India’s Home Affairs Ministry on Jan. 28 approved a special $80 million grant to the country’s Coast Guard to boost its ability to check for and prevent terrorist threats from the sea.
The Coast Guard’s director-general, Rear Adm. Arun Kumar Singh said the new funds would be used to build new shore stations and jetties and to procure more helicopters, offshore petrol vessels, interceptor boats and communication equipment.
The new funds for the Coast Guard, which is under the control of the Defence Ministry, will come from the Home Ministry’s exchequer, Singh said.
The Coast Guard’s responsibility extends 200 miles into the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
Singh said his new challenges include the rise in narcotics trafficking, the threat of explosives, and pollution in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
Senior Coast Guard officials said they have put a case before the government for making the service a maritime law enforcement agency with powers akin to those of the U.S. Coast Guard. Currently, the Indian Coast Guard lacks the authority to stop and inspect ships they deem suspicious.
The Coast Guard has asked the government for the power to inspect any vessels within India’s coastal maritime boundaries for terror threats, pollution hazards, illegal immigrants, and evidence of over-fishing or drug smuggling, service officials said.
At present, the Coast Guard has 56 ships, 44 aircraft, including helicopters, and 5,000 people.
The Indian government also has decided that the coastal state governments will create marine police forces to operate in coastal areas under Coast Guard supervision, Singh said.