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Border tension: Nobody to evacuate on land, Gujarat remains vulnerable from the sea

Rathin Das | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

Given the "warlike situation" brought about by the Indian Army's "surgical strikes" inside the Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Gujarat, which shares over a 300-km international border with Pakistan, has been put on high alert.

But unlike in Punjab and Rajasthan, there won't be any evacuation of people simply because Gujarat's borderland stretches across inhospitable terrain with no human habitation.

The vast Rann of Kutch, which largely constitutes Gujarat's international border with Pakistan, is a peculiar landmass of saline slush and mud that's nearly impossible to even walk on. Indeed, even the Border Security Force finds it difficult to patrol the region.

Also Read: Surgical strikes: Truth the casualty as India, Pakistan make competing claims

The furthest human habitations in Kutch are some 30 km from the border, and thus in no need of evacuation, a government official said at a briefing about the security alert in the state.

Gujarat's vulnerability stems primarily from its 1,600-km coastline on the Arabian Sea. Indeed, the terrorists who struck Mumbai in November 2008 had sailed to the city in an Indian fishing boat, Kuber, captured off Gujarat's coast.

What makes matters worse from a security standpoint is that Gujarat's coast hosts installations of vital economic significance - Mundra and Kandla ports in Kutch, the Rs 50,000-crore Reliance petrochemical complex in Jamnagar, major cement plants in Saurashtra and Hazira. The major Hindu pilgrimage centres of Dwarka and Somnath are also on the coast.

Aware of its vulnerability to attacks launched from the sea, the Gujarat government has deployed 225 heavily armed marine police commandos along the coast. The state had set up 23 marine police stations after the Kuber hijacking underlined the need for better coastal security. Worryingly though, most of the speed boats given to these police stations are perpetually out of order for want of proper maintenance and repair.

Also Read: Why Pakistan may be compelled to retaliate

On Thursday, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani met with his senior officials and regional commanders of the BSF, Coast Guard, army, navy and air force "to review the security scenario" in Gujarat.

The navy and the Coast Guard have increased surveillance along the coast, while fishermen have been warned against venturing near the International Maritime Boundary Line lest they are held by the Pakistan Marine Security Agency.

The arrest of fishermen sailing from Porbandar, Jakhau, Okha, Mangrol and Veraval by Pakistani security forces is not uncommon even during less tense times. Almost invariably, they are charged with intruding into the neighbour's waters and jailed.

As the nine-day Navratri festival has also started, the state and central intelligence agencies have been alerted to look for "troublemakers and saboteurs" at Garba dancing venues.

The public too has been asked to keep an eye out for "suspicious people or objects" at the festival venues.

This state of high alert will continue until the Diwali festival, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said.

Also Read: Surgical strikes: India calls Pakistan's strategic bluff. How will the Sharifs respond?

First published: 30 September 2016, 7:15 IST