Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh inaugurated the three-day 39th Commanders’ Conference of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in New Delhi on May 30, 2022. Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar, DG ICG Shri VS Pathania, and other senior officials of the Ministry of Defence and the ICG were present on the occasion. In his address, the Raksha Mantri commended the professionalism and dedication of the ICG and said that its unparalleled performance has made it one of the best and largest Coast Guards in the world.
The Raksha Mantri stressed the need to maintain maritime preparedness in the constantly-changing global scenario, terming it as a crucial aspect that safeguards the economic and strategic interests of a nation. He pointed out that there has been a shift in India’s maritime security needs due to the ever-evolving global situation.
Recalling the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Shri Rajnath Singh said, the incident showed that for a long time the country’s orientation was focused on the security of land borders, and not much attention was paid to coastal security. He lauded the ICG for continuously enhancing its capability in the last few years in line with the Government’s vision and for playing a key role in bolstering coastal security. Due to these efforts, the country has not witnessed any terror activity from the sea route since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, he said.
The Raksha Mantri shared his views on the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, terming the region as an important aspect of India’s maritime security. “The growing regional and global trade in this region has brought forth new challenges. Geopolitical tensions and a clash of strategic interests have led to traditional security challenges. Terrorism, drug trafficking, and piracy are some non-traditional challenges in front of us today. The entire region is being affected by these challenges. Being a responsible maritime power, we have a clear interest to create a rule-based, peaceful and stable environment. Such a rule-based environment is essential for both regional and global prosperity. In such a situation, the ICG has a big role to play,” he said.
On the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Shri Rajnath Singh said, India’s geographical location is crucial from a strategic and economic point of view. “Our long coastline with deep-water ports, a prosperous Exclusive Economic Zone, and islands at both ends present a unique position. The IOR accounts for more than two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments. One-third of bulk cargo and more than half of container traffic pass through it. The safety of these sea routes is not only directly connected to our economic interests, but it also establishes India as a Net Security Provider in IOR,” he stated.
The Raksha Mantri emphasized that the role of the ICG is not only limited to coastal areas, describing them as the protectors of India’s national interests and sovereign rights in the territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zone. “There have been no reports of any breach in coastal security in the last 14 years due to the ICG’s dynamic strategy and its cooperation with the Indian Navy &local administration,” he said. Shri Rajnath Singh added that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) is based on the spirit of friendship, openness, dialogue, and co-existence with the neighbors. It is our main responsibility which is being fulfilled by the ICG successfully, he said.
Pointing out that India has emerged as a strong and reliable investment destination due to the Government’s efforts, Shri Rajnath Singh said, the country’s true potential can only come to the fore if a safe, secure and rule-based maritime environment is provided to the country’s economy, especially the Blue economy. He exhorted the ICG to strive toward maintaining order along the country’s vast coastline and Exclusive Economic Zone to achieve this objective.
The Raksha Mantri also pointed out that as the pressure on mainland resources is increasing, countries around the world are turning to the sea for sustenance. Deep-sea exploration has further increased the competition for marine resources, he said while underlining the increasing role of marine exploration, resource exploitation, and conservation.
Shri Rajnath Singh praised the ICG for playing an incomparable role in assisting the civil administration during natural calamities; the efforts which extend to littoral neighbors as well. More than 3,000 fishing boats, along with 24,000 fishermen, were brought to safety during devastating cyclones last year due to the preventive and measured response stance of ICG operations, he said. The Raksha Mantri lauded the ICG for achieving success in trade security, pollution control, and environment protection.
The Raksha Mantri added that keeping in view all aspects such as security, trade, environment, and humanitarian assistance, the Ministry of Defence has sanctioned a large number of projects, including acquisition of Pollution Control Vessels and mid-term Life Upgradation of the Dornier Fleet, to modernise the ICG. He appreciated the ICG’s efforts towards achieving ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. “Today, the manufacturing and servicing/repairing of ships and aircraft of ICG is being done indigenously. The ICG is spending almost 90% of its capital budget on the development of indigenous assets,” he added.
Shri Rajnath Singh asserted that the Government has tried to bring in an integrated approach and ICG is an integral stakeholder. The establishment and functioning of the Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) is another milestone which has provided a boost to the protection of the country’s vast coastline. He hoped that the ICG, with its potent ships, aircraft, and manpower, will continue to make invaluable contribution to the safety, security and growth of the nation.
The ICG Commanders conference is held annually, where all Regional Commanders put forth the roadmap for the future and discuss various policy & strategic issues. The conference aims to carve out a futuristic vision for the service and determine the modalities to overcome challenges efficiently.