Dec 03, 2013 brahmand.com
KOLKATA (PTI): In a strategic move in its defence and strengthen surveillance capabilities, the Indian Navy is in planning for a full-fledged coast battery at the Sagar Islands on West Bengal's coast.
"There used to be a coast battery at Diamond Harbour, but was shut down after Haldia port expanded. Since then, the strategic coast line all along the Sunderbans and adjoining areas is lying vacant," said Naval Officer-in-Charge, West Bengal, Commodore Ravi Ahluwalia said.
"We urgently need a coast battery in the area, especially at Sagar Island, given the rapid rise of naval acquisitions of Bangladesh and movement of foreign ships including fishing trawlers from neighbouring countries," Ahluwalia said.
Land-based Naval Coast Batteries primarily perform a defensive role against attacking warships and hostile incoming aircraft. The Navy is looking toward acquiring anti-ship cruise missiles, requiring the missile to minimally, perform a pop-up terminal phase manoeuvre.
"Land has already been identified at the Sagar Islands and the process of acquisition is underway. Once that is done, we will be building all infrastructure to host P-series missiles or missiles mounted on Mobile Autonomous Launchers (trucks). We are eager to have land-to-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles from this coast battery," said Ahluwalia.
"Post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, communication has been a major challenge for both the Navy as well as the Coast Guard. The Sagar Island coast battery would also have its own radar system as well as examination anchorage for physical verification of ships and mid-size boats to ensure maritime security and be prepared for hostile situations," he added.
The Navy is also eager to partly fund the Sagar Island deep water port along with the KoPT for securing confirmed berthing facilities to meet any eventuality and feed the requirements for its planned Sagar Island coast battery.
Expressing hope that the proposed Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project which would connect Kolkata port with Sittwe port in Myanmar by sea and then link Sittwe to Mizoram via river and road transport for faster and cheaper cargo movement to the northeastern states to be completed by 2016, the NOIC said. The coast battery system would be crucial component for surveillance mechanism for the project, he said.
"Our coast battery system would also be a major base for the proposed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which is in the pipeline to take off from its planned primary base from Behala in Kolkata. With increased shipping and fishing activities and with the extremely difficult terrain of the Sunderbans Delta region, we need to have a very firm aerial surveillance mechanism in place with UAVs, which would also have its operational area over the seas.
"The naval headquarters and the AAI are presently finalising on the land availability aspect and once that is in place, we would be setting up our infrastructure very soon," Ahluwalia said.
Stating that BSF's border outposts along the riverine Indo-Bangla border stretch was not adequate and the marine police stations in between Budge to Sagar Islands needs to be immediately augmented, the NOIC said the Navy needs to play an increased role in maritime security specially in the Sunderban Delta region.
Ahluwalia added that the Navy would soon hold a recruitment drive especially at Sagar Islands as part of its move to set up a naval services selection board at Diamond Harbour, which is slated to come up by next year aiming to increase recruitment from the east and northeastern states.