Setusamudram and security

Security issues should not be brushed aside lightly, as TR Baalu attempts to do. In fact, the security concerns should be left only to the experts; in this case, the naval experts. I agree with Capt. Balakrishnan who has presented cogent arguments on nautical and security aspects of the project disaster called Setu channel, a mid-ocean channel which will be subject to continuing sedimentation (in a sedimentation sink of the world), subject to oil spill risks and enormous costs involved in salvage operations if a vessel gets grounded (with no possibilities for the salvage operations of the type installed in the land-based Suez canal).
If Defence Secretary had said no to the security clearance, how come politico-s rushed through with the project disaster disregarding defence experts’ views?
This atrocious situation which does no credit to decision-making processes in governance, calls for a judicial investigation into the clearance for such a major part on the Indian Ocean.
The Setu channel project should be scrapped for one more reason. When the next tsunami strikes, Rama Setu which acted as a tsunami wall would have been desiccated by the kaarasthan operatives in Setusamudram.

Posted: Sun, Feb 3 2008. 11:19 PM IST

Sethusamudram and security

So far, India’s southern periphery has been free of security headaches. This might not be so after the Sethusamudram project is completed

Our View

The Sethusamudram project continues to be dogged by controversy: Maritime security is the latest concern.

Coast Guard director general vice-admiral R.F. Contractor raised these concerns on Thursday. The security threat comes from non-state actors such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Given the present circumstances, these cannot be dismissed as the mere paranoia of an edgy naval establishment.

In the past year, the LTTE has mounted successful air attacks in Colombo and the Anuradhapura air base. It has a history of attacking Lankan naval and maritime assets (including a daring attack on Trincomalee harbour). It accomplishes these using its waterborne wing, the Sea Tigers. In this respect, it has quasi-state power.

The Sethusamudram project will open at best a shallow channel that will permit slow traffic through the Palk Strait. This, even in the best of conditions, is a security risk. Pirates make use of similar conditions in the Malacca Straits, not far away in Indonesian waters. For hostile actors such as the LTTE, which only want to destroy, this is a good opportunity.

Contractor was quick to point out that adequate security would be provided to all shipping, but this raises more questions. What use is a project that requires ever increasing expenditures just to keep it operational? After all, the Coast Guard is a badly stretched force whose duties have increased manifold since its origin. In case the project becomes operational, the government will have little option but to devote more resources on security for the project.

The political situation in Sri Lanka, where the LTTE is on the defensive after the recent end of the ceasefire, adds to Indian security concerns. In the past, the LTTE has gone in for spectacular operations when it found itself on the back foot. In this context, the security of the project is a serious concern.

So far, India’s southern periphery has been free of security headaches. This might not be so after the Sethusamudram project is completed. While not in the league of security concerns over northern borders, it certainly will open a theatre both for security forces and actors hostile to India.

(Is Sethusamudram a security threat? Write to us at

V. Sundaram, IAS (Retd.) said this on Feb. 2, 2008:


[quote] I was the first Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust and I also had the opportunity of serving as a Member of the Laxmi Narayanan Setu Samudram Project Committee (SSCP) which was appointed in 1981.  Laxmi Narayanan was then the Development Adviser in the Ministry of Shipping. I participated in the programme of Public Hearings organised by the Laxmi Narayanan Committee in Ramanathapuram, Rameshwaram, Madurai, Madras and Cochin between July 1981 and May 1982.    I clearly recall the meeting I and Laxmi Narayanan had with Sri.Mohinder Singh IAS (Rajasthan Cadre) who was then Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Shipping and Transport on 4th of July 1982 at his Office in Transport Bhavan, New Delhi.  Sri Mohinder Singh had received a letter from the then Union Defence Secretary (I don’t remember his name) and he informed us in very clear terms: “The Defence Secretary has categorically stated that the Setu Samudram Canal Project (SSCP) will be a disastrous project from the more vital point of view of National Security. Thus the Defence Ministry will never be in a position to give their concurrence to SSCP.  This means that Laxmi Narayanan Committee will be viewed only as an academic exercise and put in cold storage by the Government of India.” That is what precisely happened subsequently.  [unquote] 

Sethu poses no security risks – Indian Shipping Minister

India’s Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu yesterday said the contentious Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP) would not pose any threat to country’s security as envisaged by Coast Guard (CG) Chief R F Contractor. Asked about the CG’s remark that security issues were bound to rise once the project was implemented, Baalu said the project was cleared by all departments before it was launched. “The project was cleared by the Union Cabinet after extensive discussions and the Defence Ministry had also sent a note to the government on the importance of implementing the project,” he added. “There will not be any threat to India’s security once the ships start sailing in the Channel,” he said. Baalu’s remarks come two days after CG Director General Contractor said there will be security risks because it is a maritime area. “And by virtue of close boundary lines between Sri Lanka and India, obviously the security implications are more.” “Projects like the Sethusamudram could bring in more security problems. The small waterway could prove a security risk,” the Coast Guard DG had said. Admiral Contractor’s views assumes significance in the wake of Naval Chief Suresh Mehta’s observation that the project might be unviable for big ships. The SSCP is already hit by controversy with the BJP and other frontline Hindu organisations opposing demolition of ‘Ram Sethu’(Adam’s Bridge) as part of dredging near the Bridge area and the Supreme court granting a stay for dredging in that area. On Congress Spokesperson Ambika Soni’s remarks whether the Ram Sethu was a natural formation or man-made was a question of Hindu sentiments, Baalu said it was her own personal remarks. “It is not the view of the Centre , which was committed to implementing the project after overcoming legal hurdles,” he added. The four-member ministerial committee formed by the Centre had submitted its report to the Union cabinet., V. Sundaram concludes:What is amazing is that the top brass of the Indian Navy has remained silent or neutral on the SSCP and the brazen political promoters of the SSCP – I mean the firmly entrenched vested interests involved only in a private loot under the garb of public interest—HAVE BECOME THE NAVAL STRATEGISTS OF PALK BAY!”   When I see the ever shifting and ever changing ravings and rantings of our Cabinet Ministers and Political Leaders on the SSCP from time to time, the following immortal words of John Adams (1735-1826), the first Vice President (1789-1797) and the Second President of United States (1797-1801) come to my mind: “Be not intimidated… nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretence of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”


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