The outreach to the 24 countries, spread from Africa's east coast to well beyond the Malacca Strait, is being led by national security adviser Ajit Doval. Though this will take time to fructify, the Modi government is now all set to give the final nod to the national maritime domain awareness (NMDA) project to bolster multi-agency coordination and augment ongoing efforts to strengthen maritime and coastal security.The overall endeavour is to enable the country to keep track of both conventional and unconventional threats in its primary area of geopolitical interest across the Indian Ocean Region and "neutralize" them if required.
A major step towards this will be the inauguration of the central hub of National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network, which can track 30,000-40,000 ships on a daily basis, by defence minister Manohar Parrikar at Gurgaon on Sunday.
Taking feeds and inputs from multiple sources ranging from coastal radars to satellites, the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurgaon will fuse, correlate and analyse them to assess threats at sea.
"It's very easy to guard land borders through fencing, electronic devices and pickets. But at sea, there is no such luxury. The NC3I network will alert us to unusual or suspicious movements and activities at sea," said assistant chief of naval staff (communications, space & network-centric operations) Rear Admiral KK Pandey on Friday.
"The bigger plan is to go for the NMDA project, which is now awaiting clearance from the Cabinet committee on security. The NC3I will be the heart or backbone of the NMDA project," he added.
While Navy and Coast Guard are behind the NC3I network, the NMDA project will bring all stakeholders — the several Union ministries dealing with maritime affairs as well as coastal states and Union Territories — on the same grid.It will then be much easier to intercept a fishing boat like Kuber, which was used by Ajmal Kasab and nine other terrorists to reach Mumbai and unleash havoc during the 26/11 strikes. The carnage exposed the lack of "critical connectivity" between intelligence agencies and security agencies.
As per the blueprint, "state monitoring centres" in coastal states/UTs will act as nodes for the NMDA project, while a shipping hub and fisheries monitoring centre will also be established. The four existing joint operations centres at Mumbai, Kochi, Vizag and Port Blair, set up in the aftermath of 26/11, will also be upgraded