(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Shishir Gupta)
Two decades after the Kargil Group of Ministers’ recommendation, the Narendra Modi government is all set to create and appoint a National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC) to interface between the civilian and military maritime domain with the objective of enhancing security architecture and energy security of India. The Maritime Security Coordinator will work under Indian National Security Advisor and be the principal advisor to the government on maritime security domain.
According to South Block sources, the Ministry of Defence and Military Affairs has sought Union Cabinet approval for the NMSC post and there is all likelihood that a serving or recently retired Vice Admiral of Indian Navy will be appointed to the job. The NMSC has been a long pending requirement since the Kargil GoM recommended it and its need was most felt during the 2008 Mumbai massacre when 10 Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) gunmen directed by ISI handlers in Karachi intruded into Mumbai and created mayhem with the maritime security agencies like Navy, Coast Guard and Mumbai Port all at sea figuratively. The appointment of NMSC fills the need of the hour as the Navy, Coast Guard and state maritime boards all tend to work in silos with overlapping jurisdictions and are constantly at odds with each other.
While India has suffered from sea blindness over centuries with land based security doctrines, historically and geo-strategically, the country is a maritime nation with over 7000 km of coastline and over 2 million kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone. Over 70 per cent of Indian trade including vital crude oil is transported through sea and protection of sea shipping lanes is vital to India’s security with Modi government on June 16 clearing the Deep Ocean Mission for blue water economy.
India has nine coastal states and four union territories, who believe that maritime and coastal security is responsibility of the central government and have little to increase the maritime domain awareness.
With China moving towards a sea based security doctrine and penetrating into Indian Ocean through Pakistan and Myanmar, the post of NMSC will be vital for maritime and energy security as Beijing plans to reach to eastern sea board of Africa through Indian maritime domain.
However, the creation of NMSC is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Act East Policy, SAGAR (Security and Growth of All in the Region), Deep Ocean Mission and the Sagarmala project to make India’s 12 major ports into world class standard.