ICG vessel 'Samudra Prahari' showcases a resilient pollution response exercise at Khlong Toei Port
In a world increasingly recognizing the perils of environmental degradation and the role maritime forces play in mitigating marine disasters, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) Pollution-Control Vessel 'Samudra Prahari' has emerged as a beacon of collaborative endeavor.
Its strategic Pollution Response Table-Top exercise at Bangkok's bustling Khlong Toei Port on September 20, 2023 manifested India's maritime diplomacy at its finest, unequivocally emphasizing the nation's unwavering commitment to addressing marine pollution on an expansive, international canvas.
As ports worldwide scramble with the looming threats of maritime pollution, the significance of collaborative exercises like these cannot be overstated. Strategically located, the Khlong Toei Port serves as a crucial maritime hub for Thailand, processing a vast amount of its sea trade. The environmental repercussions of a pollution disaster here would be catastrophic, affecting not just Thailand but countries across the region, highlighting the importance of preparation and collaboration.
Over the vessel's intensive four-day visit from September 17, 2023, the exercise unfurled in collaboration with a gamut of Thai maritime powerhouses. The roster included the Maritime Enforcement Coordination Centre (MECC), Customs Department, Royal Navy, Fisheries Department, and a host of other governmental bodies. As diplomats and environmentalists keenly observed, the exercise meticulously probed and fine-tuned Thailand's Maritime Pollution Response contingency mechanisms. In doing so, it illuminated the ICG's impeccable proficiency in pollution response operations, a skill set cultivated over countless hours of training and real-world interventions.
This collaboration was not just an exhibition of India's maritime might. At its heart, it nurtured an ecosystem of knowledge exchange and mutual growth. The dynamic sharing of expertise ensures that when adversity strikes in the form of a marine disaster, nations don’t stand alone. Instead, they are bolstered by the collective wisdom and resources of their allies, thereby ensuring a swift, cohesive, and effective response. Such endeavors reflect India's dedication to environmental sustainability in the wider region, a vision shared by its ASEAN partners.
Parallel to the rigorous training drills, there was a notable pivot towards soft diplomacy. Ahead of the main exercise, a diverse group of participants found themselves on the vessel's helo deck, united by the age-old practice of Yoga. This joint yoga session, gracefully choreographed under the azure Bangkok skies, brought together embassy officials, Thai-MECC representatives, and naval personnel. It wasn't merely an exercise for physical wellbeing. It served as a metaphorical bridge, promoting the holistic benefits of Yoga while demonstrating its unparalleled ability to unify diverse groups, transcending cultural and linguistic barriers.
But 'Samudra Prahari’s' mission extended beyond tactical exercises and soft diplomacy. Displaying an unwavering commitment to environmental responsibility, the ship’s crew set its sights on Pattaya Beach. Alongside National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets and high-ranking officials from the Embassy of India, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work, immersing themselves in a comprehensive beach clean-up operation. This initiative, operating under the banner of the Puneet Sagar Abhiyan, is India's clarion call in the global battle against marine plastic pollution. Its central tenet revolves around championing the message of cleanliness, an ethos resonating deeply with local Thai youth organizations, who collaborated enthusiastically.
Bridging the strategic with the diplomatic, Commanding Officer DIG GD Raturi met with Rear Admiral Wichnu Thupa-ang, Director General of the Office of Policy and Plans. Their conversation, held within the polished confines of the Thai-MECC Headquarters, was a microcosm of the growing maritime camaraderie between India and Thailand. Topics spanned the spectrum, from tactical collaborations to future joint exercises, reinforcing India's burgeoning position as a steadfast and reliable maritime partner.
The 'Samudra Prahari’s' visit, nestled under the broad wings of the India-ASEAN initiative, isn't just another diplomatic exercise. It’s a potent symbol of the burgeoning bonds between the ICG and Thai MECC in maritime undertakings. These collaborations dovetail perfectly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maritime vision of SAGAR (Security & Growth for All in the Region). Furthermore, they resonate with India’s G20 Presidency theme, 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One Earth, One Family, One Future.' Collectively, they amplify India's multifaceted role in regional cooperation, maritime safety, and, crucially, environmental stewardship, echoing shared ASEAN values and the universal ethos of unity and sustainable progress.
The maritime horizon looks promising, with such collaborative ventures paving the way for a safer, cleaner, and more cohesive maritime future.