India to scale up military presence in Gulf of Aden (Roundup, changing dateline, combining different series)November 20th, 2008 - 8:55 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi/London/Dubai, Nov 20 (IANS) India is considering increased deployment, including aerial reconnaissance, of the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden after a spike in hijackings by Somali brigands in the last fortnight that disrupted shipping in the world’s busiest sea lane. Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta Thursday said even as New Delhi is keen on a “collaborative” arrangement with other countries to take on piracy in that strategic region, the navy is also considering the option of aerial policing to protects its ships.
“Aerial recce will be considered in the Gulf of Aden. We are considering augmenting our efforts to keep the Indian traffic in the region safe,” Mehta said.
“All men of war are mandated to take action in self defence,” Mehta said talking about the retaliatory fire by Indian Navy’s stealth frigate INS Tabar Tuesday night that sank what was called a Somali pirate ‘mother ship’ and forced them to abandon an attack speedboat it was towing.
INS Tabar, which so far has escorted 35 merchant vessels passing through the region, had also staved off pirate attacks on two merchant ships last week.
Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden were involved in brazen acts of piracy this week, having hijacked nine ships, including the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star.
India, meanwhile, told Somalia in a diplomatic communication that it will use “all necessary means” against pirates operating against international merchant ships on key shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.
“We have conveyed through the permanent representative of Somalia in New York (representing the transitional federal government) our desire to use all necessary means against repressive acts of piracy,” ministry of external affairs secretary (east) N Ravi told reporters.
India had recently at a meeting of the International Maritime Organisation in London re-tabled its long-standing proposal to set up a UN peacekeeping force to tackle pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
The Gulf of Aden is vital for the trade and economy of India and the rest of the world as it provides access to the Suez Canal through which ships transit between Europe and Asia without having to take the longer and more expensive route around the southern tip of Africa. It is a crucially important route for oil tankers.
The sinking of the pirate ship has prodded others, including powerful military nations, into announcing swift and coordinated action in the Gulf of Aden.
Nato military chiefs met in Brussels Wednesday to discuss anti-piracy strategy after the International Maritime Bureau described the situation as “out of control.”
Nato countries were said to be considering a “plethora of proposals” to deal with the problem, but it wasn’t immediately clear if they discussed India’s call - made last week - for a UN force under a unified command.
The Arab League also convened an emergency meeting in Cairo to discuss how best to co-operate to deal with the growing piracy.
The Indian Navy’s action drew praise in Dubai too.
“The international community has not taken enough and quick measures to tackle the pirates,” George Katout of the Dubai office of Barry Rogliano Salles, a Paris-headquartered shipbroking company, told IANS.
“What the Indian Navy did was normal. But you must remember there are many non-Indian ships plying on those waters,” Katout said.
Diplomatic sources here said there was immediate need for a joint coordinated action by the navies of different countries whose ships pass through the Gulf of Aden.
“It is important for our commerce to go on,” a senior Indian diplomat posted in the Gulf said.
Another diplomatic source in Qatar said the recent defence pact India signed with that Gulf nation during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit would help in wider international efforts to counter piracy in the region.
The pact covers the issue of maritime security as well.