This paper evaluates the possibility of an increase in maritime terrorist violence in Asia, based on a recounting and analysis of some of the most recent past incidents in these waters. It argues that the vulnerability of high seas shipping to criminal acts of violence and the weak and inconsistent nature of maritime governance raises the possibility of a terrorist strike in the Asian littorals. In assessing the odds of a major terrorist attack in coastal regions, the paper also explores the terrorism-piracy nexus and the state of port security in key continental spaces, highlighting measures to improve maritime readiness against acts of terror.
In recent years, sea-borne terrorism has emerged as a major security threat in littoral-Asia. Since the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai—when ten Pakistani terrorists infiltrated the city from the sea, killing 166 people and injuring over 300—regional watchers have been wary of the possibility of another attack from the seas. Within India’s security establishment, the anxiety has been palpable. In November 2018, a few weeks shy of the tenth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, intelligence emerged that Pakistan-based militant outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed had been training their cadres to execute another strike on Indian ports, cargo ships and oil tankers.Reportedly, Pakistani militant commanders had been training volunteers at modified training sites and canals in Lahore and Faisalabad for “samundari jihad” (seaborne jihad). Unlike 26/11, when terrorists had used the sea route to enter Mumbai and stage attacks on land targets, the plan this time around was to deploy trained jihadi divers to target an Indian or coastal facility.
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