Indian Navy awaits go-ahead to patrol Somalian coast

September 20th, 2008 - 1:24 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) The Indian Navy is keenly awaiting permission from the government to patrol the waters off the Somali coast against pirates, with the request having been made a year ago.“India has a legal framework to give a go-ahead to the navy to function in the territorial waters of Somalia as it is a signatory to the UNCLAWS (UN Conference on the Laws of Seas), which specifically deals with the menace of piracy, and the UN Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation,” a senior navy official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

There has been increasing demand from all quarters for the Indian government to intervene after a Hong Kong-registered merchant vessel with 18 Indian sailors among a crew of 22 aboard, was hijacked by the pirates off the Yemen coast Sep 15.

The vessel was bound for Mumbai from Suez. Apart from the 18 Indians, the crew comprises two Filipinos, one Bangaldeshi and one Russian.

The Indian Navy’s request to undertake patrols in the international waters in order to protect the Indian citizens has been pending with the government for the last one year.

“Moreover, the legal sanction is also being provided by the statement of the Transitional Federation government of Somalia in the Security Council this year which sanctioned the action of any nation against the pirates in its territorial water which recognized its government,” the official added.

This is part of the Indian Navy’s larger game-plan of playing a bigger role in patrolling the international waters off the Gulf of Aden, which is an important route for fuel supply for the country.

“The navy’s request is with the government. The Indian Navy is ready and keen to provide its assistance in any programme under the aegis of the UN as it will enhance our credentials as a professional navy in the region,” the official said.

The navy is also keen to give a helping hand in the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), 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.

“We cannot claim to be a power with global impact if we do not take up responsibilities. We are ready to protect the ships passing through the Mozambique Channel (between Madagascar and South east Africa) which is plagued by piracy,” the official added.

To the north of Madagascar lies Somalia, whose coastline has been identified by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as the area with the highest piracy risk in the world. For India, monitoring the waters off Africa’s east coast is an essential part of security of energy supplies through the Indian Ocean.

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