India to work with world navies to check piracyOctober 31st, 2008 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) India is chalking out procedures to act in concert with other navies to check piracy off the Somalian coast, identified by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as the area with the highest risk of piracy in the world, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Friday.“In consultation with the Indian Navy, the defence ministry has taken up the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to evolve a procedure so that all navies of the world can work together to check piracy,” Antony told reporters here on the sidelines of the Naval Commander’s Conference.
The Indian Navy has already made a beginning in this direction by deploying, for the first time, a warship in the Gulf of Aden to conduct anti-piracy patrols along the route Indian merchant vessels normally take during their passage between Salalah in Oman and Aden. For India, monitoring the waters off Africa’s east coast forms an essential part of securing its energy supplies.
This is the first time the Indian Navy has been tasked with patrolling international waters, a move that comes in the wake of a series of hijackings by pirates off the Horn of Africa. In one of these incidents, a Hong Kong-registered merchant vessel with 18 Indian sailors among a crew of 22 was hijacked off the Yemen coast Sep 15 and taken to a Somalian port, where it is still berthed.
“All nations are concerned about the developments (off the Somalian coast). Everyday incidents of piracy are taking place. The US, Russian, British and French navies are already there and still piracy is taking place. But we cannot allow the situation to continue. There has to be a solution,” Antony maintained.
The presence of an Indian Navy warship in the area is significant as the Gulf of Aden is a major strategic choke point in the Indian Ocean region and provides access to the Red Sea, through which a sizeable portion of India’s trade flows.
More than 75 vessels have been attacked this year, a dozen of them in the past one month alone. Among the vessels hijacked is a Ukrainian freighter packed with tanks, anti-aircraft guns and other heavy weaponry.
When asked if the Indian Navy will be given rights to prosecute pirates operating in Somalia’s territorial waters, Antony said: “We have got in touch with the MEA and are trying to find operational details of it.”
Asked about efforts to release the Hong Kong flag vessel, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said: “The ship does not belong to us and the country has not come to us, so we do not have any jurisdiction. We are ready to work with regional navies to check piracy in the region.”
The Indian Navy is keen on playing a bigger role in the region under the aegis of the UN as this would enhance its credentials.
The navy is also keen to provide a helping hand to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) by responding to urgent humanitarian needs in Somalia.
In July, the WFP appealed to global naval powers to help protect ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks, saying that as many as two million Somalis could go hungry without this essential help.