 60 per cent of the nation’s wealth comes from trade across the Indian Ocean and safeguarding this is our priority,” he said.

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