Thursday, November 20, 2008

India Leads Anti-Piracy Battle?

NDTV reports that the Indian Navy is considering increasing the number of warships, stationed near the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy, from one (INS Tabar) to four. This follows a request from the Federal Ministry of Shipping to deploy Naval Ships to protect Indian ships sailing around the 'world's most dangerous waters.'

Already, a Delhi class destroyer has set sail from Mumbai to the Port of Salalah in the Sultanate of Oman, which allows Indian ships to dock with no questions asked. There are also requests from the Navy for better logistics, including the usage of docks in Yemen and Kenya.

Meanwhile, two more developments have taken place in the Gulf of Aden region. After hijacking giant oil-carrier Sirius Star, Somali pirates took control of a Hong Kong-owned ship MV Delight, which holds seven Indians. A ransom demand is expected. Already, pirates have asked for a ransom of $25 mn for Sirius Star, a record amount. The second development is one reported by the Indian Navy: the warship stationed around the Gulf of Aden successfully set ablaze and sank a pirate mother ship, marking the biggest blow the Somali pirates have ever had. This is an unprecedented move on the part of the Indian Navy and demonstrates its capability.

In an even greater development, the transition Government in Somalia has granted permission to India, France and the US to send their navies into Somali territorial waters to chase pirates, a historic move in itself. A major problem for the anti-piracy force has been the fact that once pirates successfully navigate hijacked ships into Somali waters, they cannot be protected by the Force. Now, the three navies can chase pirates in hot pursuit, denying them a safe haven in Somali waters.

However, the Indian Navy (and navies of other countries) have warned that no single naval force can possibly keep track of the gigantic expanse of water and strong, International coordination is necessary. The Indian Navy says it would like such an arrangement to be managed, preferably, by the United Nations.

Somalia has had no functioning government since 1991 and has virtually no military capabilities. Piracy is a lucrative business here, with pirate groups being created out of militia. This year has seen a dramatic spurt of piracy off the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the busiest areas in the world.

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