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Two Coast Guard stations established in Arabian Sea to safeguard India's interest

By Manoj Kumar Ramesh

Minicoy (Lakshadweep), Dec 24 (ANI): Defence Minister AK Antony on Friday inaugurated two Coast Guard establishments in Lakshadweep in order to strengthen the coastal security in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks and against the backdrop of rising incidents of piracy near the 7,500 km-long Indian coastline in the past few weeks.

The last outpost of the country in the Arabian Sea, Minicoy, got its coastal security surveillance apparatus today. The Defence Minister also concurrently established a new Coast Guard District Headquarters for Lakshadweep at Kavaratti.

The set up at Kavaratti has been named District headquarters No 12 and it will have operational control over a number of ships and aircraft such as Hovercrafts, Fast Patrol Vessels, Interceptor Boats, Helicopter and Fixed Wing Aircraft on the commissioning of planned stations.

Addressing the personnel and the islanders at Minicoy, Antony said: "We can neglect the seas only at our peril, as the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai showed."

Urging the maritime forces to remain ever vigilant and not to lower their guard at any point of time, he said nations are turning to the seas and oceans for sustenance as natural resources on the land are getting depleted fast.

The two new establishments in the strategically located islands will provide the much needed teeth to Coast Guard operations and enhance safety and security of Lakshadweep Islands. They would also facilitate greater synergy between Coast Guard, administration of Lakshadweep and other agencies.

The Indian Coast Guard also plans to set up another Coast Guard Station at Androth next year and an air enclave at Minicoy in 2012. Six radar stations of the Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) are also being established in the Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands.

Antony said the commissioning of the much needed Coast Guard Station at Minicoy has a special relevance due to its proximity to two of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Since the nearest Coast Guard ships and aircraft were based at Kochi, a need for Coast Guard station with a forward airbase at this location was always felt.

He added that "our aim is to create a real-time coastal surveillance system that can be controlled even from remote locations."

The Lakshadweep group of islands is also vulnerable to marine pollution as two of the world's busiest Sea lanes of Communication (SLOC) are abounding it. The Eight Degree Channel, which separates the Minicoy island from the Maldives, witnesses maritime traffic of as many as 30-40 ships a day.

On December 7, the Indian Navy had spotted a pirate mother ship in the waters off Lakshadweep Islands and managed to rescue a Thai national, who was thrown into the sea.

This was the second incident of piracy in the region this month. Earlier, on December 3, the Indian Navy's guided missile destroyer INS Rajput had apprehended a dhow (a sailing vessel) with 19 foreigners on board in Indian waters off Lakshadweep Islands. The dhow was located in India's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Indian Navy has deployed ships and maritime patrol aircraft to undertake a comprehensive search in the Eastern part of the Arabian Sea, to locate and disable probable pirate vessels. by Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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